3 June 2019
Interview with Jason Sparks, fifth-year student at our Medical School, winner of the UN Hungarian youth emissary election
Jason Sparks participated in a three-round selection procedure of the UN Hungarian youth emissary application and among the candidates he has proven to be the most successful. The Evaluation Committee voted for him with unanimous majority. Jason is going to be in a beginner position until September; he is going to complete obligatory practice in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and in the Ministry of Human Capacities, in order to take the current emissary’s place officially in September. He spoke with great enthusiasm and expectations about his tasks and challenges ahead of him, although he can hardly believe it even today that he is the chosen one.
Written by Rita Schweier
- Your mother tongue is Hungarian but your name is not. How is it exactly?
- /he is smiling – ed./ I was born in the USA but my mother is Hungarian and when she got homesick, we moved home to Szekszárd. I attended the kindergarten there.
- Why did you apply to the UN’s appeal?
- I found this application by accident and I decided to try it. I am an open-minded person and I like new things. I had a very good geography teacher in primary school; he was the one, who endeared this subject to me, and he endeavoured to make us think globally. We participated in many geography competitions back then; this is where my interest for the UN comes from. When I entered the competition, I did not expect at all to be chosen at the end of the three-round selection procedure, I was very surprised.
- This open-mindedness does not take anyone to the UN though.
- /he is smiling – ed./ It is true but I like challenges and competitions and it was a perfect opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and experience an entirely different area. I am constantly following the abroad news and I have participated in several international exchange programmes, which could both contribute to my decision. What I am interested in is how nations can cooperate despite the various economic, cultural and other differences, and how they can follow the UN’s strategy regarding sustainable development. The diversity of the developed and developing countries attracts me, the way they relate to these goals.
- Your task is noble, the responsibility is serious. How are you preparing for it?
- Gradually, and it helps that there is a transition period which began in April and lasts until the beginning of September. The current emissary, Ágnes Szuda helps the learning process.
- Why is it so unbelievable that you were chosen?
- Because as a general medicine student I came from a very different field than my competitors who deal with international studies and foreign affairs. I had a different viewpoint about certain topics and perhaps this is what may have seemed interesting.
- How did this „medicine student” viewpoint appear in your answers in the certain rounds?
- One of the questions was about what kind of programmes I would emphasize as a youth emissary and how I would construct those programmes. I named three goals: one of them was concerned with the popularization of immunization since nowadays there are many campaigns against it, the second one with the spreading of preventive teaching that we do in HUMSIRC (Pécsi Orvostanhallgatók Egyesülete, POE) as well, and the third one with the fight against climate change.
- Which round was the hardest?
- The final round when we received two tasks for which we could prepare in advance but besides these, there were other tasks as well, they caught us by surprise. One the tasks was to imagine that we are at a UN meeting where we deliver a five-minute speech about a topic important to us. I thought it would be good to bring my personality into it; therefore, I built my speech on the topic of prevention. I spoke about the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention emphasizing that health is the most important thing in our lives since without it our lives cannot be whole. I used this topic as a symbol regarding the Earth as well. I said that nowadays climate change is in its secondary phase; therefore, it became an acute problem. This task was in English, the other one in Hungarian where we had to present our agenda in another five minutes.
- Did you listen to each other’s speeches? What did the other candidates talk about?
- Yes, we listened to each other’s speeches; they talked rather about the involvement of the youth and about their representation in public life.
- Besides the aspects of content, did it matter what kind of a presenter someone was?
- I think yes, they especially paid attention how the candidates could deal with stress. In my opinion everyone was very clever and confident.
- How could you hide your excitement?
- Az Anatómiai Intézetben végzem a tudományos diákköri munkám, sok konferencián vettem részt, emellett a középiskolásoknak is tartok biológiai órákat a TM felkészítő táborok, illetve a TM felkészítő órák keretében – mindez ad némi rutint a kiállásban, a fellépésben.
- I am doing my undergraduate research work in the Department of Anatomy, I have participated in many conferences, and I also teach biology for high school students in the framework of the TM preparatory camps and TM preparatory courses – all of this provides some routine in presentation skills.
- Was your presentation, the introduction of your programme successful?
- Yes, it was easier since it was in Hungarian and it was closer to me since I have already held many PPT presentations.
- Tell us a little about the first two rounds as well.
- In the first part of the application we had to answer questions in English and in Hungarian, and we also had to attach a CV. After that, I received an email saying I was selected in the second round where they called 13 candidates in. Here we had to answer questions quickly, as a ping-pong ball in Hungarian, in English, then again in Hungarian regarding our global awareness. Six candidates could proceed to the final round.
- Who were the members of the evaluation committee?
- The current emissary and experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from the Ministry of Human Capacities.
- When do your practices begin?
- They begin in the Ministry of Human Capacities in June, then in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September; in the meantime I am travelling to Spain to complete my internal medicine exchange practice.
- Then in October, you are going to New York.
- Yes, I am going to represent the Hungarian youth there during various meetings and presentations. In case there will be accompanying events, I am going to participate in those too and together with my foreign peers, we can organise such events as well. The five-minute speeches are compulsory for all emissaries so I can try what I have already practiced at home. This is going to be a one-year mandate.
- Can you continue your studies besides all these?
- Yes because I will only have to be abroad when there are programmes. What I know now is that once in October and once in April I will be in New York and soon – from 2 June to 4 June – I am travelling to Berlin to an event that the current emissary has organised, I am going to join her. That is all I know so far, I look forward to the remaining tasks, which will be decided later. I am glad that they have entrusted me with this position; it is still unbelievable.