The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Model UN Changes Lives: A Student Perspective

High School English Teacher Matt Federico and Learning Resource Center Teacher Jaclyn Campenni took 16 TASIS students to the World Forum Convention Center in The Hague, Netherlands, from January 28–February 2 to participate in The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) conference, one of the largest Model UN conferences in the world. Diana Khassanova ’19 explains why this trip is transformative.

Hard work opens doors and shows the world that you are serious about being one of those rare and special human beings that uses the fullness of their talents for the highest and the very best.

– Robin S. Sharma

By Diana Khassanova ’19

I am one of the fortunate people who has been provided an opportunity to open new doors. The Model UN program at TASIS has opened a world I only dreamed of seeing, a world of diplomacy and the United Nations—an aspiration of any International Relations enthusiast.

Model United Nations is a program that provides TASIS students a life-changing learning experience. This program introduces students to the global issues at hand and teaches them to find solutions while developing skills as paramount and practical as leadership, public speaking, communication, negotiation, cooperation, writing, and, most importantly, confidence. With more than 3,000 students at the conference from schools worldwide, MUN shapes aspiring leaders through a unique interactive learning approach.

Throughout my experience at the conference, my command and articulation of the political vernacular improved immensely. In just the first day, I could feel my vocabulary broaden as I adapted my thoughts to the program’s characteristically formal language. Over the course of the week, I began to leave my comfort zone and overcome my diffidence as I continued to meet new people and make new connections. The community was so welcoming that it was almost impossible not to make friends. Together, we discovered new ways to form persuasive arguments, thus enhancing my debate skills. I’ve learned, for instance, to negotiate and find new diplomatic approaches to solve problems. And as I watched my peers passionately defend their opinions and resolutions, I eventually began doing the same, and so I began to rid myself of stage fright. Ultimately, I became more aware of the world surrounding me and was inspired to make a difference.

The delegates can’t always be serious.

Nevertheless, as a novice, I knew very little of the Model UN nor of the transformative adventure that it could provide. I had merely heard that students in a small group would explore world issues and debate them. And so I decided to try out for the team in an attempt to eliminate my stage fright and learn more about international relations. I soon realized, however, that I had greatly underestimated the scope and benefit of the program as I discovered more about the conference in the Netherlands, which is a simulation of those that are held at the real United Nations. Seventeen-year-olds (students my age!) were secretary generals and even presidents of important committees on the the topics of human rights, environmental protection, economic and social security, and many more that encompass a variety of specific issues. Some students acted as chairs of these committees, and most, like me, were the committees’ delegates and represented hundreds of different countries. (I was to represent the delegation of South Sudan.)

“Ultimately, I became more aware of the world surrounding me and was inspired to make a difference.”

For these reasons and more, the advent of this week-long simulation of the UN both excited and horrified me. Not only was I terrified at the prospect of having to speak in front of complete strangers (not to mention argue with them), I was certainly not excited to miss a week of school during my first year of the IB. Missing a week of school for this conference would require a lot of commitment and dedication to perform well at THIMUN and keep up with the homework I would miss while away. But I was too passionate about the topic of education expansion to turn back from this opportunity. My task was challenging but worth every minute of my time because this opportunity gave me a better sense of appreciation for what can and is being done to solve global issues.

I now understand that being in Model UN isn’t only a privilege, it is a responsibility that requires ambition, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Even though it is challenging, it is a rewarding experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

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