In August, two Macalester students, Anja Crowder '13 and Yiting Wang '12, were invited to attend the Global Model United Nations conference, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The conference, sponsored by the United Nations, brings together a select group of students from around the world to learn about global issues by acting in the role of diplomats who must negotiate with other countries to achieve a goal or develop resolutions on a specific issue.
The theme of this year’s conference was Towards an Alliance of Civilizations: Bridging Cultures to Achieve Peace and Development. Participants develop leadership, research, writing, public speaking and problem solving skills. In addition, participation encourages consensus building, conflict resolution and cooperation skills.
Applied Math and Economics
St. Paul, Minnesota
International Studies with a concentration in Human Rights
What did you learn at the conference?
Yiting: I represented the Dominican Republic in one of the four conference committees. Our topic was about intercultural dialogue and civic engagement. I worked with other delegates on documents addressing international exchange programs, human rights, and technical assistance, among other topics. I learned a lot about drafting documents and merging ideas, communicating with people from around the world and the importance of being responsible and motivated.
Anja: I represented the Syrian Arab Republic on a committee that focused on Human Security issues and diffusing religious and political extremism. My role was to act as a delegate representing values and motives of the Syrian people and government.
I certainly learned to be patient and more understanding when communicating with people from more than 90 countries. I learned both to communicate as a diplomat from Syria (my assigned role) as well as a young woman from the United States. It can be challenging to interact with others when they hold stereotypes about you. I also gained insight into the organization and leadership of the conference, which will help me prepare to be the Secretary General for the upcoming year.
What motivated you to get involved?
Anja and Yiting: We were part of the Macalester team that participated in the National Model United Nations Conference in New York this April. There, we won awards for distinguished delegation and position papers so were invited to apply to the Global Model United Nations conference in Kuala Lumpur. Our teammates, Natalie Pavlatos ‘12 and Kaitlin Roh ’12, attended the 1st Global Model UN held in Geneva last year also encouraged us to apply.
What did you need to do to prepare for the conference?
Yiting: This year’s theme was "Towards an Alliance of Civilization,” primarily focusing on education of youth and bring young people together. We did basic research on education policy in different regions and thought about the common ground that should be addressed for all nations. For the fun side, we looked up different interesting places in Malaysia and planned our tour of Kuala Lumpur!
Anja: Quite a bit of preparation was necessary to attend this conference as an individual. Because there is not prep time with the delegation, all of the research must be self-motivated. I created a portfolio with research on The Alliance of Civilizations (UNAoC), on current Human Security Issues, and on Syria’s role in defeating religious and political extremism worldwide. All of these topics were to be addressed in the committee sessions at the conference. I also came prepared with a position paper (that of Syria), and drafted speech to give at the opening plenary session.
What was the best thing about the experience?
Yiting: The conference gathered so many bright young people from the world and it provided us with a great platform to share the culture and embrace the diversity. The global village was definitely a highlight of the conference and I made lots of new friends. I also enjoyed traveling with Anja and seeing the city! It's my first time in Kuala Lumpur. Spending an evening in the twin tower area was amazing experience!
Anja: Meeting so many young people from around the world committed to changing the world to be a more peaceful place was very inspiring. Also, spending time with Yiting and giving speeches in front of hundreds of people was very exciting!
How will the experience inform your studies and involvement at Mac?
Yiting: The GMUN conference will definitely help me in better organizing our own Model United Nations club at Mac. I learned a very different mode of working. Unlike other events I have attended, this one focused a lot on how to coordinate with various perspectives to achieve consensus. I learned to listen and appreciate different ideas.
Anja: I agree with Yiting. It was quite a challenge to get 85 people to fully agree with the outcome document that we drafted in committee. This work towards cooperation and negotiation will be extremely useful in building a strong Model UN team for Macalester this coming year. I also believe that meeting so many people has opened our minds to accepting and cooperating with a wide range of opinions and mindsets. I hope that more Mac students will be able to participate in the future because this experience changed how I will interact with others on a personal level, a professional level, and in the Model UN team at Mac.