The question that has consumed Morgan Riddle’s summer is this: “What would Russia do?”
“Writing a position paper is much like running a track event,” she said. “You don’t see how you’re going to survive, but afterward, you feel quite accomplished.”
She and five other West Virginia University students faced with similar questions concerning other countries have been giving their answers this week in The Hague as participants in The European International Model United Nations Conference.
“The thing is that, in any Model UN conference, you have to really be that country you are representing and have full knowledge of each subject, and that is the point of the position paper,” Riddle said. “It is literally a document of facts about what your country has done, their beliefs on certain topics, how the subject has affected the country in the past and how they would go about fixing the issue internationally.”
The conference hosts students from all over the world and aims to educate them about the United Nations and provide hands-on experience. Students have an opportunity to develop skills in public speaking and debating while obtaining a multilateral view of world affairs.
The six WVU students’ trip is made possible by collaboration between Student Affairs and the International Studies Program. In the first two years of WVU’s participation in the conference, the students from the University made up the only group that represented the United States in the entire assembly of 250 students. Scott Critchlow, professor in the Department of Political Science and Corey Farris, director of housing and interim dean of students, accompanied the students to The Netherlands.
Farris said the opportunity is geared toward freshmen and sophomore students who have little to no prior experience in overseas travel and who have taken a course having to do with international or cultural studies.
“For those students who are hesitant to study abroad, this is a great chance for them to go on a short, chaperoned trip to get their feet wet,” Farris said. “It is our hope that the trip will excite them to take on one of WVU’s many semester-long study abroad opportunities in their college years to come.”
Riddle hopes the trip will give her experience for the future, as her focus in her international studies major is national security.
“I want to work for the government someday in national security as an analyst or linguist, and I know this experience is one that will help everyone in many aspects of their lives,” Riddle said. “Presenting as Russia will be interesting in this conference, since Russia never ceases to surprise the actual UN delegates. It will definitely keep me on my toes while I am presenting information and debates.”
The conference additionally offers many opportunities for students to mingle and make friends with those of other countries.
TEIMUN holds a Global Village event, where the representatives of each country bring special national food to share with other delegates. The event is an opportunity for students to get to know the other cultures, habits and traditions from other countries.
Farris said the students are encouraged to dress up in traditional garb from their respective country at the Global Village event.
“We saw students from the Netherlands dressed in traditional attire from their own culture, the traditional Dutch attire and wooden shoes. As for representing America, we weren’t quite sure what to do,” Farris said. “Eventually the students decided to dress in football uniforms and hand out pepperoni rolls, as those things are unique to American culture.”
Riddle said she is looking forward to the lifelong friends she will make at the conference.
“I’ve already been in touch with my partner, who is from the Netherlands,” Riddle said. “Our similarities in music, goals, personality, our sense of humor and everything are so similar to all the people I know from home but with the difference of having grown up in an entirely different world. That, to me, is really what the experience is all about; learning how everyone else thinks, operates, communicates and to make connections that will last a lifetime.”
Former participant Benjamin Seebaugh, a senior international studies and political science major who was recently named the University’s 22nd Truman Scholar, can attest to the friendships a student can make through the program.
“During my study abroad to Spain just this past month, I met up with a friend I made in the program when I was visiting Madrid,” Seebaugh said. “We hung out for eight hours or so. It was great to visit him.”
Seebaugh participated in the TEIMUN 2010 program when WVU was still the only American school to participate.
“The best thing about the program for me was that we were the only Americans at the conference. We were a group of six in a crowd of about 250 from all over the world,” Seebaugh said. “We got to speak with other students from every kind of culture you could imagine. It was so incredible to hear about international politics, conflicts, economics and such from people who have witnessed these things firsthand.”
Seebaugh was led to choose a second major of international studies after his participation in TEIMUN.
“I struggled for a long time about what I wanted to do as a career, and someone told me to think about what I actually enjoy doing,” Seebaugh said. “Model UN immediately came to mind, and that’s when the realization happened for me that I wanted to work for the UN.”
Farris said the program has opened the eyes of all of its participants to different perspectives of the world.
“We know that programs like this also will realistically aid students down the road if these students stick with the international focus,” Farris said. “Because of this Model UN conference they are building bridges that will pay huge dividends down the road.”
For more information on the International Studies Program, visit http://internationalstudies.wvu.edu/ and for Student Affairs, visit http://studentaffairs.wvu.edu/. To learn more about TEIMUN, visit http://teimun.org/.
CONTACT: Corey Farris; Interim Dean of Students
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