The opportunity was unique on multiple fronts for members of the Model United Nations (UN) Club at Bayview Glen School (BVG).
“The club has traditionally gone on one big trip per year (usually Montreal) while attending smaller events in Toronto,” says Tom Osborne, one of two staff advisors to the club. “This year, we wanted to try something different.”
And they did just that.
Eleven BVG students from Grade 11 accompanied by two teachers embarked on a four-day trip to New York City — home to UN headquarters, in mid-January.
Their focus? Attending a Model UN Conference at Columbia University that immersed students in a simulation of the United Nations, where delegates are encouraged to develop solutions to problems via committees.
The trip also included a visit to the Slovenian mission, where they had they met and interacted in-person with staff who work for the United Nations for their home country.
“This was a unique and interesting experience that you do not get to partake in every day,” says Leela Bhide, Grade 11 student and Head of Model UN at BVG. “It taught us a lot about governance and diplomacy, which were relevant to our conference.”
The BVG contingent also met with Slovenian ambassadors.
“They taught us about why the United Nations is beneficial to our society and discussed Slovenia’s ideals and goals inside the General Assembly,” adds Arman Momeni, fellow Grade 11 student and Model UN club member. “Contrastingly, the representatives also educated us on some of the inequalities that plague the UN and showed us that the United Nations still has a long way to go in terms of creating an equal voice for all countries,” he says.
Model UN is among more than 30 clubs students in the Upper School can take part in.
“Students learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations while working on their researching, public speaking, debating and writing skills,” says Mr. Osborne, who teaches Business Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities in the Upper School. “It’s also great with critical thinking and leadership,” he says.
“I did not know much about the club when I joined, but from hearing older peers positively reinforce it and tell me about their experiences, I thought it was something I might be interested in,” says Bhide, who is now in her second year as a club member.
“The variety of topics that you get to research and learn more about [are interesting], as some of these topics are not things you would typically think about,” she says. “On this trip, I enhanced my collaboration skills and got to apply them in conference sessions — whether it was forming alliances and friendships with fellow delegates or having to help choose where to go for dinner that night with my classmates! We learned to collaborate with people from all around the world, who each have their own perspectives and experiences.”
Interactions with fellow students was also a key highlight for Arman Momeni who described the trip as “surreal.”
“The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet many like-minded individuals and to build powerful and lasting connections,” he says. “During committee sessions, all the students at the conference were very well-spoken, which allowed for intriguing and fruitful debates, taking the conference to another level. The most beautiful thing about meeting individuals from all over the world was that each student offered a new and insightful outlook on global issues, which opened up my perspective on the world both culturally and politically.”
Apart from the mission, students also had a chance to explore the most populous city in the United States.
“Our various adventures in New York City also acted as great learning opportunities,” continues Momeni. “During our visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET), our group was immersed in ancient art that went back several millennia. I used my time at The MET to explore the Iran section of the museum and learn about my country’s deep and rich culture,” he says.
There were also walking adventures through Times Square, and a jaunt or two to Shake Shack!
“The trip would not have been possible without our amazing teacher supervisors, Mr. Osborne and Ms. Alison Rowland,” says Momeni. “Their hard work allowed for an organized trip that was balanced with educational and recreational activities, and their support allowed us to excel during the conference.”
For Tom Osborne, who has been involved as an advisor for three years, the interest shown by current club members has been a highlight.
“I’ve been really impressed with their maturity and overall engagement in the club,” he says. “It really is a lot of work (they have to write position papers, research, etc.). It is not a passive club but is super fun. There are tons of different committees students can participate in. Some are historical, some fictional. They are all simulations. It’s really pretty cool and there is always something for everyone,” he says.
And the impact for students continues to be felt.
“Being in Model UN has inspired me to pursue a career that pushes me to be diplomatic, collaborative, communicative, and resourceful,” says Leela Bhide. “All skills that were attained/enhanced throughout being a member of Model UN.”
Arman Momeni agrees.
“I encourage all Bayview Glen students to join the Model UN club if they are able to,” he says. “It is an excellent opportunity to build public speaking skills that will be beneficial to all students no matter the career path they choose.”
Learn more: Clubs and Activities