On April 4, six ASC students landed in Thessaloniki, Greece, prepared to debate, negotiate, and solve the world’s problems. The ASC Model United Nations Delegation–Melissa Kam (head delegate), Keith Toth, Kristi Krabbenhoft, Alfonso Casias, Thomas Keller and Alex Ponce – had trained for months to represent the Rzeczpospolita Polska (Republic of Poland) at the Model United Nations Conference (ThessisMUN) at the University of Macedonia. Four hundred students from Greece and other countries, including the U.K., France, Italy, and Bulgaria also arrived, ready to address the issues facing our world.
Upon arriving at the University, the students were met with a warm embrace. “You are the most exciting group!” exclaimed the conference organizer, Dr. Paroula Naskou-Perraki. The ASC Model UN team was the only team from the United States to have ever attended the ThessisMUN conference. As such, it received much fanfare, including special recognition and a rousing round of applause at the opening ceremonies. The following day, the rector of the university, Dr. Kouskouvelis, requested a meeting with the ASC students, who then discovered a Greece-Colorado connection. Dr. Kouskouvelis earned his Master’s degree from the University of Denver. After telling stories about his Colorado days, he presented the students with gifts and offered to arrange a trip to Mt. Olympus and Vergina, the burial site of Phillip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, the conference’s tight schedule did not allow for such an adventure.
After the first full day of the conference, the team pulled an all-nighter, complete with laptops and snacks, to prepare resolutions for the following day. Each student represented Poland in a different committee: one of three General Assembly committees, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Council of Europe and NATO. Some of the issues the students tackled were: international agreements addressing the threat of nuclear weapons; the global financial crisis; the elimination of racial discrimination; climate change; preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and extremist behavior among European youth. Conference participation required months of research and training. Towards the end of the conference, one team member, Thomas Keller, stated, “I’ve learned more this week than I have in college so far.”
Beyond speeches, debates and resolutions, Model UN conferences provide students with the occasion to interact, both professionally and socially, with other students from different countries and cultures. There are rumors now circulating around Thessaloniki of the night when the Republic of Poland danced with the Republic of Finland. World peace indeed!
The team also had the opportunity to take in the sights of Thessaloniki, an historic city founded in 315 BCE and named for the half-sister of Alexander the Great. Around every corner, the students encountered a beautiful church or ruin, some from the ancient period of Roman domination. The Museum of Anthropology offered artifacts from virtually every period of ancient Greek history.
The end of the conference left the team exhausted, but filled with memories of great food, amazing sights and new friends. Opa!
Anyone interested in joining Model UN should contact Mari Centeno, faculty advisor, at LMCENTENO@adams.edu. The team meets every Wednesday evening at 5:00 in ES 346.