Upon hearing about a Model UNESCO conference that would take place in Argentina, I and many other students were delighted and eager to participate. We knew of the good work UNESCO facilitates in the fields of Science, Social Science, and Culture and Education, and were intrigued by the wealth of culture we would experience by traveling to a different country, especially one as exciting as Argentina. However, upon receiving our instructions from the Institute, we immediately realized the daunting task ahead of us. We were to represent the country of Venezuela, a country which both spoke a different language, and was notorious for obscuring the truth about its realities, which posed an extra challenge to the already difficult task of researching and writing speeches and working papers on six topics. Furthermore, the language barrier would also be present during our conference. Thankfully, we were met with an outpouring of invaluable support and assistance from fellow students and teachers, who possessed a wealth of knowledge concerning the topics with which we dealt. After months of meetings, late nights spent writing and researching, and immense hard work from our teacher, Mrs.Stephens, we were ready to depart.
Upon arriving, many of our fears were immediately abated. Our trip was relatively straightforward, our hotel was clean and comfortable, and our transport was incredibly timely and reliable. The conference too was remarkably well organised, closely mimicked an official UNESCO conference, with the delegations first meeting in regional blocs and discussing the topics at hand. After each nation's speeches and working papers were read, analysed and critiqued, three countries were nominated to represent each region. Our group giving us the opportunity to bring the concerns of our country and region to the "international" community. Our delegates did admirably presenting the fruits of our labour to the large audience, especially considering the language barrier. While that was a major concern for us English speakers, thanks to the helpful and competent translators we were provided, and the conversational Spanish we learned during school, it rarely posed a problem. Later on in the conference, we worked together as nations, trying to forge resolutions that all could agree on. As expected, with different nations having different demands, there was conflict, but through debate and diplomatic principles, this was assuaged. After many meetings, discussions, votes and signings, we were able to fulfill our goal - we had agreed on six resolution papers which represented the interests of all nations present, and which proposed a world of good for their citizens.
Away from the conference, we also experienced the rich culture of Argentina. Our translators were incredibly warm and friendly - as were most persons there - and showed us what their country had to offer, and taught us many cultural nuances. We befriended persons from throughout the South American continent, and have been keeping in touch with them, sharing our unique Trinbagonian culture in the process. In the conference, we were treated to a bit of tango, and everywhere we delighted in the delicious Argentine cuisine. We also roamed the streets to catch a glimpse of the beautiful architecture and historical monuments boasted by Buenos Aires. Though we were unable to catch a football match or full tango show, we definitely participated wholeheartedly in the rich cultural experiences on offer.
The experience was invaluable in numerous ways- our knowledge of the tenets of UNESCO and diplomacy was exercised and strengthened, and we gained a number of friends, and experience which comes with travel. I would wholeheartedly recommend a similar undertaking to anyone.
Participating in the Model UNESCO in Argentina was a very informative and eye-opening experience.
During the event, we were able to present the working papers and speeches that we had prepared as well as listen to others’ works. Active debates tested how well we knew and could represent our assigned country as we were asked questions and asked questions in return.
There were many other participants from various Latin American schools with whom we interacted as most knew basic English. Being the only English-speaking school, we were assigned interpreters who were around our ages and well-versed in the English language. They were friendly and made us feel welcome and as were most of the others that we came into contact with. While there, we were also made to use the Spanish that we were taught in school and were able to practise it on a daily basis. Skills involving public speaking, the Spanish language, debating and social interaction were all greatly improved from this experience and much knowledge was gained.
A teacher's point of view
The Sixteenth International Model of UNESCO took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina from Wednesday 7th to Saturday 10th October, 2015 at the Instituto Jose Hernandez. Our delegation which consisted of Caitlin Lee, Natalia Isava, Haille Joseph and Gabriella Low Chew Tung, was the first to represent Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. We were the only English-speaking delegation. Other participants included students and teachers from Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay.
This event was very well-organised. I was amazed at how well we were treated by our Argentine hosts; our well-being was always their priority. The students and I were assigned personal translators so that we were kept informed of the proceedings at the General Debates which always started and ended on time. I felt great pride when my students did their presentations; they had gained such confidence in only a few days! I felt this was due to their interactions with students from various countries and the lack of interference by the teachers who were told in no uncertain terms that they were simply there to observe. We were not left out though as there was a workshop on school violence and bullying which was extremely informative.
Our days were long and cold. We left the hotel at 7.30am, travelled by bus for one hour to the Instituto Jose Hernandez and remained there in sessions until 5.30pm. We then had a one hour drive back to the hotel and then ventured downtown to purchase dinner. We were expecting temperatures of 17 to 22 degrees Celsius, however, there was an unexpected change in the weather and so we had days when we could not stop shivering as the temperature fell to 6 degrees!
Overall it was a very positive experience. The students made a great impression on the organizers who commented on how well-dressed and intelligent they were. Two students and I were interviewed for a video presentation which is to be made available to all participating schools. I was also asked to give a speech about our experience at the closing ceremony and I was honoured to do this.
The International Model of UNESCO is a great opportunity for young people to interact with their peers from around the world and to participate in solving world issues in the areas of Science, Social Science and Culture and Education. I would definitely encourage students to participate in this event in the future.
Alicia Stephens (Teacher)