Most people have no idea where the Solomon Islands are, and fewer still know anything about the country's geographic or cultural makeup. But for 12 American International College students, the Solomon Islands are as well known to them as their own hometowns.
Desantila Gjata and Nengi Omoegbekuse
The students, members of the AIC United Nations Club, recently returned from the 59th Harvard National Model United Nations Conference, where they represented the collection of nearly one thousand islands in Oceania that form a sovereign country, to the east of Papua New Guinea in Melanesia.
Club president and founder Desantila Gjata, a junior international relations major from Derby, CT, said the conference was an eye opening experience. "We had the opportunity to meet students from all over the country and all over the world," she said. "Learning about different cultures really opens up your view of the world."
Shani Tromp-Brice and Shannon Weatherup
The newly formed U.N. Club consists of 12 AIC students, but Gjata is hoping that number will grow."This is a great opportunity for students to learn about the world and practice skills, like multilateral diplomacy, that will be needed for a career in international relations," she said.
Vice president Shannon Weatherup, a senior from Brattleboro, Vt., agreed. "Participating in a model U.N. Conference opens up your view of the world. You learn how to cooperate and reach a solution," she said. "It gives you a more holistic view of the world."
Sean Mahoney and Martin Rosillo
The Model U.N. conference at Harvard attracted more than 3,000 students from throughout the country and all over the world., and, Gjata said, it was set up just like the real thing. "Each team is assigned a country to represent. The whole conference is a simulation of the actual United Nations, basically we try to work together and come up with solutions," Gjata said.
The students spent a lot of time preparing for the event. "Before the conference we researched the country, its history, various interests and problems, so that we could accurately represent the country at the conference," Weatherup said.
For Gjata, one of the most interesting aspects of the trip was her encounter with a student from Iran. "We met a student delegate from Iran at dinner one night and the conversation was fascinating. He was an Iranian National extremist and the conversation was very intense. It was a real learning experience," she said.
Thamare Morency and Professor Thomas Maulucci
Weatherup agreed. "We spent over an hour talking with him about his views of the world and the differences between the U.S. and Iran. It really shakes up your reality," she said.