Written by Clare Isabel Ee | Image provided by YIRPA
In the first week of December 2013, eight students from Yale-NUS College flew to Taipei, Taiwan, for the fourth annual Pan Asian Model United Nations (PAMUN). Held in the iconic Taipei 101 building, over 300 university students represented various foreign countries as delegates for United Nations (UN) committees on a range of global issues. Half of the Yale-NUS students were first-timers, and competition was tough – university students came from Taiwanese universities as well as international ones, and most were extremely vocal and confident in expressing their views.
But by the end of the conference, five of the Yale-NUS students had clinched awards: two won Best Diplomacy, for steering discussions and bringing about consensus; one was Best Delegate, for the most contribution towards the development of discussions and draft resolution; and a pair was named Best Delegation, for accurate and consistent diplomacy in all aspects of participation.
“The opportunity to represent Yale-NUS as the first delegation was a really amazing opportunity, and the fact that we managed to win some awards was the icing on the cake,” Jared Yeo Jing Shun (Class of 2017) said.
“We are a new college considered to be untested by many and so our success at PAMUN reaffirmed our belief that even newcomers can succeed with the right attitude and support from the school,” added Walter Yeo En Fei (Class of 2017), the leader of the student group.
Model UN aims to foster in students a deeper understanding of international relations, and how the diverse cultures and political systems affect it. More than 400 conferences have started up all over the globe for students of varying ages, but the base aim of each conference has always remained the same: by placing students in the position of world leaders, it allows for a more nuanced view of political systems from all over the world.
All of the eight delegates from Yale-NUS have cultivated a strong interest in politics, human development, and global affairs, and sought to learn as much as they could during the conference. They came away from the entire experience with knowledge, skills, and empathy. Felicia Tan Fang Yi (Class of 2017), one of the participants, described the gravity of being an international delegate as one of the most important lessons she learnt. “I have grown in respect for people who handle this difficulty with wisdom and sense, not just for large issues affecting the masses such as in policy-making, but also for choices they make in their everyday lives.”
Once delegates are assigned to a particular country, they must embody the political beliefs and policies of that country, regardless of their personal views. Andrea Lee (Class of 2017), who won Best Diplomacy, had to carefully balance Switzerland’s pharmaceutical economy with its moral obligations for lower cost of healthcare. Walter, who also received Best Diplomacy, represented the supremely unpopular Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and grew from being antagonistic to slowly integrating North Korea into the resolution process.
Apart from the slew of Model UN conferences they will be attending in 2014, the students were also inspired to bring the first ever ASEAN conference to Singapore, to be held at Yale-NUS. “We are looking at hosting this unique experience in the coming year and hope to bring a taste of Asian politics to local students,” said Walter. “We learnt a lot about running a conference, which is great knowledge we can apply when we want to organize our own events. I think it’s only right that we import a little of the wonderful experience at PAMUN back home to share with our other classmates, so be prepared for some really incredible ideas coming your way!”
The group has since been officially named “Yale-NUS International Relations and Political Association,” or YIRPA in short, and has gone on to win two more awards at the Techfast International Model UN, India. They also have been invited to chair the Yale Model UN Korea and the Nanyang Technological Model UN in 2014.