Last week, five students from Bellevue College went on a trip to the Galapagos Islands. The purpose of the trip was to attend the International Model United Nations Conference in Latin America. However the trip was more than just a conference for the students; it was a growing experience that changed their lives.
Every year, there is a National New York Conference and an international conference, both of which the Model United Nations Club at BC tries to attend. Several students applied for a chance to attend the conference. The application process required students to write an essay about their interests, experiences and qualifications to attend the conference. Faculty Advisor Tim Jones and other faculty members read the essays to determine who to take. Six were selected including one alternate who did not attend the conference. The students selected were a diverse group, representative of BC. None of them were born in the United States and one student had Tourrette’s Syndrome.
The trip to the islands was divided into two parts—three days for the conference and three days for exploring the islands. During the conference, students won an Honorable Mention Award, the third of three categories of awards. Jones was impressed by his students since they were competing against students who were much older and more experienced, including some students attending law school in Germany. BC was one of the few community colleges competing in the event and had a disadvantage against four-year universities that sent juniors and seniors to such conferences instead of freshmen and sophomores. This is the second year in a row that BC has won an award.
Another highlight of the conference was how inspired students were by Megan Phan, the BC participant with Tourrette’s Syndrome. At the end of the conference, a student from Ecuador gave a speech about how inspired he was by her bravery. Phan received a standing ovation; people were proud of her.
On the second half of the trip, students explored the Galapagos Islands, which allowed them to learn about more than just the United Nations and gave them an unforgettable international experience. On the first day, students participated in community service in activities like helping to remove invasive species and cleaning up beaches. On the second day, the students went to see tortoises and beaches. On the third day, they went snorkeling, where they saw sharks and turtles underwater. Jones felt this was the most satisfying experience he had as a teacher because it led him to feel closer to this group of students than any other in his teaching career.
Head Delegate Auric Kaur said of her experience: “Follow your bliss. I loved being surrounded by ocean. It was such a secluded place that gave you to time to think and grow as a person. I have never seen such a natural place. [It] felt like we were in paradise each day.”
Overall the students had an enjoyable and challenging trip and hope to continue their success in the New York Conference. For more information or to join the Model UN, contact Adviser Tim Jones at email@example.com.