Daniel Dulla, Ivana Krpelanová and Sabina Šimková, all students from year III of EGMT had the difficult task of representing the Democratic Republic of Korea at the first ever edition of Torún Model United Nations (TOMUN) in Torún, Poland (25-27 September).
We intended travelling the 550km from Martin to Torún by minibus. All was going well until we reached Piotrków Trybunalski, where the bus broke down. We had to be towed into town by the very helpful local vehicle rescue service, and then we found that there was a train to Torún (and Gdansk) due to pass through 90 minutes later. Polish trains are notoriously slow so, although we only had 200km or so to go, we were on the train for four hours. Still, we made it. One day later, so did our driver.
The conference itself was very good, considering that the hosts had never organised such an event before. We were honoured guests, as one of only two foreign schools. The other was a grammar school from Leiden in the Netherlands. There were also Polish schools from Torún and its surrounding areas, and one from further away, in Gliwice.
Our three students quickly realised that, for the first time, they were among the more experienced at an MUN, having all participated in two or three conferences before. This meant they often had to help the less experienced students and to be especially active in the debates.
Each student represented North Korea on a different committee. Each committee discussed three issues, all of which are highly relevant to the world today. Daniel‘s committee was a special one designed to debate the conference’s main theme – the dangers of development. It discussed matters relating to genetic engineering, food technologies and oil exploitation. Daniel was finally awarded the title of ‘most active delegate’. In fact, he was so active, his committee president ended up limiting the number of proposals he could put forward.
Sabina was on the Human Rights Council and was the main submitter of one its resolutions. The council debated child soldiers, slavery in Africa and crimes against corporation employees. Ivana was on the UN’s main body, the Security Council, which had to deal with the situations in Russia, Libya, the growing threat of Islamic State (or ISIS) and the poor relations between North Korea and the USA.
All three students were superb ambassadors, not only of North Korea, but of EGMT too.
This MUN was a new experience for us in that it was our first foreign one. It was also the first in which we lived with host families, and this aspect of our stay in Torún was also very rewarding, as we all had some great experiences with our hosts and made some new friends.
And this is ultimately the point of MUN conferences. They are about friendships. This is true of the event itself, which is about collaboration rather than competitiveness. You are not trying to defeat someone, as you are in a debate, you are trying to find common ground. On the other hand, you do have to stand up for your country’s interests. That isn’t easy when your country is North Korea, but then sometimes it helps to have to look at the world from another’s perspective.
The friendships are not only made in conference rooms, but also outside, during informal chats, on walks around town, or at the evening party.
All the communication was in English, even though Slovaks and Poles can communicate through their native languages. Perhaps an English teacher shouldn’t say such a thing but I do believe that students learn more English through an event like this than in the equivalent time with a text-book. The same may well be true of other subjects, since MUN topics encompass most educational disciplines ; the humanities, the sciences, economics, technology….
It is an immensely valuable activity, one I believe helps the educational process in all sorts of ways. Hopefully, we can engage more students in it.
*** More information on Tomun can be found at www.tomun.eu ***