An Eye-Opening Experience

This blog entry was written by Stella L, an 11th grader at Newport High School in Bellevue, who attended the World Affairs Council’s fourth annual Global Youth Leadership Institute, June 27 – July 1, 2011. Thanks, Stella, for this terrific piece!

“So, what’s the plan?” I asked my team. We huddled around the table to discuss our next move. One boy spoke up.

“How ‘bout we just nuke India? That would take care of all our problems.”

We all agreed, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

You may be thinking: “How can a group of high-schoolers be plotting to nuke India?” That just isn’t possible. But at the Global Youth Leadership Institute it was—at least for one afternoon.

The focus for that day was terrorism and how it impacts world relations. We were participating in a terrorism simulation activity, designed by our speaker, Professor Bidisha Biswas of Western Washington University. Apparently, an important city in India had just been attacked by terrorist bombers, with hundreds of deaths and irreplaceable damage. In the aftermath, India accused Pakistan of involvement in the terrorists’ activities. With rising tensions, the international community took action. We were split up into groups (the United Nations, the U.S., the Pakistani and Indian Governments and the Pakistani Army), to role play what would take place. The room was abuzz with delegations sent from one group to the other (for example, the UN threatened to remove its troops from the India-Pakistan border) and negotiations from table to table. Who would’ve thought that an ordinary classroom could be transformed into a busy diplomacy forum?

Of course, as the Pakistani army, we decided that no one would have authority over us. Naturally, this led to our decision to enact a coup against the Pakistani government. So, while creating an agreement with the U.S. to gain its support, and cheerfully consenting to all its ridiculous demands for democracy in Pakistan, we were, in actuality, planning to overthrow the government and establish authoritarian, military rule. Imagine how this surprising twist of events played out. When we announced our plans to take over Pakistan, with America’s support, even the United Nations was at a loss for words. And when we created a military government, completely disregarding our previous agreements with the U.S., America was appalled. Luckily for us, Professor Biswas ended the simulation then and there.

While nothing significant may have happened during the simulation (after all, we were a pretend “Pakistani army” enacting a pretend “military coup”), in many ways, it mirrored what real-life political negotiation is like. It really broadened my understanding of how international tensions play out, because I was put in the shoes of a politician. Now I understand that political negotiation is not as easy as it seems. In fact, it’s frustrating and stressful! I also felt a sense of pride and loyalty to my group. This feeling is similar to that of many steadfast citizens around the world, standing up for their nations. And lastly, I learned to work with my teammates, combining our talents to achieve our goal of taking over Pakistan.

The Global Youth Leadership Institute was truly an eye-opening experience, and if I could, I would return to GYLI next summer without hesitation. As I return to school and begin initiating my Global Awareness Project, I will keep in mind the valuable lessons I learned at GYLI, from how to work well in a team to what makes a good leader. I would strongly encourage any students out there from 8thto 10thgrade to apply for GYLI. It is a wonderful program that you wouldn’t want to miss.

 

The Global Youth Leadership Institute(GYLI) is a five-day intensive summer program designed to encourage and assist high school students in learning about current global issues. Over the course of the program, students hear from expert speakers, explore international career opportunities, take part in workshop activities on world issues, and develop leadership skills. Students also plan global awareness projects to educate their peers about world affairs over the forthcoming academic year. In 2011, thirty-four students from fourteen schools in the Greater Seattle area attended the fourth annual Global Youth Leadership Institute.