Experiencing Model Government in Europe

A contingent of Loomis Chaffee Model United Nations students won the Outstanding Small Delegation Award at the Yale Model Government Europe Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, during Thanksgiving Break in November.

Twelve Loomis students traveled to Portugal for the conference and educational experience with faculty members Rachel Engelke, advisor to Loomis’ Model U.N. organization, and Marley Matlack, director of the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies. The trip was the first of six educational travel programs organized by the Alvord Center for the 2019–20 school year.  

The group spent the first part of the nine-day journey exploring Lisbon. Aided by a local guide, the visitors toured residential neighborhoods, commercial centers, and historical landmarks around the city on foot and in a boat tour on the River Tagus. On a bus trip further afield, the travelers visited Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, and Sintra, a resort town with fairytale-castle architecture and sweeping views in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains. 

Students participated in interactive games, sampled local food specialties, experienced live music performances, and observed street art during their daily explorations of Lisbon as they learned about Portuguese history and culture. At the Lisbon Cooking Academy, the visitors learned how to prepare a traditional Portuguese meal, which they shared as a group. They also considered the environmental, social, and economic impact of Portugal’s growing tourism industry as a case study with input from local university students.

The second half of the visit centered on the model government conference, which brought together approximately 400 high school students in 30 delegations from schools around the world. According to the conference website, the three-day event aims to “raise awareness of and foster discussion about international relations in the European context through simulations of global crises and fast-paced debate.” The conference simulates political and diplomatic interactions in the European Union, making its geographic focus somewhat different from Model United Nations conferences, according to Rachel. Learning about Portugal’s desire to balance modernization with the preservation of their history and culture added context to some of the European issues on which the conference focused.

In national cabinets and EU institutions, participants debated pressing current-day issues. Debate focused on a simulated crisis with significant consequences throughout Europe and the world. At the closing ceremony, the Loomis Chaffee contingent received the Outstanding Small Delegation award, the equivalent of second place among small delegations, and six of the 12 Loomis attendees received individual awards. They included seniors Maral Asik, Alice Chen, and Min Jun Jung; and juniors Victoria Che, Clara Chen, and Aidan Gillies. (See below for detailed award information.)

“It’s such a unique and rewarding experience to share a new country and culture with these kids, outside of the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life on the Island,” Rachel wrote on the group’s travel blog. She praised the students on the team for their poise and the level of commitment they brought as a group to the conference.

For student reflections and photos from the trip, connect to the Portugal 2019 travel blog. Connect to the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies page for more about the center's student travel opportunities and other programs.


The individual award winners from Loomis were:

Junior Aidan Gillies, Best Delegate (1st place/top person in the committee) for his role as Germany’s Viola von Cramon-Taubadel in European Parliament ITRE (Industry, Research, and Energy) Committee;

Junior Clara Chen, Best Delegate for her role as prosecution from Sweden on the Court of Justice of the European Union;

Junior Victoria Che, Outstanding Delegate (second place) for her role as Belgium’s minister of transportation;

Senior Maral Asik, Honorable Mention (third place) for her role as Josianne Cutajar from Malta in  European Parliament ITRE (Industry, Research, and Energy) Committee;

Senior Alice Chen, Honorable Mention for her role as Netherlands minister of employment, social policy, health, and consumer affairs;

Senior Min Jun Jung, Honorable Mention for his role as Ladislav Csemi, Slovakian minister of the interior on FRONTEX (European Border and Coast Guard Agency).