BY OVSANNA AVETISYAN AND GASIA BENLIAN
One of Ferrahian High School’s most prestigious and rewarding programs is Model United Nations, in which motivated and dedicated students hone their public-speaking and debate abilities. Attending these conferences gives students the opportunity to represent their delegations, which they prepare through rigorous research, in a competitive, diverse environment, encompassing students from various backgrounds.
When Ferrahian’s Model UN program restarted in 1999, a small group of approximately 12 students attended BMUN at UC Berkeley. Now, after 20 years, Ferrahian has sent a total of approximately 600 delegates to UCLA’s Model UN Conference, BruinMUN. Over the course of two decades, Ferrahian’s delegates have participated in a multitude of local conferences held at UCLA, UCB, UCSB, UCSD, Los Alamitos High School, and Gahr High School, as well as international conferences in Tokyo, Japan, and most recently, The Hague, Netherlands.
The latest Model UN international conference took place in The Hague, Netherlands, the setting of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, where Bosnian politician Radovan Karadžić was recently sentenced to life imprisonment as a war criminal and genocide perpetrator. Having the opportunity to visit these locations has been an insightful experience, especially as descendents of Armenian Genocide survivors. We were able to familiarize ourselves with the process of justice and procedure of restitution. As those who carry the responsibility of the future of the Armenian Cause, it is imperative that we acquaint ourselves with significant entities which generate justice.
Being able to travel and explore has fostered a cultural immersion, allowing our Armenian heritage to interact with that of the Dutch. Our canal rides and long walks down the narrow streets of Amsterdam, Bruges (Belgium), and The Hague left us in awe and we eagerly anticipated exploring the breathtaking cities and sights even further. In stark contrast to our fast paced lives in Los Angeles, the serenity of these cities allowed us to indulge in the relative calm manner of the Netherlands. Furthermore, our interactions with the Dutch have left us overflowing with gratitude, as we found ourselves in a hospitable, welcoming environment throughout the duration of our trip.
The HagaMUN conference was unlike any other conference we have participated in. Not only did it differ in the ways in which it was conducted, but it constituted a far wider association of international students varying from Spain, Germany, Dubai, and many more. Ferrahian’s 16 delegates did not know what to anticipate in terms of how European Model UN conferences were held, but were delighted to be introduced to a new process of committee, which consisted of lobbying prior to debate and discussion of resolutions. Additionally, our Armenian students met delegates from 35 schools located in 13 different countries, allowing us to familiarize ourselves with those of both European and Asian backgrounds. Throughout the conference, we saw not only the professional aspects of their personalities, but we also gained insight into a new culture of humor and casual relations. Interacting with these young individuals allowed us to establish lifetime bonds and friendships from all across the world. From our past experience at the Japan international conference, we have learned the value of retaining these ties with our fellow delegates, whom we continue to communicate with to this day.
We concluded our trip with a visit to the Abovyan Armenian Cultural Center, where we were wholeheartedly greeted with open arms and warm welcomes from the Armenian community residing in The Hague. We immersed ourselves with traditional Armenian food, songs, and dance, that was deeply reminiscent of our cultural roots. We are continuously reminded that regardless of where we are, Armenians will always find a home away from home with one another and create an undying flame of passion and love for our country and people.
Ultimately, we established memories that we will cherish forever and learned to open our eyes and our minds to cultures other than our own. We are extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity to experience the awe and the impact that this excursion has had on us. Each of us looks forward to taking part in future international conferences.
Ovsanna Avetisyan and Gasia Benlian are seniors at Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School.