On November 23, 2022, select Grade 10 and Grade 11 students from GCF International Christian School (GCF-ICS) ventured on to South Korea to attend the Yale Model United Nations Korea (YMUNK) conference which lasted from November 25-27. This was the first face-to-face Overseas Learning Experience (OLE) program that GCF-ICS has participated in since the pandemic.
Those who have graduated from ICS may be wondering if the OLE programs are still the same as they were pre-pandemic while current ICS students who have not been to an OLE may be curious as to how an OLE goes. If you fall under one of those two categories, then this article is for you!
The delegates of GCF-ICS arrived in South Korea on November 23, 2022. During their two free days, they explored the city and went to Lotte World, a famous theme park in South Korea. When the first day of YMUNK finally arrived, the delegates felt mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness.
Seojin Kim, a Grade 11 student, described the protocols to be very light. At first, he thought that the organizers would require a negative COVID-19 test, but the protocol was just the requirement of wearing masks at all times. In the committee rooms, social distancing was practically non-existent because the tables were all lined up in rows, and the room fit about 40 people. With quite a huge number of delegates in one room, Seojin first found it nerve wracking to interact with others because they all came from different cultural backgrounds; however, he eased up and ended up being more comfortable with talking to them after a while. As the days passed by, he found it easier to interact with the other delegates because they got used to one another.
Grade 11 student, John Sy, mentioned that he was able to speak and raise motions throughout the conference. Although he motioned for caucuses and voted for them, he was not able to speak much especially during moderated caucuses. In spite of that, John said that he felt more comfortable during unmoderated caucuses which resulted in him contributing more. He experienced some troubles when it came to writing resolutions because he felt that the other delegates contributed more than he did. Although this was the case, John was glad to speak up and give his insights during unmoderated caucuses.
Unlike their classmates, Jake Choi and Euijin Chae were both able to speak up more during moderated caucuses because they had a hard time asserting themselves during unmoderated caucuses. Knowing that there were more experienced delegates made it harder for them to speak up, and they feel that GCF-ICS should be more exposed to Model United Nations (MUN) set-ups to get the groove of public speaking and debating with a large audience. They suggested the participation of the school in local MUNs so that the students will be able to maximize the experience of a program as big as YMUNK.
The four Grade 11 students may have experienced different problems, but they all agreed on one thing: they got to form meaningful friendships with a lot of the other delegates. All of them mentioned how there were a lot of Filipino delegates which made them feel like they had their own small community even while in another country.
OLEs may sound mentally demanding and pressuring, but it really is not all that. Apart from the work that needs to be done during an OLE, many GCF-ICS students have their fair share of memorable experiences and funny anecdotes.
One of Euijin’s most memorable experiences was going to Lotte World. He said that he had lots of fun going on rides and exploring the theme park despite the extremely long lines and big crowds. Euijin mentioned that there were some issues related to getting food, so another painful yet memorable experience was walking around for a really long time just to get food. The delegates did a whole lot of walking in South Korea as they went around to explore.
Seojin shared the same sentiments as Euijin but specifically highlighted the walking. Though it was fun because they were all together, he suggested for there to have someone who knows their way around Korea to guide the group because this would have made things much easier for all of them in terms of logistics and travel time. He mentioned how Jake had to step up and guide the group most of the time due to the language barrier that made it hard for all of them to get directions.
Leaning more toward the positive side, Seojin explained how being in the same room as his friends and late night trips to the convenience store were two of the standout memories in this trip. He mentioned how they would stay up until 2 AM or 3 AM just munching on snacks and bonding together. Even though they see each other in school almost every day of the week, the time that they have spent in South Korea together is truly an unforgettable experience.
All of the GCF-ICS delegates performed remarkably throughout the three-day YMUNK conference, but some of them were blessed with special mentions from their specific committees. Seth Cacanindin, Eric Choi, Theone Siscar, and Hannah Tibe bagged respective awards because of their outstanding performances during the conference. However, due to schedule conflicts, we were only able to interview Seth, Theone, and Hannah.
Theone was a part of the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural (SOCHUM) Committee, and she received the “Outstanding Delegate” award. She was in shock when they called out her name because she barely talked during moderated caucuses. However, there was a distinct moment when Theone spoke up for herself when she disagreed with a delegate’s stance, and she felt really good about it. She said that getting the award was like the icing on top of her cake because she set her studies aside and focused on YMUNK during the entire month of November.
Hannah was a part of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Committee, and she described the announcement of her award as a proud moment. Her heart started to beat quickly when they called out her name. Even though she felt like she did deserve an award, she saw other delegates who were also deserving of the award which made her feel unsure whether she was going to receive one or not. When Hannah found out that she got the “Honorable Mention” award, it felt rewarding because the month of November was tough for her. She said that it also felt good because her parents saw the fruits of her labour
Seth was also a part of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Committee. During the awarding ceremony, Seth was just recording for other people because she did not expect an award at all. When they got to her committee, she ended up dropping her phone when they announced that she got an award. Seth felt really surprised, but the feeling of thrill and gratitude rushed through her body when she received the “Best Position Paper” award. She said that the fact that it was unexpected made it ten times better and more rewarding.
The First of Many
The first GCF-ICS OLE post-pandemic was successful, and the delegates had fun and learned a lot along the way. Although challenges were encountered along the way, the delegates pushed through and refused to give up. With the travelling restrictions easing up even more, YMUNK 2022 is definitely the first of many OLEs that GCF-ICS has in store for its students.