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From Aug. 22-24, the Yale-NUS International Relations and Political Association (YIRPA) hosted 154 high school students for a Model Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference at the college. Much like Model United Nations (MUN) conferences, the Model ASEAN conference was meant to simulate ASEAN conferences.
YIRPA’s conference was one of the first of its kind, according to Jared Yeo ‘17, the Secretary General of the conference. “It’s not that [Model ASEAN has] never been done in Singapore; it has been done, but it has never been done on a university level, organized by university students, with a slightly more rigorous academic component,” he said.
The conference’s roots can be traced back to a Model UN conference in Taiwan last year which YIRPA attended. “Two of our delegations were in the ASEAN regional forum. And then they shared with us how different it is, and then it just got me thinking,” Yeo said. “We as university students are still very alien to the ASEAN style of debate, then what about high schoolers and people younger than us. So it got me thinking, why not create a Model ASEAN.” In mid March of 2013, a group of members within the club met for the first time to begin planning the conference.
The organizers required delegates to write an essay, explaining why they wanted to participate in the conference, to ensure delegates would come committed and add to the debate. “The quality of the debate was surprisingly good. They were very fluent. Also, very focused. And I think it’s got to do with the application process,” Diamanta Lavi ‘17 said.
According to the organizers, the event was also a great chance to promote the college. “We gave our delegates, the high school students, an opportunity to get to know Yale-NUS and the culture better, from interacting with President Lewis and Dean Farley and hearing from Austin an Admissions talk to speaking to any one of us about what the culture is. We had a dinner and dance at the MPH, we had the first day of council sessions all at [Residential College four],” Yeo elaborated.
YIRPA hopes to make the model ASEAN conference a recurring event for the school and plans to increase the conference’s size next year to about 200 students, according to Yeo. Lavi said she believed the event helped give everyone involved a deeper understanding and appreciation for how ASEAN really works. “ASEAN is by consensus…and most of the delegates are very much used to model UN, so there were a few surprises for them that it has to be a consensus vote, that there has to be no against vote,” she said. “It was very interesting and makes you better appreciate the ASEAN way of thinking and working together.”