Update from Dominique Ibekwe - Serbia
If I had the chance to be any professional for a day, a diplomat wouldn’t particularly be my job of choice. That’s not to say that the duties and responsibilities of this internationally political career path aren’t interesting; it’s just that if I had one day to be anything, I would like to try something unconventional –something along the lines of a chef or a snowboarder or even a violinist in a world-class orchestra. But after spending four days at the Belgrade International Model United Nations (BIMUN) conference, I’ll admit that one huge perk of being a diplomat is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
From March 15th to 18th, our BYP group headed to Belgrade to participate in BIMUN. If you are not familiar with Model United Nations, it’s a type of conference where students from high school to graduate school gather and represent member countries in the various committees of the UN. Conveniently, one of the international model UN conferences happened to be taking place in Belgrade, so we all thought, “Why not give it a shot and at least apply?” After applying and (surprisingly) being accepted, I was informed that I would be one of the two delegates representing Morocco in the Security Council; its topic was the still-fresh crisis in Libya. Even though we all were going to Belgrade, our committees differed. The Security Council Crisis Committee included both Jacob, delegate for Pakistan, and Tucker, delegate for France, as it worked towards mediating the Israel-Palestine conflict; the Human Rights Council, covering corruption and human rights violation in the Balkans, was where Charlotte represented Jordan; and in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Yentli represented Serbia and discussed the preservation of cultural heritage in Kosovo and Jerusalem.
Each theme required research and preparation, and while some of us prepared at different intensities, I think it’s safe to say that none of us were expecting what the conference would truly and fortunately end up being about: forming friendships with people from around the world. At this year’s BIMUN conference, 37 countries from five continents were represented. Essentially everyone at the conference currently lives and studies in Europe, but the participants’ places of origin ranged from Colombia to Cameroon to Singapore to Egypt to Kyrgyzstan, and that’s just to name a few. Every day at the Security Council sessions I tried my best to be engaged and participative, but it was always much more exciting for me to have the opportunity to interact with other participants outside of the sessions.
Never in my young adult life had I felt so worldly and so invested in an international community because I’d never been exposed to one of this extent. Living in Serbia for the past seven months has given me the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a culture and a society that I knew barely anything about pre-Bridge Year, but it’s been the same culture and society. Those four days in Belgrade were refreshing: when I overheard people’s conversations, they were being held in Polish, in French, in Russian; when I was talking to other people about academic institutions and systems, I was hearing about the Belgian, the Singaporean, and the Italian perspective from respectively Quique, Abigail, and Ila, people from my council who transitioned from peers to friends over the course of the conference.
Of course this isn’t to say that Serbia does not hold a special place in my heart, for it most certainly does. My name tag may have had the American flag on it, but in a way I felt like I was simultaneously representing Serbia too. Although on the outside I appeared to be like all of the other foreigners in Belgrade for the conference, in reality I had the advantage of knowing the language, the culture, and even the city. I remember one night when some of the chairpersons took several delegates to a traditional Serbian kafana. Everyone was marveling at how merry and alive the atmosphere was and how they couldn’t believe this is what Serbia is really like. I always smiled in agreement and felt proud that other people were finally getting to experience the Serbia that I’ve gotten to know while we’ve been here, the Serbia that has become the norm, the Serbia that has become my home. It’s ironic how the presence of other foreigners strengthened the role that Serbia currently plays in my life.
Conversing and spending time with these amazing people has opened my eyes (even further than the Bridge Year Program already has) to the importance of connecting with the international community. The world is about so much more than just the country you come from, and it’s extremely essential to be aware of that because, in a way, we’re all interconnected. This BIMUN experience may not have secured my future as a diplomat, but it has definitely made me realize that diversity is a priority in whatever profession I decide to pursue. I’m starting to see that when I return home to the States, and later to Princeton, I’m coming back as a person with bridges that will link the world I've known to the new one I’ve discovered over the past eight months.