When fourteen SMUS students travelled to Bangkok in August to participate in the third annual Harvard Model Congress, they found themselves in the midst of political tensions when riots broke out not far from where they were staying. Grade 12 student Katrina Gong writes about a cancelled academic conference and the real-life lessons in international politics gained during a trip to Bangkok.
During the last weeks of our summer vacation, 14 students and two teachers embarked on an adventure from the quiet, small town of Victoria to the hustling and bustling city of Bangkok, Thailand. The purpose of the trip was to partake in the annual Harvard Model Congress – a simulation congress where students act as American senators and solve the many issues that our world is facing. But due to riots and the political instability, the conference was cancelled. Despite the change in plans, we kept our spirits up and busied ourselves with cultural experiences.
Because we had been so affected by the riots (we were out of danger as we moved to a smaller city near Bangkok- Hua Hin), we decided to take it into our own hands to find out more about it. We discussed what problems the Thai government was currently facing, and what their options were now; it seemed as if we had traveled to Bangkok for a mock government situation, but what we got instead was the real deal!
In spite of all the political drama, we had great adventures, including dining in the tallest building in Bangkok, riding elephants through a thick Thai jungle, and boiling eggs in a natural hot spring. One experience which stood out from the others was our trip to a remote village. We spent a day in their local school, where we played with the children and presented gifts of school supplies, uniforms, and other equipment. Despite a language barrier, we found common ground with games such as tag, soccer, and by far their favourite: rock-paper-scissors.
They were quick to show us their games (where we were lost miserably) and by the time the sun had set, we had all become well acquainted. That night, we had homestays in their village, where we were able to just begin to understand life from their perspective. For the kids who had never seen a place like it, it was like something out of a movie and for those of us who had seen such a place, it was still incredible.
Although this trip was more unpredictable than American politics, what we gained was more than just another stamp in our passports – we tested our friendships, our resilience, and our ability to accept and understand, and it seems as if each of us passed with flying colours.