Six students in City College’s fall 2013 European Union class taught by history lecturer Barbara Syrrakos’ got an opportunity to put their classroom learning into practice by participating in the SUNY Model European Union simulation, held January 8 – 11 at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium.
The students – junior Shantanu Roy, senior Lyndsey Zeichner, junior Paulina Leyva Hernandez, junior Cesar Kastro, junior Salome Gvinianidze, and senior Albana Gjongecaj – and Dr. Syrrakos made the trip with support from the Simon H. Rifkind Center for the Humanities and Arts and the Division of Humanities and the Arts, led by Dean Eric D. Weitz.
Approximately 160 students from 17 colleges and universities in eight countries participated in this year’s simulation. They worked in four-person teams representing each of the 28 countries that comprise the European Union. Four of the six City College students represented Cyprus. The other two were paired with two students from Malta to represent Latvia.
“We spoke to (the Maltese students) in English and used Skype and Facetime to communicate,” said Mr. Kastro, one of the students who represented Latvia. “We held conference calls on weekends leading up to the event to study agenda items and familiarize ourselves with the issues.”
Each student took on the role of an official of the country he or she represented. Mr. Kastro, a junior majoring in international studies, acted as Latvia’s finance minister and spoke on the role of the digital economy in creating jobs to offset the high rate of youth unemployment throughout Europe.
“To participate effectively, students had to be knowledgeable of the ways of the European Union and also be able to grasp the cross-cultural issues it touches on,” Dr. Syrrakos said. To help prepare the students, she was able to arrange with assistance from the Office of City College President Lisa S. Coico a visit to CCNY by Cyprus’ consul general in New York, Koula Sophianou. Ms. Sophianou in turn arranged for the students to interview the Cypriot Ambassador to the European Union in Brussels, Kornelios Korneliou.
While the Model European Union is similar to the Model United Nations program that City College participates in, Dr. Syrrakos pointed out a signifcant difference: student teams do not compete for prizes. The simulation is designed around the driving principal of the European Union, consensus building, she explained.
However, Mr. Kastro and the other students learned that achieving consensus is easier said than done. “By participating in the simulation, I got to experience what it is like to be in a political setting and see how hard it was for states to reach a consensus,” he said, adding that “there are no words to describe the experience of going to Europe.”
The SUNY Model European Union is funded by the Institute of European Union Studies at SUNY (IEUSS), through the SUNY Office of Global Affairs. Dr. Kathleen M. Dowley, associate professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz, serves as director. A City College team under Dr. Syrrakos’ mentorship first participated in the 2013 Model European Union, held at the SUNY Global Center in New York.
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Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; the School of Education; the Grove School of Engineering; the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. U.S. News, Princeton Review and Forbes all rank City College among the best colleges and universities in the United States.