Back to Article
Back to Article


Ann Zhang, Features Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

For one week in January, twenty-eight JBS students and four chaperones flew 7370 miles to participate in The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) in Doha, Qatar. Throughout the trip, they investigated solutions to real-world conflicts, hung out with Afghani friends, and (revolutionarily) rhymed “macarena” with “banana.”

Most students have encountered some form of MUN in their Burroughs career, but THIMUN represents a greater scale of efforts and rewards – often the culmination of students’ MUN participation as middle-schoolers and underclassmen.

Compared to local divisions, “THIMUN was a larger and more substantial platform where I could advocate,” said Ethan Kalishman (’20), co-leader of Burroughs’ new MUN Impact Club.  Kalishman recounted his interactions in Doha with MUN enthusiasts from around the world – not only fellow students, but also actual experts, including Gilberto Duarte, a Criminal Justice Officer in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Axel Wabenhorst, the Australian ambassador to Qatar.

Carrie Zhang (’20), who attended THIMUN as a reporter for the QMUNITY Voice and heads MUN Impact alongside Kalishman, shared a similar gratitude for THIMUN’s unique opportunities.

“SLAMUN [Saint Louis Area Model United Nations] doesn’t really have a press team,” said Zhang. By contrast, in Doha, “it’s not just reporters who are covering the conference. There are videographers, photographers…etc.”

During the three-day conference, delegates from JBS successfully passed nine resolutions to solve global crises. Advocating on behalf of a range of issues, the majority of the students either represented Australia or Equatorial Guinea in their respective commissions. However, Margaux Ballet (’19) and Elle Sullivan (’19) served as advocates on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and emerged victorious in a land dispute between Chile and Bolivia.

As a team, THIMUN participants won second place for its Global Action with Impact proposal to end period poverty. After Burroughs students lobbied their fellow delegates with pins and flyers throughout the conference, the project gained 38% of the popular vote and was publicized in THIMUN’s closing ceremony.

Of course, JBS students did not forget to have fun along the way. Amidst hectic workloads, voyagers could relax in the pool and on the dance floor.

“Mr. Newman, we found, is very fond of the ‘sprinkler’ dance move, and Dr. K. can do the tango,” recounted Zhang.

Another fun activity was sightseeing destinations, such as the Qatar National Library, the Villaggio Mall (with gondolas!), and the Qatar State Mosque. Students adventured on a Dune Safari – gliding in Land Cruisers down scenic sand dunes – and cooled down at the seaside Qatar International Adventures camp (with camels!).

At mealtimes, Burroughs embraced the local culture. Traditional restaurants featured staples like pita bread, hummus, and lamb. Zhang praised the experience of trying foods in Qatar compared to Middle-Eastern food within the US:

“You can have it here, but it’s not going to compare to anything you have in the actual country that it comes from.”

Burroughs shared much of its schedule with students of the Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan (HELA) program, furthering the long-standing relationship between HELA and JBS. With the help of fundraisers at Burroughs and other schools involved with THIMUN, HELA can send a delegation of students to THIMUN each year.

HELA and JBS also shared hotel rooms throughout the conference.

“I think we just said, ‘We have some extra space,’” Kalishman summarized. “It resulted in a really cool experience for everyone, I think.”

Recreationally, HELA students joined JBS students at the Museum of Islamic Art and a Dhow Boat Cruise. Kalishman noticed a fascinating medley of American and Afghani culture – for example, on the cruise, “we were playing spin the bottle at the same time that they were teaching us a new musical game.”

Overall, THIMUN boasts an impressive cast, indisputable rhetoric, and once-in-a-lifetime photo shoots, but a critical question lingers beneath the surface: How can MUN in high schools truly change the world?

According to JBS participants, MUN is a matter of delayed gratification; it aims to better the future from the starting point of today.

“The best part of high school MUN right now is just introducing us to these topics and making us more aware of these issues in the world,” Zhang explained.

Kalishman completed the narrative: “When people are able to learn about these issues, they are not only refining their speaking and debating skills, but also they are able to figure out real solutions to these problems. They are developing potential to be more involved in the world as they grow older.”

Despite this primary objective of preparation for the future, Burroughs’ MUN leaders emphasize that students do not always need to wait for their turn to change the world.

“As high schoolers, we obviously don’t have the power to make foreign policy, but we’re trying to make smaller projects that will impact our community,” said Zhang. The aforementioned MUN Impact Club, founded by Zhang and Kalishman, aims (in Zhang’s words) “to make that second step to creating a bigger impact.”

The club focuses on the seventeen major Sustainable Development Goals decided by the UN in 2015, aiming “to serve as a platform in the JBS community to help others start their own projects,” as Kalishman happily elaborated. “They’re really ambitious goals – like eradicating all extreme poverty and reversing climate change – but the idea is that if we can get as many people involved as possible, then we can achieve those goals.”

Already, the MUN Impact Club looks to be a lasting outcome of this year’s THIMUN conference — rivaled only by the participants’ inside jokes, which will (perhaps) transcend mortality.