In a conference room in Washington, D.C., voices rise and tensions mount. Delegation members debate global policy, argue procedure and challenge one another on facts. Alliances are formed and destroyed in a single morning as parties work to out-position one another.
Sitting amidst the frenzy is political science and French double-major Hanna Barakat. And she is loving it.
Barakat, who will graduate May 9, and her UT Arlington classmate Ruba Ahmad were part of a Texas State University student delegation to Model Arab League at Georgetown University on March 28-30. The team represented Kuwait in the Arab League Summit simulation. Barakat won outstanding delegate in her forum; Ahmad earned an honorable mention. Their team received a special commendation at the end of the summit.
“It makes learning political science more enjoyable,” said Barakat. “It makes learning worthwhile. You have to learn to express your opinion and learn to defend it. You have 30 seconds to make your point, so you have to be quick on your feet.”
This is the third year the UT Arlington students have participated in Model Arab League. With the help of on-campus groups like the Charles T. McDowell Center for Critical Languages & Area Studies, the women raise enough funds to attend regional conferences in Houston and the national conference in Washington, D.C. The two joined the University of Houston team in 2013, then were added to the Texas State team earlier this year.
Ahmad, a political science major who will also graduate this spring, said the experience opened her eyes to the nuances of international politics.
“Participating in Model Arab League changed my perspective on global politics because instead of just reading or writing about them, I was able to somewhat experience just how they work,” she said. “As a representative of Kuwait, I got a firsthand experience with the role of power in international relations and just how much leverage a thriving economy can give. Specifically pertaining to the Human Rights Council, I was able to learn how different cultural components are often combined with universal humanitarianism in order to best facilitate the protection of human rights for all.
Barakat said her team could research and take notes on the issues set in the conference agendas, but they were not allowed to write resolutions or position papers until the conference began. That required the team to work together, process data quickly and hone their public speaking skills. Barakat said she also enjoyed networking with other college students from across the country as well as meeting industry representatives.
“I have a strong desire to one day teach at a university, supporting programs like Model Arab League and Model NATO,” she said. “I’ve seen the challenges students face and I hope to help.”
Barakat has been accepted by Georgetown’s Middle Eastern Studies graduate program and will begin this fall. Ahmad intends to work as a summer intern at the World Health Organization in Amman, Jordan.
Both students agreed the experience challenged them to consider the cultural and regional impact of international politics and avoid developing “Western solutions for Middle Eastern problems,” Barakat said. Both women are of Middle Eastern decent but have lived in the U.S. their entire lives. At times, this proved challenging, they said.
“I was able to meet and work with some of the most inspiring young minds in politics that are sure to be tomorrow’s leaders,” Ahmad said. “I was also pushed to put aside my personal paradigms and represent the position that I was serving to the best of my abilities, a skill that will undoubtedly allow me to fare better in my future career.”
More than 2,200 students annually participate in the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Model Arab League program through 15 conferences in 11 cities throughout the United States.
(Story by James Dunning/COLA)