"A whirlwind of activity, action, debate, and excitement."

Grace Masback
Oregon, USA

Day 10 Reflections: Time To Simulate

Wow! I can’t believe that it’s been a week since last Sunday. The time is certainly flying by. As the program slowly winds down, we have reached what is largely known as the most exciting part of the YYGS/IAS experience — the crisis simulation activity.

The concept behind the simulation is simple. We were broken into large groups, and each group was given a crisis that they were operating within and trying to solve. Scenarios include the controversy in the East China Sea, the Venezuelan Oil crisis, and the dissolving European Union. Within each simulation problem, we removed ourselves from the real world and entered a sort of “virtual reality,” where we each took on the roles of the key figures in the crisis simulation we were hoping to address. Playing the roles of those actors, we then interacted, debated, and compromised, trying to work together and bring about solutions.

In many ways the simulation is like mock trial, meets debate, meets MUN, a unique look at how different parties come together and interact to address and solve real world problems. Each crisis simulation group operated independently, meaning that the group dealing with the crisis in Venezuela, had nothing to do with the group managing the European Union.

The roles that different players were randomly assigned to take on within their crisis varied in importance and power. Where relevant, some people took on the roles of heads of state, such as the U.S. president or the president of China, some people took on the roles of members of the press, producing regular video and audio content detailing the dealings and actions of different members of the simulation, some people took on the roles of activists and NGOs. The most ironic role placement I witnessed was that of my friend from Mainlaind China, Chenyu, who was assigned to take on the role of the Taiwanese president. He predicted with a smile that Taiwan would soon be changing its policies and handing the control of its government back over to Beijing.

I was in the European Union simulation group, assigned to be a member of the European Parliament. More specifically, within the European Parliament, I was a member of the European People’s Party, a center-right political party with a platform of protecting freedom, maintaining European unity, and protecting the rights of the underprivileged. Although as a budding journalist I was disappointed to not be assigned membership into the press corps, I loved my role.

Before the simulation, we produced extensive research memos as a means of learning about our role, what our key agenda items were, how we worked within the European Union, etc. We also looked at how our role related to the five main crises we were dealing with within the topic of the EU -- terrorism, Brexit, Russian aggression, the Greek debt crisis, and the influx of refugees. Although my party, the European People’s Party, is considered center-right, I was surprised to see the liberal policies and viewpoints that it holds concerning many important issues — a clear point of difference between American and European politics.

Ultimately, the simulation itself was a whirlwind of activity, action, debate, and excitement. We began the day by addressing the crisis with Brexit and a fictional call for a second referendum, the result of which was another vote to “leave.” We were forced to work with the European Commission to draft new legislation concerning a trade deal with the UK. We then pivoted to focus on terrorism threats and attacks throughout Europe, and increased human rights violations by Russia. We passed comprehensive terrorism and immigration reform legislation, but bureaucracy and debate in many ways impeded our ability to respond swiftly to the rapidly emerging threats. The action itself was a valuable lesson concerning how slowly the cogs of democracy turn in crisis situations.

Overall, the simulation is very much a game, something we did to have fun and get the chance to unwind after a week of intense learning, little sleep, and a lot of work. This in mind, it also served to impart a great deal of valuable information. I learned about the governing bodies of the European Union, a system I previously knew little about. I got an inside look into how democracy and bureaucracy work in Europe. I got to have the experience of working collaboratively with a diverse group of individuals, each with different agendas, to arrive at mutually beneficial solutions. It is an experience that I will never forget.

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