by Justine Hudock
Student Community Engagement, Knovva Academy
Learn directly from two of our alumni about how attending a Model G20 summit impacted them. In the interviews below, two former delegates describe the social, experiential, and academic benefits they gained from the summits. Tomoki Matsuno from Japan and Jennifer Zhang from the United States describe their own summit experiences in detail.
- What skills and/or knowledge did you gain by attending a Model G20 summit? Which summit did you attend?
Tomoki: I attended the 2019 Model G20 in Beijing, China, and the 2019 Model G20 Task Force in Tokyo, Japan. I learned a lot, but particularly negotiation skills and policy development skills. Especially at the MG20 task force where everything wasn’t merely a simulation, I truly learned the importance of getting ideas that are practical and effective for the real society and finding common ground with others from different backgrounds.
Jennifer: I have participated in numerous Model G20 Summits and events. I first attended the 2018 Model G20 Summit in Boston, where I was assigned the head of state role for the Brazil delegation and received the Top Delegate award. I attended the 2019 Model G20 Summit in Beijing as a Lead Ambassador, leading public speaking and policy-writing workshops. I also went on the 2018 and 2019 Model G20 Task Forces to Argentina and Japan, respectively, where I contributed to youth policy recommendations that were sent to the G20 heads of state, diplomats, and global institutions such as the UN, World Trade Organization, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, among others.
I gained many valuable skills from these experiences. Prior to the 2018 summit, I had never been in an academic environment where I felt completely engaged and like I had true agency. This is the beauty of MG20 summits and project-based learning in general – that students get control, responsibility, and the ability to shape their own experiences. The 2018 summit is now a blur of memories: running around a convention center to get signatures, negotiating with student delegates until 1 AM, constantly researching economic sectors and socio-political issues, and the elated feeling of learning at an exponential rate. Attending MG20 summits was a major formative experience for me and awakened my interest in doing public policy work. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to meet like-minded, dedicated students and has even a mild interest in social change and politics.
- What was something interesting you learned from another delegate at a summit? Did you teach other students any new information or skills while helping them?
Jennifer: It’s always very enlightening to discuss differences in education systems with students from other countries. Students around the world have varying levels of occupation with classes, homework, extracurriculars, and jobs. I’ve had many discussions with Chinese students about the high-memorization, high-work-volume pedagogy of their schools, which made me more appreciative of the extracurricular opportunities I have. I’ve also learned about education access inequities in Bolivia and Brazil that have made me more interested in education policy and funding structures. Cross-cultural communication and awareness, a staple of MG20 summits, are valuable skills that I’ve learned and put into practice through conversations with students from around the world.
Tomoki: I learned how passionate other students were about international affairs and societal issues. Before at any event I had attended, I had never seen a group of students who really dedicate themselves to understanding complex problems and other opinions. As I’m good at analyzing issues themselves and organizing opinions on the table, I tried to provide a kind of summary or analysis of social issues we discussed at the summits.
- Have you become friends or kept in touch with other delegates from the summit?
Tomoki: Yes. I’ve become friends with so many delegates at MG20s and kept in touch with some of them pretty frequently. Since we basically have the same academic interest, we often talk about university prep and future prospects as well as casual conversations.
Jennifer: Absolutely. Some of my closest friends to this day are people I met at MG20 summits. Moreover, I’ve made valuable connections with diplomats and foreign policy professionals through MG20 and had access to amazing opportunities through them. I went to the 2019 UN High-Level Political Forum with some of my MG20 friends on the invitation of the US delegate to the Youth 20, who I met while participating in the Japan Y20 Task Force (another Knovva program). I’ve gone on to work in political advocacy organizations, non-profit boards, and multilateral civil society groups with my MG20 friends, and we’ve visited each other many times over the years.
- What did you enjoy most about traveling somewhere new? Are you typically a wanderlust sort of person?
Jennifer: Eating new food. Cuisine is a major component of every country’s culture, and it’s always exciting to try new dishes and learn new culinary traditions. During the Task Force trip to Argentina, we made empanadas and macarons, and I got to try dulce de leche and mate. At the Beijing MG20 summit, we had Peking duck and delicious authentic dumplings. In Japan, we started every morning with salted salmon with rice and miso soup. While globalization and urbanization have caused many cities to look similar, the food is always different and rooted to local culture. I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to have visited these countries through MG20 programs, and I am glad to say they’ve made me more conscious of the size and beauty of our world.
Tomoki: I would say I’m sort of a wanderlust [type of person]. I love traveling and exploring foreign cultures. Besides academic events at Model G20, there was plenty of time to appreciate local cultures, cuisines, and places, which all inspired me a lot.