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Yotes earn awards at Model United Nations Indonesia

When you hear rumor of a snake market in Jakarta, you cannot pass up the chance to search for it. Such was the case for eight College of Idaho students who traveled to the Indonesian capital for a Model United Nations Conference this summer.

Wandering the streets of Jakarta, the Yotes couldn’t find the snake market. But they did find an ornate, red and gold Buddhist temple as the winds started to whip and swirl with increasing fervor.

With monsoon skies threating, the Yotes took refuge in the temple. Chants of monks meandered throughout the building as the students learned they had arrived just in time for a Buddhist service. For the next few hours, the Yotes were guided to light incense sticks, say prayers, meditate, and listen to a dharma talk, of which they understood not a word.

“There were cracks outside with the rain—the thunder was going the same time as the gongs were being hit,” said C of I junior May Swihart. “It was intense, such a surreal experience. I’ll remember that moment forever, because the rain was matching up with the music at the exact same time.”

Though they never found the snake market, the C of I students made the most of their excursion—much like they made the most of their time at the Model UN Conference. After preparing for weeks to tackle the UN simulation in a diplomatic, resolution-based structure, the group discovered the simulation in Indonesia was competition and debate focused.

But they pushed through the struggle together.

“After we overcame that initial ‘what-the-heck-is-going-on’ feeling, we were able to succeed, get the job done and get resolutions through even thought it was something completely different than what we were expecting,” Swihart said. “It was cool because I learned to have confidence and adapt to [a different set of rules] really quickly.”

Feeling in over their heads, the students leaned on each other, staying up late each night to write speeches together, practice and edit each other’s draft resolutions.

The perseverance paid off as senior Alex Thomas was named “Best Delegate” in his committee for representing Japan on the Security Council, the highest individual award possible at the five-day conference. Teammates Sydnie Kremin and Kaitlyn Parks also earned “Honorable Mention” recognition at the conference.

“The fact that I was able to win—and that two other delegates were able to get honorable mentions (third place)—really proves that the skills we get in and outside of the classroom at The College of Idaho don’t just train us for one specific thing,” Thomas said. “Those skills allow us to perform well in any environment we’re placed in.”

Outside of the conference sessions, the C of I group mingled with other participants, who were primarily from Indonesian universities and high schools. Seniors Lila Klopfenstein and David Losinski even tried their hand at learning Bahasa, the official language of Indonesia.

“I know my pronunciation was probably horrible,” Klopfenstein said.

In addition to winning awards, the Yotes explored Southeast Asia by touring colonial Dutch Batavia and visiting cultural museums, a fishing village, a 400-year old mosque, Buddhist and Hindu temples, and a sea turtle sanctuary. They snorkeled on a coral reef in the Java Sea and visited the Indonesian office of the UN. They also found out more about themselves. After the trip, Thomas, formerly a political economy major, switched to International Political Economy.

“[This trip] helped me get the direction that I want to follow. I still want to go to law school and study law, but I think I want to do it from more of a global/ international environmental law standpoint.”

For Klopfenstein, the trip was impactful as she viewed income inequality in a developing nation. She came back from the trip with a clearer idea of her academic path.

“I came out of the trip knowing that I want to pursue something in conflict management and negotiation,” she said. “I love solving real, big world problems and I think that the UN is geared to address those big world problems in a way that individual governments can’t and don’t.”

Each student realized that the opportunity to travel abroad and expand their horizons made a life-changing impact. And they encouraged their fellow Yotes to take advantage of their own study abroad opportunities.

“I think it’s incredibly important [to experience another culture],” Swihart said. “I think everybody should have international experience.”

Thomas agreed.

“I think people who are native to Idaho and native to Boise really need to go abroad and experience other cultures,” he said. “It eye-opening. It’s enlightening. It expands your worldview, definitely.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit