Indiana University (IU) and Hamilton Lugar School students gained a realistic experience of how the European Union operates by competing in the 2023 Midwest Model EU (MMEU) Conference March 23-25. The event, hosted by the Hamilton Lugar School Institute for European Studies (EURO), was attended by more than 120 students across the country, including IU student delegations. Ingrid Ask, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Swedish Embassy to the U.S., was the keynote speaker.
“MMEU has been bringing students together from across the country for nearly 30 years now,” said Colton Ames, associate director for the Institute for European Studies and coordinator for MMEU. “It has become a centerpiece of EURO’s mission to provide students with opportunities to network with peers from other institutions and learn about the EU. As the head of MMEU, I have to remain fair and impartial, but I can’t deny how proud I am of the IU delegation’s strong performance this year.”
Nineteen IU students, who represented three countries – Belgium, Hungary, and Poland – were coached by International Studies and Political Science Professor Justyna Zając.
Eden Zaborowski, who is pursuing degrees in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and International Studies, was awarded third place as the best delegate in the European Council.
“You are competing, but you won’t be successful unless you genuinely work together with everyone,” she said.
“The European Council is made up of the heads of state,” she explained. “They are responsible for laying out the most important issues facing the EU. To prepare, everyone had to do a ton of research about the person on the Council they were representing. I was portraying Mateusz Morawiecki, the Prime Minister of Poland.”
Spending some time living in Poland, Zaborowski said, helped her in the conference.
“It made it more fun to know a little bit about the country and understand the politics. I was there right after they passed punitive abortion laws, so I experienced the protesting and the public sentiment, which made it a lot easier to represent the sentiments of Polish people,” she explained.
Zaborowski said the MMEU helped her practice developing sound arguments.
“In the MMEU, you really have to know a lot about the world to be successful because you’re sitting in a room with 20 other people who have been researching for the last three months,” she said. “Being an engaged global citizen is one of the biggest things that helps you succeed in this. That has been the running theme of Hamilton Lugar, is knowing what’s going on in the world and being able to talk about that in a clear way.”
Christian Ayers, who represented the Prime Minister of the Belgium delegation, also served as the President of the European Council.
Ayers is interested in working in the legislative field in Europe — preferably Belgium or Luxembourg — after he graduates next year.
“The legislative process is how you get things done. The EU is very complicated, so the simulation helped me understand it more,” he said. “I think there are a lot of flaws in our country and around the world. You can do nonprofit work and you can do things on your own, but doing things on a national level will just help out more.”
Ayers, who is majoring in Political Science and Economics, said meeting like-minded students was one of the best parts of the experience.
“Meeting different kids from different schools who have the same interest as you, from Notre Dame, New York, Texas, and being able to talk with them just about your views was super fun,” he said.
Sydney Kokinis, a member of the Hungary delegation, was named best delegate in environmental issues. She is majoring in International Studies with a minor in East Asian Studies.
“We had a directive we had to go over that had to do with recycling plans within the EU,” said Kokinis. “One of the big partnerships we wanted to lean toward was with South Korea. I just studied abroad in South Korea, so it is relative to what I’m studying with East Asian Studies. For our directive, we ended up paralleling and taking in the influence of South Korea, which was a full circle moment for me.”
Kokinis said the MMEU experience gave her a real experience of how legislation gets passed in the EU. She said another benefit was just meeting other students.
“With the connections that I made, we all had this general profound interest in knowing the logistics of the EU but also having fun with it as well,” she said.
The Midwest Model EU conference has proven to offer valuable networking opportunities for students.
Sara Couch, a graduate assistant and M.A. student in the Institute for European Studies, helped organize the 2022 MMEU conference, where she met a representative from the European Parliament Liaison Office (EPLO) in Washington, D.C.
“A chance meeting at MMEU led me to land my dream internship — I was selected to serve as an intern and now work in EPLO’s Washington, D.C. office in the Communications and Outreach portfolio,” said Couch. “The paid internship is an opportunity to be in the center of action between the EU and US.”
EPLO works to strengthen cooperation between the US and the EU and provide information to the public in the United States.
In her role, Couch creates social media and website content and assists at EPLO-hosted events for embassy representatives and congress members. She is also co-writing an explainer article on EU-US AI policy positions.
This year, Couch was invited to speak at the MMEU conference to students about the EPLO internship program. She encourages students to apply for the program, as well as to participate in the MMEU.
“It is easy to feel disconnected from European Union politics when you attend school in the Midwest,” said Couch. “During MMEU, you quickly get swept up in all of the processes taking place around you. Concepts that you have learned in EU classes begin to come together. Everyone takes their role very seriously; it’s like you are transported to an actual plenary session! I have heard many students say that this event was the highlight of their coursework. Until you can go to Brussels or Strasbourg, go to MMEU.”
“The MMEU allows students to experience the spirit of cooperation, communication, and compromise, which are essential features of politics and diplomacy nowadays. It is amazing to observe how many students engaged in negotiations, displayed a collaborative attitude along the way, and how professionally they behaved,” Professor Zając added.
The Institute for European Studies promotes knowledge of Europe and the European Union through education, scholarship, and public outreach. The Institute offers an M.A. in European Studies, an undergraduate minor, and many dual degrees.