By Siomara Germain
Trying something different is sometimes scary because one does not know what to expect. They never know whether they will get a great or bad experience from trying those things.
For Shane Thomas, a senior at The College at Brockport, trying something new was scary but in the end it was all worth it.
So, what’s Thomas’ scary new experience?
Not many students know about the conference, but it has been around for a very long time. EuroSim is an international and intercollegiate simulation of the European Union. Every year, 10 European schools and 10 American schools come together for a conference to simulate the European Union.
Thomas, who heard about the conference from one of his friends in EuroSim, explained it as the combination of real world studying and politics meeting the fictional world of simulated conference.
“Students have the opportunity to dive in to their particular roles and hopefully influence policy or change within the European Union,” Thomas said.
After being told about EuroSim, Thomas read more about it and his interest in it grew.
“The conference was created by Brockport Professor Emeritus William G. Andrews and was held in Brockport 30 years ago for the first few years before it expanded abroad,” Arielle Ingrassia, Brockport student, said. “He was able to attend this year’s conference and had the opportunity to see his legacy.”
The conference recently held at Brockport played host to 200 students and representatives from different colleges, including Alfred University, Aston University (United Kingdom), Canisius College, Colgate University, East Stroudsburg University (Pennsylvania), Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg (Germany), Maastricht University (Netherlands), University of Antwerp (Belgium) and many more other universities in the United States and Europe.
Last year, EuroSim was held in Brussels. This year, Brockport hosting it made it more monumental being that it was the 30-year anniversary of EuroSim.
This year’s conference was Thomas’ first simulation and he had a “special role.” Rather than being a part of a particular member of parliament or just an individual who gets to vote on the piece of legislation that’s implemented, he was a lobbyist and had a specific company that he had to represent.
“Throughout every different aspect of the conference, whether it was in parliament or foreign affair council or European council, they are all different rooms within the simulation. No matter which room I was in, I had to make sure that my company’s interests were protected,” Thomas said. “So, I had to use my communications skills alongside the political knowledge that I had learned to influence the policy for my particular company, which was BEUC.”
BEUC is a company that makes sure that consumer rights are protected on a European Union level.
According to Brockport student Catherine Taylor, every EuroSim is different.
“Last year, the event was about the migrant crisis, and this year it was energy policy,” Taylor said.
Last year, Taylor and Ingrassia had the same job as Thomas did this year, which was lobbying for their organizations in the different rooms within the conference. This year, they were both thrilled to be members of the commission. This allowed them to write the proposal, which is the piece of legislation was debated and passed in the conference.
“The role that you take on is really who you become during the conference,” Taylor said. “So, it’s really getting into your alter ego, seeing people as their alter egos and really immersing yourself in it. So, when you’re seeing some hard things going on at the conference, you really care about it. But then seeing it pass in the end is a huge relief.”
“As Thomas said, there are several different rooms that discuss the proposal,” Ingrassia said. “There’s the parliament, the foreign ministers and the different roles that come together to reach a consensus. There’s a lot of negotiating and trying to compromise, but eventually on the final day it felt really good to have a final product.”
Next year, EuroSim will again take place in Brussels, which is where European parliament and a lot of the European Union politics are done. Students and representatives from different schools will have the opportunity to again implement their proposals. If selected, Thomas, along with the EuroSim group, will travel to Brussels for the conference.
“There is some BSG funding where we have to advocate on our behalf,” Thomas said. “Also, every club has a budget, but a lot of it, including the conference fees, are out of our own pockets. However, we can apply for a travel grant to get back some of the money, I believe.”
Though the simulation at Brockport was only for five days, the simulation overseas is for the duration of two weeks.
In order to be selected for the next conference, Thomas needs to meet a GPA requirement and fill out an application. Thomas’ friends believes he will be selected.
If selected, Thomas will be within the Schengen zone, which are countries that does not require individuals to provide their passport. This will give him the opportunity to travel to different countries.
“Our travel day here was to Niagara Falls,” Thomas said. “For some of the European students, that’s the first time that they have ever seen it, whereas for us, our outing is to Croatia. So we get to see different areas within Europe.”
According to Thomas, some of the highlights of EuroSim for him was staying up to almost 4 a.m. writing a proposal and working closely with a representative the next day to get that proposal to pass through and voted on.
“It was kind of a win for my particular role to actually have policy change (about consumers rights) within the European council,” Thomas said.
Those who participated in EuroSim had the opportunity to experience some real life policy issue before they graduate and go on to their respective fields.
Thomas is preparing for the next conference by throwing his hat in the ring for an officer’s position within EuroSim and making sure he has the funds to travel.
Thomas’ experience at the conference is something he will forever cherish. During EuroSim, he had the opportunity to make connections with students from abroad, whom he continues to stay in contact with.
In his networking, Thomas became really good friends with almost the entire group of students from Aston University.
“They were all very prepared and professional and it just worked out,” Thomas said. “I am still in contact with quite a few of them now. We’re just talking about the end of the semester and other stuff.”
Essentially, being part of EuroSim gave Thomas the opportunity to make friends with people from all around the world.
“One of the people within the group for Aston University isn’t originally from the United Kingdom,” Thomas said. “He is a master’s student for Aston University, but he graduated from Colorado State. So, you think you’re meeting people from all around the world but it’s actually closer than you think.”
One thing that Thomas took away from this, above all else, is the importance of preparation.
“Students are representing Brockport in an international conference,” Thomas said. “There are lawyers and graduate students during the simulation, so you have to really step up your caliber.”
Ingrassia said the pressure of that really drove Thomas to prepare.
“You can definitely point out the people who were prepared and who weren’t,” Ingrassia said.
This has definitely opened Thomas’ ideas to different areas. Thomas is currently looking at graduate schools near Brockport and other places near New York, but this has broadened his horizon to other opportunities that might be out there.