Cy Mistry ’11 has learned much about political science in the classrooms of Grinnell College. His interest has carried him far from Iowa to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he recently had the opportunity to dive into the real world of international politics at the 55th General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association. Student delegates discussed issues like the future of Afghanistan, as well as European dependency on Russian gas and oil, with international leaders and diplomats representing their countries at the conference.
With support from the Center for International Studies, Mistry traveled to the conference from Granada, Spain, where he is pursuing off-campus study. To prepare for the experience, Mistry studied the history and evolution of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), along with the issues of international relations to be discussed.
Mistry credits his liberal arts education at Grinnell for helping him contend with the wide range of topics discussed, as well as the intensity of the panels. “Though the conference was centered on issues pertaining to international relations, panel discussions often ended up covering a variety of subjects — including environmental sciences, religion, and economics — and it became evident that many of the students/delegates had a great understanding of political science, but were oftentimes unfamiliar with some of the concepts discussed, such as alternative energy in the Black Sea region,” Mistry says.
Because of the diversity of the delegates, he says, the opinions varied greatly over the role of the ATA and NATO, international relations issues, and even Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. However, the delegates displayed solidarity in their sympathy for the victims of the suicide bombing outside of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 8. This gesture of goodwill is an example of the overlying attitude of community pervasive throughout the conference, Mistry says. Though opinions differed, everyone was open to the opinions and ideas of all delegates, no matter their age or nationality. Respect was key in having the conference run smoothly, he adds.
Mistry recognizes the advantage of hearing so many differing opinions. “Often, information about these topics in the United States is limited by the fact that we only have one view on the issue at hand, and hearing participants from 30-odd countries fiercely discuss a topic such as NATO expansion has broadened my viewpoint tremendously.” The immersion of the students in a real political conference enabled them to experience the diplomatic process firsthand. Mistry cites “the importance of maintaining peace and security in the international community, as well as the importance of a functioning democracy” as two of the most important lessons he took away from the unforgettable experience.
For a more detailed look at his trip, check out Mistry’s blog.