For my Interim Term trip this year, I had the privilege to travel to the historic city of Amsterdam as well as The Hague, the Judicial Capital of the World. We traveled with the sponsors of Second Baptist School’s award-winning Model United Nations team, Mrs. Clare Towery and Mr. Jacob Lindsey. We competed among teams of international delegates from countries such as Jordan, Spain, Turkey, Malawi, Uganda, Hungary, the Netherlands and one other school from the United States.
On the first day of the trip, after a 9-hour flight, we arrived in Amsterdam and ate at a local farm-to-table restaurant. All of our meals were pre-planned by WorldStrides, an education-based international travel program that Second Baptist School has used for previous Interim Term trips such as the World War II and The British Isles trips.
On the second day, we walked around Amsterdam, taking in the historic architecture and city structure. Amsterdam is built entirely on canals, with subdivisions of streets that extend out radially from the heart of the city. Cutting through these streets are the three main canals of Amsterdam - the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. Each is named after a social status, and the wealthy classes would separate themselves by their commute routes. The Herengracht is for the city's wealthiest citizens, the Prinsengracht was for princes and the Keizersgracht was for Kings - the lower classes would stay away from these famous canals. Our tour guide Peter explained the ancient inner workings of Amsterdam in great detail, and we learned much about Dutch culture just by looking at the layout of its port city.
The next day, we visited the Royal Coster Diamond factory, the oldest operating diamond polishing factory in the world. We learned about the intricate process that cutting a diamond requires, as well as the waste that occurs during the cutting process. We looked at Coster’s collection of diamonds, including Coster’s patented Royal 201 cut, which has over two hundred facets for maximum light reflection. We then visited the Anne Frank House, which was without a doubt the most sobering visit of the trip. An actress playing Anne Frank had recorded her voice reading Anne’s diary, and she explained the fear and suspense that she experienced during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
To wrap up our first stretch of the trip, we visited the historic museum district in the heart of Amsterdam. We walked through the life of Vincent Van Gogh and discovered the reasons for his mental health crisis and eventual suicide. We also visited the Rjiksmuseum, which housed a NASA-funded restoration project of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. This museum tour exposed the duality of tradition and innovation that exemplifies Amsterdam - always something new but sticking to what’s old as well.
For the next section of the trip, the Model United Nations team competed in The Hague, Netherlands, which is the Judicial Capital of the World and home to the International Court of Justice. We attended HagaMUN, an international Model United Nations conference where delegates prepare extensively to engage in debate structured by parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. The delegates were in committees ranging from the Security Council to the Commission on the Status of Women to the United Nations General Assembly. Two delegates, myself and Eva Vennigan ‘22, took home Best Delegate awards in our committees. While in the Hague, we toured the old town square of Plein, the Lange Poten, and the Hofweg, the home to shops, cultural sites and delicious local restaurants. We went in the underground of Binnenhof, the dutch seat of government and the frequent location for the Dutch royal family.
After the conference ended, we headed back to Amsterdam and enjoyed a guided cruise through the canals. Amsterdam is the bike capital of the world, so bikers were absolutely everywhere - we even saw a trash barge pulling up hundreds of rusted bikes that had fallen into the water. We moved into the countryside and visited the farm of Dutch cheesemaker Henri Willig, where friendly farmers let us meet newly-born calves and see the cheese-making process step by step. Then, we went to a castle straight out of Downton Abbey - the Kasteel De Haar. Famously owned by the Rothschild family, this incredibly expensive estate was located in Utrecht near the village of Haarzuilens.
Our trip to the Netherlands wouldn't be complete without the iconic windmills, so we visited Zaanse Schans, a neighborhood in the Dutch town of Zaandam and home to six massive windmills. On the very last night, we had a Rijsttafel dinner, which is an elaborate Indonesian meal adapted by the Dutch.
As we headed back home to Houston, I reflected on my time in the Netherlands and the people I met. I made friends at HagaMUN that I still keep up within the time of social distancing, and I learned about the caveats of Dutch culture and customs that can only be seen in-person. It’s a trip I’ll never forget, and I’m so happy to be at a school that gives us these kinds of incredible opportunities!
Click here to view photos from the Model U.N. Interim Term trip.