IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs students stepped into the role of NGO workers as they set up a model refugee camp and navigated a simulated humanitarian crisis in the pursuit of experiential learning.
A humanitarian crisis and refugee camp isn’t what you would expect to find on a university campus, but that’s exactly what first-year Bachelor in International Relations and Bachelor in Economics students recreated in the recent Humanitarian Crisis Simulation.
At IE University, we go beyond the conventional classroom experience, offering hands-on opportunities that inspire and educate. Simulations like this give students an insight into the realities faced by the over one hundred million forcibly displaced people around the world, as well as the humanitarian workers who strive to help them.
An immersive educational experience
IE University’s Humanitarian Crisis Simulation is an immersive learning experience that allows students to delve into the complex and challenging world of humanitarian crisis response. During this exercise, students play the role of humanitarian NGO team members, facing the challenge of providing aid to a displaced refugee population. This exercise bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application.
The day started with an introduction to the activities and a review of the theory behind crisis-management decisions. Students were then tasked with making rapid and informed decisions to create an effective humanitarian response strategy. They gained insight into the complexities and responsibilities that come with managing a crisis situation, such as making decisions about resource allocation and communicating their ideas clearly with a multitude of actors.
The next stage in the activity was setting up replica refugee accommodation—including medical stations, latrines, shelters and water stations. Students had to consider how to allocate resources efficiently and maintain the well-being and safety of the displaced population. It was a lesson in logistics, organization, communication and humanitarian ethics, which required them to consider the points of view of the refugees from different backgrounds, as well as the diverse views of their colleagues in the crisis management team.
Finally, all the participants took part in a wrap-up discussion, where they were able to share what they learned and identify their key takeaways. They were also joined by a UNHCR representative, who gave insights into real humanitarian crises and the ways that organizations continue to support refugees over the long term.
Building empathy, teamwork and communication
Through the simulation, students became acquainted with the various stakeholders involved in humanitarian crises, including governments, local communities, and international organizations. They also developed crucial teamwork and communication skills, learning to appreciate and incorporate diverse perspectives.
The exercise was useful not only in learning how to apply theoretical knowledge from the classroom, but also for gaining a perspective on the humanity of the people involved. “It was important to take into account the dignity of the people—many of the refugees that come into the camp are people that have training and jobs, and it’s important for them to feel useful,” commented Stella Campoli, student of the Dual Degree in Law and International Relations.
Bachelor in Economics student Sebastian Narvaez appreciated the holistic view that the simulation gave him of the various possible applications of his degree. His education goes beyond the purely financial aspects to understanding the ways that economics tools can be leveraged to solve real-life problems and create a positive impact.
Gaining skills to confront the challenges of the real world
Above all, every student who participated in the event built upon their teamwork and communication skills. Listening to each other’s ideas, debating and deciding on the best course of action and managing complex logistics were essential to success—skills that will no doubt serve them well in the rest of their education and in whichever career paths they choose once they graduate.
At IE University, our mission is clear: to empower students not just with knowledge, but with the skills, empathy and determination to change the world, and the Humanitarian Crisis Simulation is just one of many avenues through which we achieve this goal.