Hamilton teen to debate at Harvard and Yale

MAN ON A MISSION: Soumil Singh, 17, will  head to two Ivy League universities as part a Model United Nations delegation.
MAN ON A MISSION: Soumil Singh, 17, will head to two Ivy League universities as part a Model United Nations delegation.

Soumil Singh was supposed to be having a sick day - he just doesn't really have time for them.

The 17-year-old Hamilton Boys' High student does Cambridge exams in multiple subjects on top of NCEA, debates, and cricket.

He spent his recent holidays debating world issues at the New Zealand Model United Nations (MUN) and then competing at table tennis nationals.

And then the Waikato Times wanted to interview him when he had a day off.

Does he have any spare time?

"At this stage, no. I'm basically busy. Even when I'm feeling ill I've got to do work."

And now he has something else to work towards - his first trip to the United States for international MUN gatherings early next year.

He and nine other Kiwis were chosen to represent the country at the Harvard and Yale gatherings.

"My whole interest in it is it combines debate with a real-life application, which is the whole purpose of a debate. And also the magnitude of the topics. They're real issues," he said.

"It ties in two interests very nicely."

During the gatherings, teams of students take the role of a certain country and debate the big issues facing the world.

At the recent Kiwi version, Soumil was discussing the diamond trade, refugees, justice and peacekeeping from the perspective of the Cote d'Ivoire.

There were about 250 students there, but he's expecting more like 3000 from all over the world at Harvard and Yale.

The Kiwi team's representing Cambodia at Harvard, and he's not yet sure which country they'll get at Yale.

It's not the kind of thing you show up to unprepared either - he's researched policies and statements from the country's permanent mission to the UN.

Being chosen for the delegation put Soumil "among the very best all-round academic students our nation has to offer", New Zealand Young MENSA co-ordinator Jamie Beaton said in an email to Hamilton Boys'.

Soumil showed "remarkable intellect" and capacity for debate during a written selection process and the final interview rounds, he said.

School headmaster Susan Hassall said MUN challenged students to get out of their comfort zone, and the school was "very proud" of Soumil.

And it's not the first time Soumil has been singled out.

Earlier this year he found out he'd got the international top score for geography in Cambridge IGCSE exams, New Zealand's highest score for economics and the country's highest total score across five subjects.

When Soumil was outside for a photo, there were the usual jeers you'd expect from passing boys.

But it wasn't just "smile" and "cheese" and "Soumil!".

"He's our head prefect next year," one boy said to another.

After school, Soumil's got big plans for US university study.

He and the other Kiwi delegates will scope out Ivy League universities and other highly-regarded institutions on the trip, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, UC Berkeley and New York University.

"I definitely want to aim high so I guess Harvard and Yale are two goals."

He's heard just under six per cent of applications are accepted and it hasn't put him off, but he says he's not making any promises.


Waikato Times