How Model UN has helped me to be a more well-rounded person
Last week, I was in New York City at the National Model United Nations conference. I am a civil engineering student, and at a conference full of International Relations and Political Science students, that made me something of an odd duck. I think that one of the purposes of education is to generate well rounded citizens, and that part of that process is trying new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone. One of the awesome things UAF offers is the opportunity to do just that, and I’d encourage you to give it a try.
There's plenty of opportunities to try something new, but I thought I'd tell you some about my experiences with UAF’s Model United Nations (MUN). MUN is a student organization comprised of students from a range of majors across the University. It is one of the oldest student organizations at UAF and is committed to educating students about policy making, and international affairs and organizations.
My assigned committee was the United Nations Environmental Programme, where I represented the Republic of Chad (also spelled Tchad). The committee addressed topics related to sustainable green transportation, hazardous waste management, and South to South cooperative agreements related to the environment. As a civil engineering student, I was familiar with the technical challenges of those topics, but had never approached the policy questions. I was barely familiar with Chad, and hadn't considered environmental topics from the perspective of a developing nation before. The club challenged me to research and consider those topics in a structured environment.
I joined for the opportunity to explore the policy decisions made on an international level, particularly in relation to rural development, here and abroad. I have an interest in rural development as a future career. My research into environmental topics in Chad gave me a lot of information on resources and areas for further study in my university career I would never have otherwise considered. I also believe a better understanding of the underlying abilities and motivations of political bodies such as the United Nations will help to equip me to advocate for the changes I wish to see in the world in the future. The skill building aspects also appealed to my desire to be an independent, well rounded individual. I think that the skills in research, persuasion and oration developed and honed through activities like Model United Nations help to develop skills I ﬁnd valuable, regardless of my future career path. The travel possibility was also a strong motivator for me.
I sponsored two working papers, one of which went on to become a passed resolution by the committee. Sponsoring a paper includes brainstorming ideas, negotiating with other sponsors, writing, rewriting, editing, and merging the working papers, and doing extensive outreach and advocacy to garner the necessary votes for the working papers to become resolutions. I worked into the night, during caucuses (informal sessions that allowed me to talk to other delegations), and through meals over two days with my coalition (comprised of African and Middle Eastern nations, led by myself, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and Uganda) to be able to complete our working papers in time to bring it to a vote. I also was a signatory to three other working papers, meaning I formally lent my support to efforts to bring the proposals to a vote, and all of the proposals I signed became resolutions. I spoke three times in the speaking roster. A picture of one of these times is on the left. I had three motions passed (for adjournment, for a caucus, and for a vote by acclamation), and one fail (to reduce speaking time to 45 seconds). I spoke twice for 15 seconds to defend reducing speaking time to 45 and 50 seconds, respectively. During voting, I also spoke for one resolution (to which I was a signatory), and against another (which advocated biofuel mandates I did not believe Chad would agree with, and additionally had measures that seemed to conﬂict with the underlying Rio principles of common but differentiated responsibilities). I volunteered as a page on the afternoon session of the second day. I even did a poster for research day about the conference. Overall, I had an unusual, educational experience that, even though the focus was on a different degree, still taught me things that I think will be useful in my own discipline. It's a great feeling, to know you stepped outside of your area of expertise and still excelled.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to explore New York, too. My favorite thing was the variety of exotic restaurants and entertainment opportunities that New York has to offer. The day or so at the end for exploration was an awesome experience. Over the course of the conference, I visited the 9/11 memorial, Chinatown, Freedom Tower, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty (pictured below), Central Park, Time Square, Coney Island (pictured above), and saw Cinderella on Broadway.
The worst part of the trip was the lines. Lines everywhere! Lines in the elevator, lines for the elevator, lines at the airport, lines for the restaurants, lines for information, lines to go into the UN building…lines. You can see a picture of one of the longer lines (for Closing Ceremonies at the actual United Nations complex) below. Lines were a huge time waste, and very annoying. Pretty much unavoidable though, in a city of that size.