The following story was written by Piper C. ’19 for the spring issue of Ties.
Do you crave an intimidating, high-pressure environment in which one careless mistake has the potential to cost millions of lives? Do you adore feeling inadequate when compared with your overachieving peers? Do you lose sleep over your intense dread of muttering an unimpressive, unintelligible declaration in front of the aforementioned overachieving peers? If so, Model United Nations: Worst Fears Edition™ might be just your thing.
Even as co-leader of CWA’s Model UN team and having the gregarious, over-confident personality that I do, I can assure you that these fears have not been exaggerated. Saying anything remotely intelligent or diplomatic in front of a group of 30 intimidatingly wonderful peers still instills in me the same level of dread that it did when I first joined Model UN two years ago. I can say with certainty, however, that Model UN has benefited me in a variety of ways and that I am a better, more engaged student because of it. The rewards of being an active member of such an intellectually stimulating club are marvelous: learning to debate coherently and elegantly, learning to espouse a point of view or perspective that does not necessarily correlate with my own, improving upon research skills and learning to condense information, and mastering the art of reacting under pressure. I doubt that my fear of saying something foolish during committee will ever completely fade away, but my involvement in Model UN has allowed me to reach past my comfort zone and tackle my weaknesses.
For those readers who now know my deepest fears and yet are still unaware of what Model UN is, I will gladly give some much-needed background information. Model UN serves as an introduction to the diplomacy and decision-making processes of real governmental bodies, without any catastrophic consequences or global repercussions. Each formal meeting of the club is called a committee session, and every committee is required to have a topic, organization, and classification. Topics may be either current or historical, and they range in scope from the destruction of precious archaeological artifacts by ISIS to the struggle of the Philippines’ war for independence to the impact of Brexit on the global economy. Committees always have an organization within the topic that informs MUNers of their stance; oftentimes this organization belongs to the United Nations itself, such as the General Assembly (GA) or the Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Sometimes, however, the organization is beyond either the historical or the political scope of the UN; examples of this include Alexander the Great’s war cabinet, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
(Excuse me for all of this jargon, but Model UN is quite fond of slapping an abbreviation upon absolutely everything.)
After a committee has both a topic and an organization, it is time to classify it as either a crisis committee or a specialized committee. The latter category acts just as one would expect of the United Nations: slow, loud, and somewhat inefficient. Although specialized committees serve as a wonderful introduction to the logistics of the club, MUNers generally prefer a crisis committee, which is a fast-paced body whose goal is to avert the many political crises that come its way. Bombings, kidnappings, executions, and a slew of other high-stakes events are common crises that interrupt the otherwise monotonous proceedings of such a committee.
Although this mountain of information might seem intimidating at first, it quickly becomes second nature after you have participated in a conference. Conferences take place on university campuses, and they’re gatherings of high-school-age Model UN participants from all around the nation. Typically lasting only a weekend and offering a wide variety of committees, conferences afford CWA students the perfect opportunity to challenge themselves by testing their debate skills outside of the classroom. We usually participate in the November conference at Stanford, and we are currently in the process of adding a conference for the second semester, hopefully from among Harvard, Columbia, or UC Berkeley. Although conferences do take place on idyllic college campuses, these weekends can be quite grueling: Committee sessions last anywhere from two to four hours and occur at least three times a day. Your peers in a committee are invariably better prepared and better dressed than you, and some participants even take Model UN as an elective at their school, making a conference their final exam. However, the occasional stress and pressure felt during a conference is easily balanced out by the fun that our students have along the way while forging friendships, engaging in casual intellectual banter, and, of course, consuming copious amounts of pizza and ice cream.
This is precisely what I love best about Charles Wright’s Model UN team: the fact that we have an incredible ability for not just working hard and playing hard, but also for incorporating our play into our work. We’re a remarkably fun-loving group, with an unbridled enthusiasm for learning and an equal passion for just having a good time. Our meetings are riddled with laughs and smiles, and although we may not be as efficient as some Model UN teams, we certainly are the happiest.
Come join us Tuesdays at lunch in Room 24 and experience the awesomeness that is Model UN! //