What looks great on college applications, lets you travel the world, and enables you to learn many random facts about countries around the globe? Model UN! Although students have heard Ms. Smith’s invitations to attend conferences, many don’t know what really goes on. Model UN is a simulation of the actual United Nations, in which students represent a certain country, debate topics going on in the world, and pass resolutions that are solutions to the debated topics. Senior Zach Steinfeld said that he started Model UN in ninth grade: “Ms. Smith seemed to be a sweet lady, so I decided that it would be a smart extracurricular activity.” While pre-conference work requires writing papers on topics from your country’s standpoint, your friends will be impressed by your knowledge “ranging from Indian sanitation projects to weapons control in Nigeria and oil production in Qatar,” said senior Sam Schaffer. Other students find the pre-conference work memorable. Senior Claire Wiskind remembers “hanging out in Ms. Smith’s room until midnight eating pizza and drinking coffee the night before the position papers were due.”
Model UN goes on three to five trips a year that range from 30 minute drives to Emory University to overseas flights to Prague in the Czech Republic. Each conference is held by a different university and run by its students, with Yale’s YMGE, Tuft’s Epiic Inquiry, and the University of Chicago’s MUNUC being popular among Pace students. This year, Pace Academy will be attending SUSMUN at Emory University, MITMUN at MIT, and TUFTS’s Epiic Inquiry at Tufts University. Each conference is unique, with the possibility of a simulated crisis erupting at any minute. (Last year at YMGE, an oil tanker off the coast of Mykonos, Greece blew up, while Russia started attacking civilians in Chechnya.)
Many students who went on the trip to Prague to attend YMGE think fondly of meeting in the hotel lobby until 1 a.m. to research and prepare for committee the next morning, in order to address the crisis that was announced just a few hours prior. While crises depend on the conference and committee, every Model UN presents students with new challenges, an immense learning experience, chances to make friends from across the world, and the ability to speak in a small group of 10 people to an auditorium of 500 people.
Conferences consist of open debate, drafting working papers, and passing resolutions. However, it is not all work. Excursions to museums with art history lessons from Ms. Stevens or Ms. Smith, snowball fights in Chicago after a major blizzard, shopping in Harvard’s famous bookstore the Coop, college tours, and accordion performances on the cobbled streets of Prague are just a few experiences that happened outside of committee. Senior Meredith Bradshaw said that the most memorable experience was “eating lunch and discussing Chechnyan rebels with a girl from Slovakia.” Along with its educational significance, Model UN teaches students to see and represent topics from different points of view, and students are able to meet students from across the globe and form friendships that make conferences feel like annual reunions. Zach said that Model UN has taught him “how to work efficiently, be globally aware, and listen to instructions to avoid punishment.”
So what compels these MUNers to stick with an extracurricular that makes you learn outside of school? It’s the chaperones, the travel, the students you meet from all over the world, and the studying of relevant topics. Junior Kevin Silverstein said that he continues to participate in Model UN because “Ms. Smith and [he] are best friends.”
By Hayley Silverstein ’14, News Editor
Photo: Hayley Silverstein