Albany High is home to countless clubs – nearly one for every student interest imaginable. Some are academic, some are purely for entertainment. Most are a blend of the two. One such club is Model United Nations, which meets weekly on Wednesdays at lunch in Room 207.
In a nutshell, Model UN is a club where students attend conferences and represent diplomatic delegations from various countries. Conferences – usually held during a weekend on a university campus – are gatherings of Model UN clubs and classes from various schools and simulate meetings of various United Nations subcommittees and international government organizations.
What happens during committee simulations? The UNAUSA’s homepage – United Nations Association of the United States of America – reads, “In Model UN, student step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. Students make speeches… negotiate… resolve conflicts… all in the interest of mobilizing ‘international cooperation.’”
Looking at the classic description of Model United Nations, one can’t help but consider how cheesy the whole activity sounds. Think about it. High school students solving world crises in just one weekend? Caulfield would most definitely call the whole affair “phony.”
The phony part of Model UN, however, ends at its classic definition. Not only does Model UN expose an individual to a wide variety of individuals and personalities, but it is also offers excellent practice in negotiation. To be able to “solve a crisis in a weekend,” students must also be well versed in the international matters at hand and be prepared to combat opposing viewpoints. Such versatility and familiarity mandates a deep knowledge and understanding of reasons for certain international diplomatic relationship, and not just knowledge of the current state of affairs.
When asked why he enjoys Model UN, Co-President Juneyoung Jeong said, “One of the things I like about MUN is that it harbors an expansive diversity of ideas. Creativity and research can harmonize very well, if you try to make it so.”
Although it may seem cliché to say that you have to see it to believe it, the phrase most definitely true for Model UN. To fully appreciate the merits of Model UN, one cannot just attend club meetings; one has to attend a conference. During conferences, students become delegates advocating for the interests of their assigned country, and spend hours deliberating while using formal UN conference procedures. Most committees include opposition viewpoints, which allows for the presentation of opinions not commonly heard.
Senior Zian Liu and new club member observed that, “Though it may at first sound boring to sit in a room for hours on end and discuss issues that we may not find pressing in our everyday lives, sitting in committee will lead you to realize that it is quite interesting to observe the presentation of polar viewpoints of seemingly similar countries.”
“Even the more…unreasonable and less pleasant delegates in the room can freely express their ideas,” added Co-President Jeong. “While such free expression can become difficult at times – hearing North Korea continually complain about the United States’ heavy hand becomes annoying at a certain point – it forces students to consider the positions less commonly discussed on a daily basis.”
Junior James Ren summed up the viewpoints of many of the club members, saying “It’s really rewarding because you really get a chance to understand your country and international relations better, as well as improve your public speaking skills.”
Our club has traditionally attended conferences hosted at three different universities: Stanford in early-November, Berkeley in early-March, and UC Davis in mid-May. All three of the conferences put their own twist on Model UN: Stanford tends to put an unexpected twist on common international issues; Berkeley emphasizes the seriousness of the international issues being discussed; and Davis favors a less stringent and more relaxed approach that fits the feel of the last few weeks of the school year.
The Model UN Club’s most recent conference was the Stanford Model UN Conference, held this year November 4-6, 2011. This year’s event was a huge success for Albany High’s club: fifteen of the twenty five students who attended were formally awarded and recognized by the conference. A combination of strong preparation and speaking skills during the course of the weekend enabled the Albany delegation to walk away from a very successful conference. “[The conference was] an excellent start to the new school year!” said Jeong after the awards ceremony.
Liu, one of the award winners at Stanford, commented that “Even though this was my first conference, I was still able to walk out very successfully from committee. I feel that the experience was very rewarding, and I wish I joined the club earlier.”