Last week a number of NSFC students travelled to Oxford to participate in their first Oxford Model United Nations Conference. It was an exciting trip for the whole group. One of the students who attended, Alistair Graham, has written about his experience.
Walking into the room of my first ever real Model United Nations (MUN) debate I had very little clue on what was about to happen. I was worried that the chair would call on me and I would embarrass myself. These were nerves of everyone around me as it was the first time for the delegates sitting nearby too. As soon as the debate opened, country name cards shot up as the experienced ‘Mungers’ took over. Instantly stress took over, and I felt that I was in no way qualified to get up and start speaking or get involved.
It was when the first unmoderated caucus (basically a break to work out ideas) began that all that completely changed. I migrated to the others who also had little idea on what was going on and we started to form a group. This was great as at least I could now look round the room at others who were in the same boat. Quickly, though, I realised I understood more and more about what was going on and could even point out inaccuracies in other speeches. This made me want to get involved. I took the podium to represent Canada and realised I now had to convey my ideas to 70 people. It was difficult but soon after people started to say similar things to me and I sent them notes and the alliance grew. I then realised the best part and the most important part of MUN was the discussion of ideas.
The discussion is very interesting, as you can be confrontational at times but be relaxed and chatty at others. You can build up quick support if you listen to someone’s ideas and see merit in them. Our bloc grew from 9 at the end of day one to 51 by the end of day three. To do well in MUN is not just to speak well on a podium, although it does help, it is a willingness to discuss, formulate and compromise on your ideas. You need to have a good ability to see other people’s ideas and how different views can be better too. My main team and I were able to work with most people to get them to support a motion called “The Canada Plan”, which was a progressive resolution encompassing many different viewpoints. It helped me receive the second-place award in the committee showing MUN is not just about standing at the front making a speech; it is about how you form progressive and working relationships with those around you.
The diversity of MUN was surprising; over the course of a weekend I have created bonds with people from not only some of the UK’s top private schools but also people who had travelled from Israel, India, Spain, Germany and USA. This diversity helped such a range of ideas flourish and the decency that all these people present themselves with is to be commended. It has helped flip my entire outlook on MUN. It is not just a list of people speaking with the rest silent, but where the real work is diplomatically coming to agreement through discussion and compromise. This was reiterated to me by all the others who came to Oxford with me and it made it a great experience. We all feel as if we have developed as people from the experience and that we can make real progress when we work together.