This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the ninth Cornell International Affairs Conference (CIAC IX) with three of my fellow Simon’s Rock Model United Nations (SRMUN) club members.
As most MUN conferences do, this one had a variety of General Assembly, Specialized, and Crisis committees, many of which were fantasy themed. The purpose of Model UN is to represent a foreign body, whether that be a character or country, and debate on a topic so that the solution your position would like best comes into action. Together, my friends and I took a shuttle to Ithaca, New York, and experienced the city for the first time.
Our original contact with Ithaca was at a quaint AirBNB we booked for our stay. Though it took nearly fifteen minutes to find the place itself, we came to love the obscure staircases that lead to our waterfall retreat (pictured below).
However, the point of this article is not to talk of the vast beauty of our location, but rather to give a little insight into what the Ivy Model United Nations circuit is like. Here are five things to expect at your first college MUN:
1. The Keynote Speaker is Going to be RAD
My fellow delegates and I arrived at Cornell Thursday night for Opening Ceremony, which typically constitutes a short introduction to the MUN staff and a keynote speaker. This year it was Dr. Kaushik Basu, an economics professor with so many ties to the United Nations and banks around the world that I would be dead by the time I finished listing them. As a creative writing major, I am about the least interested as you can get in economics, so I didn’t have particularly high hopes for my enjoyment of the presentation. However, I was pleasantly surprised. His talk was engaging and, because of Dr. Basu, I now understand how the entire world can be affected by one country’s small economic decision, and that because of this, it’s relatively unfair that we have no say in who occupies another country’s political seats. Of the five conferences I’ve attended, he was the best keynote speaker I have heard.
2. A Lot of These Kids Want to do Actual MUN Stuff for the Rest of their Lives
Including myself, there were only three people in my committee who didn’t major in International Relations, Government/Political Science, or Economics. The students at these conferences take Model UN very seriously, and that’s because they want to do this type of thing in their future careers. However, if you’re not one of these majors, don’t fear! I’m an arts girl and still managed to get an award through diligent research and public speaking skills, just be prepared to be surrounded by some intensely diplomatic human beings. To them, this is a practice run for their whole future.
3. So, They’re Going to be Prepared
Let me tell you, these college kids are cutthroat. From Iman Anwarzai, who represented Japan in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:
“My committee was around 25 people and I was the only one majoring in STEM—everyone else was majoring in IR [International Relations]. They were all very informed of current events, history, and politics. They constantly brought facts and statistics into debate.”
Even Prutha Patil and I, who were in Lord of the Rings committees, were surrounded by excessively educated superfans. Everyone had done their research, and it showed. I was constantly clocked for having something wrong about Gondor or the Nazgul or even Hobbits, which I thought I had down to a science. People frequently brought up random historical facts from eons previously in the lore that desecrated my plans. It was kind of ridiculous.
4. The Chairs have Absolute Freedom
As college MUN conferences aren’t supervised by any faculty or staff, the students who run it—or the Chairs—have full control. Crisis committees are already a little slack, but our directors really took the cake in the last two days. Saturday night there was a lightsaber fight to determine the end of a war, and on Sunday, Sauron opened a portal to the Peloponnesian Wars, which was a separate crisis committee altogether, so we could invade Sparta. Then, a Spartan was kidnapped by the evil committee. Yes, an actual human being was dragged through the building without a choice. Additionally, my friend decided to turn himself into a dragon, revive his long lost lover, and open a bed and breakfast in an elven refugee camp. All of this was entirely allowed, and none of it was questioned by anyone but me. Full control, I tell you. Absolute freedom.
5. Alcohol Culture
For a sober sixteen year old like myself, I was extremely shocked by the promotion of booze at these things. CIAC IX sold three whole souvenirs: stickers (which were cute, I bought one), bottle openers, and shot glasses. I’m pretty sure at least three of the delegates in my committee were drunk for 2/3 of the conference while I was working my little ass off writing orders to my army. However, one thing I was happy to see with was the acceptance of my dry, sad, alcohol-free lifestyle. When I attended the delegate dance, someone offered me a drink then immediately apologized, remembering that I wasn’t into that type of thing. There was no pressure whatsoever, and none of the drunk guys seemed even remotely sleazy. Props to you college MUN boys. Mad props.
In conclusion, college MUN conferences are a lot more intimidating than the high school ones, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t navigable. I had an absolute blast and wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Actually, I can’t wait until my next conference, which will hopefully be just as crazy as this one.
Elise is the Vice President and Director of Creative Publications of The Cad.