After months of research and preparation, a 30 hour flight, and some super speedy last minute packing (i.e. the night before), 14 Monash students set off to New York in April to participate in the five day National Model United Nations Conference (NMUN). We arrived at the Sheraton Hotel where the conference was held and tried to check in, which was no easy task since around 5000 students from all around the world were trying to do the same thing, and oh yeah, President Obama was also holding a conference there so security was on high alert. That was just the start of our experience in New York; the start of a truly amazing two weeks.
So what is this whole MUN thing anyways? Well, imagine this – you’re representing a randomly selected country (for us, this was the wonderful Jamaica) together as a university delegation and then you’re paired off to be in different committees, from the General Assembly of 193 member states down to the more specialised committees, such as the Commission on the Status of Women with only 45 member states. Your formal sessions start at 9am and end at 11pm, while your informal sessions run well into the night, take up your lunch times and dinner times and alright, we admit we had a few MUN related dreams. Even though you’re exhausted by the end of the day, all you want is to drink and bitch with friends, only to then regret it the next morning when you’re hungover. But after listening to multiple alarms you finally get up, dance around to music, attempt to iron your shirt (then decide you no longer care about it being a little crinkled anyways), fight over the mirror with your roommates and get ready to do it all over again.
Each committee had their own topic to discuss, such as weapon disarmament, sustainable development, and the post-2015 development agenda, and while there was some formal debate and speeches, the vast majority of the time was spent in informal negotiations. We had to lobby for our ideas to be heard and accepted by other delegates, reach compromises on issues while still acting in the best interests for Jamaica, write resolutions on the topic being debated, and the most stressful of all – merging resolutions together. On the last day of the conference, resolutions were amended and voted on to see whether they would pass – the whole point of the conference!
• Suiting up every day: nothing makes you feel more grown up than walking around NYC in a suit, with a coffee, laptop and bagel in hand.
• Being complimented daily on our accents: even if half the time the Americans couldn’t tell whether we were from Australia or the UK, a compliment is a compliment!
• Making international friends: we met people from a huge range of countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Brazil, Canada, Korea, Kuwait, Germany, to name a few, and of course states all around the USA.
• The closing ceremony: the closing ceremony took place in the General assembly hall of the UN headquarters, and had inspiring guest speakers like Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN’s Envoy on Youth – a truly moving experience.
• Monash winning an honourable delegation award: discovering that our hard work had paid off is a moment that we will always remember and cherish!
• Delegate dance: 5000 uni students + packed nightclub + letting off steam after a week of hard work + alcohol + music = one fun & messy night
• Being tourists: while we admittedly didn’t do much sight-seeing during the MUN conference, most of us took advantage of the mid-semester break to stay back an extra week to be true tourists, and see the sights of New York, such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, and the list goes on and on…
• Suiting up every day: by the end of the week, the novelty of wearing a suit all day every day well and truly weared off, and there was nothing we wanted to do more than get into our party clothes…or pyjamas. Some of us may have even resorted to coming back to the hotel room during lunch break just to wear pyjamas…
• Universities that took themselves too seriously; message to the delegates that arrived with laminated business cards: lighten up!
• Lack of sleep: whether it was caffeine, sugar, or a lunchtime nap…everyone had their own strategy to cope for the lack of sleep that was had.
• Not being 21: despite feeling like business men and women during the day, having the vast majority of the team not being legal was like being in high school all over again!
• Coming home: post-overseas depression, combined with jetlag and the overwhelming amount of uni work to do is not a good combination…
Sounds hard and exhausting? Well it is. It’s also the most fun you’ll ever, ever have. Forget the fact that you learn more skills than you’ll learn in your lectures, and we all know it looks banging on the resume, but the best part of MUN is the people you’ll meet and the places you’ll go. If you want to work with and meet inspiring, like-minded people from both here at Monash and from all over the world, to push yourself, to travel and to be a part of something international and truly inspiring then you absolutely have to try MUN yourself!
We’d like to give a couple of massive thanks; firstly, to the entire Monash NMUN delegation in New York with us – Briar Mercier, Claire An, Dean Williams, Emma Moore, Katerina Dandanis, Maggie Yang, Matthew O’Neill, Miran Fernando, Myra Beal, Nathaniel Iman, Regina Lee and Tom Egan. Thanks for being your amazing selves, we had such a blast MUNing/training/dancing/ drinking/selfie-ing/suiting up/sight seeing/New Yorking with you all! A special thanks to Regina Lee as Head Delegate and Nathaniel Iman as MIAS MUN officer for running trainings and doing all the organising. We’re also greatly appreciative for the support from Monash Abroad, the law faculty, the arts faculty, our respective local councils and other organisations that provided sponsorships to help us get there.
Authors: Rena Ou Yang & Ayesha Singh