By Ally Achorn
Eight student representatives from St. Michael’s College Model UN club joined other student representatives from United States and Canadian Universities to debate a variety of international issues at their first Model UN Conference in four years. I was fortunate enough to be one of the conference attendees, and discussed how we can improve sustainability, homelessness, and indigenous infrastructure in the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural committee.
Model UN is a club that replicates the experience of participating in the United Nations. Each student in the club assumes the role of a country or a representative, and works with others to draft a paper that proposes possible solutions to solve international problems. A Model UN conference follows the same dynamic as the club, but with many different affair scenarios happening all at once.
We worked with students from 48 colleges and universities over Zoom writing several papers with the goal of finding solutions for international issues, ranging from maritime law disputes to sustainable developments for infant mortality and maternal health.
“There’s a lot of chaos in just writing it, but it was still a lot of fun,” said Scott Czerwinski ’23, Model UN club representative. “It was definitely like, … ‘alright, this is something you can do. You can actually have a group of college students, get together and write a sixteen page working paper on maternal health and have it come out good, even though it’s on Zoom.”
The conference was conducted from Jan. 27 to Jan. 31. The conference was expected to take place in-person at McGill University, but was moved online due to Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“I would have loved to be in Canada over [the McGill conference]but even over Zoom, they did a very good job.” said Jeremy Little ’23, club treasurer.
Our club received funding from the newly established Center for Global Engagement to be able to attend the conference. The Center for Global Engagement is an office on campus that focuses on developing global connections and establishing international networking opportunities for students.
“The Center for Global Engagement sponsored the Model UN club virtual participation in the McGill conference as it fit perfectly within the “student experience” category of the Center’s Internationalization Grant,” said Jeffery Ayres, director of the Center for Global Engagement, in an email .
Ayres said that the Center provides opportunities and support for Saint Michael’s students to gain invaluable global experiences.
“I think moving forward, the CGE is going to be a good resource for a lot of clubs on campus trying to get involved in international traveling and international programming,” said Joshua Marshall ’23, club vice president.
For the Model UN club, the conference was an experience that could lead to some changes and big opportunities.
“The big takeaway for our delegation is more so just that sort of structure, now we know what to do, so we can really get people on that track while still letting members have a good time because I think that’s ultimately the purpose of the club on campus to get people interested,” Marshall said.
Attending an international conference can provide a great opportunity for socializing and forming connections. “I met a lot of people at this conference that have a lot of experience with Model UN and going to conferences and I actually got some of their contact info,” Little said. “We’re definitely glad to make those connections and to really use those connections to improve our club on campus, as well to kind of see what they have to plan and what they have to contribute.”
The club has experienced membership growth over the past few years, from two members in 2019 to 27 members this year. Next year, we plan to attend two conferences, one being our return to this McGill University conference.
For me, attending the conference was an eye-opening experience. I was thrown into a completely new situation and had to learn to adapt quickly to the procedures and rules of how the conference is run. From this opportunity, I have a better understanding of international diplomacy and awareness of global issues, as well as self-confidence that I can contribute to something big and make a change. If I can write a 17 page paper with 30 other students I just met and find the courage to talk in front of a group of over 50 strangers, I can do anything I put my mind to. In the future, I hope I get the opportunity once more to return to a conference, even if it is on Zoom again.