Last Updated: Oct 30, 2013
If you know your way around Model United Nations from high school, you may be able to name quite a few reasons why you’ll participate in college—but there are so many you may not have considered.
If you’re new to the world of Model United Nations . . . what exactly is it? Here is the official definition of Model UN from the United Nations Association of the United States of America:
Model United Nations is an authentic simulation of the UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, or other multilateral body, which catapults students into the world of diplomacy and negotiation. In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors of UN member states, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe to debate current issues on the Organization's vast agenda.
The students, better known as "delegates" in Model UN, prepare draft resolutions, plot strategy, negotiate with supporters and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the UN's rules of procedure-all in the interest of mobilizing "international cooperation" to resolve problems that affect almost every country on Earth . . .
Students do research on the particular global problems to be addressed. The problems are drawn from today's headlines . . .
The popularity of Model UN-ing has contributed to the rapid growth of this activity over several decades, and today upwards of 200,000 high school and college/university students participate in a Model UN each year.
Many conference participants are "repeaters," since the spirit and substance of these simulations create an appetite for this activity more commonly known as "MUN Fever."
That’s the formal explanation—but that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of Model UN and your college experience. Check to see if there’s a Model UN club in existence at the schools you’re considering—or think about starting one if there isn’t! There may also be Model Arab League, Model European Union, or Model African Union available at your schools too.
And if and when you do catch “MUN Fever,” you’ll find it’s more than just a fun and intellectually stimulating way to pass the time. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider including Model UN in your college experience:
- Boost your résumé. Employers love to see extracurricular activities; they give you more of the hands-on experiential learning you’ll need on the job. Plus, Model United Nations opens you up for great interview conversations about your experiences and what you’ve learned. Academically, it’s a perfect way to diversify. Are you a pharmacy or engineering major? Go outside your academic comfort zone into international relations and contribute to discussions about health or infrastructure issues. Already an international relations major? Delve deeper into specific topic areas like nuclear disarmament. (P.S.: powerhouses like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Chelsea Clinton were once Model UN-ers—you’ll be off to a good start!)
- Keep up with the news. Since Model UN can cover topics from human rights in Palestine to the potential arms race in outer space, start reading. Every day. Once you have an assignment to represent a particular country, you may want to set up Google Alerts on specific topics and regions, but you’ll also need (and want!) to know what’s generally going on in the world.
- Think and learn through new lenses. You aren’t representing yourself: you’re representing a foreign country on a specific topic. While you may never know exactly how the delegate from Yemen might behave in committee, researching everything from population demographics to past votes on UN resolutions to finding recent public statements helps you form an understanding of the actions of governments large and small. Plus, background knowledge helps you to think on your feet during debates.
- International and multicultural exposure. Where else can you meet students representing Germany with British accents and southern military cadets representing Syria? Take negotiations beyond formal debate at conferences by grabbing lunch or a coffee, and you’ll end the weekend with friends from around the world and a new understanding of all sorts of cultures.
- Brush up on your public speaking skills. There’s nothing quite like addressing a room full of 250 people and starting with “The delegation of France feels that . . . ” Sure, your hands might be shaking, but if you take an old West Point trick and clasp them behind your back instead of clutching a trembling sheet of paper, nobody will be the wiser.
- Become a rockstar event planner. Invite other schools for intercollegiate conferences. Learn the ropes of working with school event offices, outside vendors, partner organizations, and guest schools. Don’t forget about non-conference components, like dinners, travel guides, and parties!
- Get out of town. There are conferences all over the country—and the world. Whether you have the budget to just go across town and experience a conference at a new school or go to D.C., Germany, or Russia, there are dozens of different opportunities to explore the world around you, in person, through Model United Nations.
- Meet diplomats. Invite local ambassadors and dignitaries to speak to your club privately, be the keynote at a conference, or request an embassy visit in your city or a conference city. In Washington, D.C., many embassies of Arab League member states will host schools traveling for the National Model Arab League conference each spring.
- Volunteer. Partner with organizations like National Council on U.S. and Arab Relations (NCUSAR) or United Nations Association of Greater Boston (UNAGB) to host conferences for area middle school and high school students, or help coach Model UN teams at local schools with members of your club. It’s a great way to help make sure schools can offer Model UN as an activity and engage students from a young age!
- Make friends and have more fun. With a broad range of students participating from all sorts of majors, and the chance to meet delegates from other schools and countries, Model UN is the perfect blend of intellectual and social. You’re sure to have a good time!
No matter how you participate in Model UN, you’ll soak up new experiences, make the most of your time on and off campus, and take advantage of all that this amazing extracurricular has to offer personally, academically, and professionally. You won’t regret it!