By Judy Ly and Karla Tran
When they arrived in New York City, Rainier students experienced the culture shock of the Big Apple: tall buildings, glowing billboards plastered with advertisements and yellow taxi cabs. After landing in the late evening, the Rainier Model United Nations conference participants had their very first taste of NYC pizza. The next day, the group saw something they don’t see often in San Jose: Snow!
“Some of my favorite parts were just walking around and seeing what we can find,” Rainier sophomore Ricardo Espinoza said. He recalled that on the first night the group roamed the streets to see what the city was like.
Rainier sophomore Kassaundra Ramirez shared, “There were a lot of lights and city life. I think it was really fun because we didn’t really drive anywhere. I think the walking, which was also fun instead of just being in the car or being in the subways, even though that was an experience within itself. While you are walking, you get to see all these buildings that you would only see in like movies or TV shows; I thought that was interesting.”
At the end of February, Rainier students, two teacher advisers, and one parent chaperone flew together to New York City to attend the Future We Want Model United Nations conference. Model United Nations is a simulation where students become delegates of an assigned country and represent different committees.
“My favorite parts were speaking to everyone in my committee, bonding with my peers, and eating New York food,” Rainier sophomore Tuong Nguyen said. “I learned how to be a better speaker, and I learned how to communicate better with other people.”
Dressed up in formal business wear, students from high schools and universities around the world gather into separate rooms in the Grand Hyatt to discuss global issues. Nine Rainier students flew from San Jose to New York City to attend a Model United Nations (MUN) conference. Prior to this trip, none of the students had been to New York.
Pairs of Rainier students acted as delegates of the following committees on behalf of Canada: World Health Assembly, Disarmament and International Security, UN Environment Assembly, Commission on the Status of Women and Economic and Financial Committee.
Rainier Spanish teacher Isela Mosqueira first heard of MUN when she was in high school but did not participate because the organization was not available at her campus. Even though she didn’t have previous experience participating in MUN, she became interested when Edwin Avarca, Rainier’s assistant director, sent an email about scholarships to cover housing for students who were applying to the FWWMUN conference.
Initially, two of Mrs. Mosqueira’s mentees had applied and received the scholarship. The organization was encouraging her to recruit more students since there were more scholarships available. After forwarding emails to the whole student body, it slowly dawned on her that the students wouldn’t be able to attend the conference without an adult chaperone: “So I just kind got like – I fell into this role.” After Mrs. Mosqueira reached out to other faculty members, Justin Hauver, a history teacher, signed up to help with the chaperoning and advising process as well.
What is the Future We Want Model United Nations conference?
Ramirez explained that the FWWMUN conference is basically a model version of a real United Nations conference: “Instead of delegates from actual countries… you get a country, and you are assigned a partner. You go as delegates of a specific country, and you talk about that country’s problems and things they need improvements on or how the country can help improve other countries, within their own country, to help them.”
“Just being in the room and seeing how everything was done was really cool, like it was very formal but it wasn’t overly formal,” Espinoza said. “It was a very relaxed environment, and there wasn’t like any hostility whatsoever. Everyone was welcomed.”
Mr. Hauver said, “I hope that it’s opened student’s eyes to issues in the world on the one hand. On the other hand, I hope it also opened their eyes to opportunities they might have in the world, should they choose to pursue them. I think it was interesting for students to not just conceptually know that there are other types of students out there, but to interact with students from around the U.S. and from around the world. I think just that experience I hope will have a positive impact on students.”
Mrs. Mosqueira said, “It was a good experience overall. Everybody got something out of it. I think everybody grew a little bit, out of the whole trip. It was the first time for all of us in New York… That experience itself was great! It was our first conference that we had attended as a school.”
What happens during a MUN conference?
The point of a MUN conference is to spark students to become more aware of current global problems in the world. Through this, the delegates practice diplomatic skills and try to work together with new people and identify solutions.
Before the trip, Rainier students had to write their position papers on their two themes. A position paper is a written report outlining a country’s development goals and other real-life issues. Each delegate has to dedicate their time to find background information about their theme and country in order to come prepared with the necessary main points when interacting with other delegates during the conference.
Moderated and unmoderated caucuses are actions called upon by delegates to establish times to discuss whatever the delegates call upon. All countries work with each other to find a solution to the problem at hand. After rounds of debates and moderated and unmoderated caucuses, countries would’ve hopefully allied with one another and propose solutions.
Together, delegates from the major countries propose their solutions, and, if the majority of the countries present in the room agrees, then the proposed solution is made final.
What would you tell someone who is interested in attending a MUN conference?
Nguyen shared, “I would highly encourage you to go because it’s really overall a learning experience. You get to see things that you don’t get to see on a daily basis, and you might end up being nervous at first but later on, you’ll get used to it.”
In addition, Espinoza advised students to be adaptable: “Whatever you’re expecting, it’s probably not going to be that. Not in a bad way though, it’s just going to be a lot different.”
Both Mrs. Mosqueira and Mr. Hauver advised students to attend the conference. Mrs. Mosqueira mentioned that conferences, such as the ones that MUN provide, are opportunities to develop skills, such as speaking and writing, while interacting with people around the world: “It’s a lot of fun, I think, and meeting people from around the world; getting close with them,” said Mrs. Mosqueira.
Mr. Hauver also added, “Be prepared to do some work; be prepared to meet a lot of interesting, ambitious students; and be prepared to probably be a little scared every now and then; but definitely come, we will support you.”
Featured image (at the top of this post): Delegates, from the Economic and Financial Committee, raise their placards during the Future We Want Model United Nations conference. PHOTO CREDIT: Isela Mosqueira