My time at the National Model United Nations conference, by Kuljit Kaur (Second year LLB Law with International Relations)
This year I had the opportunity to go to New York, United States (U.S) to participate in the National Model United Nations (NMUN) 2022 conference. Yes, you read that correct… NEW YORK – the city that never sleeps!! When I first heard about this opportunity, I just knew I had to sign up. At this point I had just started university and as a first-year student, I had no idea what Model United Nations (MUN) was. A trip to New York itself is surreal with soaring buildings, historical landmarks, Broadway shows and the mention of the United Nations – I mean I just couldn’t say no.
MUN is a simulation of the United Nations, where students take the role of delegates from different countries and work to solve real world issues. The conference in New York, is known to be the world’s largest and oldest ongoing university-level MUN. As an institution, all Sussex students were assigned to represent the ‘Netherlands’ during the conference which was held from 10-14 April 2022. University of Sussex was the only university from England participating in the conference, which really felt like an achievement.
To cover the costs of my trip to New York, I decided to raise money from my friends and family. In doing so, I set up a go fund me page to bring in donations, which was very successful and involved some donations in cash. I was also very grateful for a donation from the principal of my primary school. In preparation for the conference, I committed to the 2-hour weekly training sessions which involved an introduction to the rules and procedures of MUN. This commitment allowed me to interact with students from outside of my course, and from across different years of their study. Not only was this beneficial with networking but also helped in making friends as a first-year student. During these sessions, I along with 21 other Sussex students conducted research on the country to write up a position paper prior to the conference, giving an overview of our country’s position on a given issue. It is important that during MUN, you do not give your opinion, since you are representing the views of a given country. I served on the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Committee which focused on migration and racial discrimination.
Arriving at the hotel and the views were INSANE. I couldn’t believe it, it was honestly like a dream come true! Up on the 21st floor, I could see tall buildings with a very fast-paced life outside and the iconic yellow cabs. Unpacked and relaxed for the night, knowing that the next day was a new adventure about to begin. The next day the opening ceremony of the conference began with a short message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. Soon after the first committee session commenced and continued for the next 5 days. The earliest session was around 8:30am with the last session concluding at 10:30pm. In line with the rules of the conference, all delegates were to only wear formal clothing. Personally, I loved this rule; walking on the streets of New York City in business wear almost felt as if I’m a corporate lawyer… as you may have seen in the Netflix series ‘Suits’. When it came to finding a place for breakfast, the local bagel cart did the job!
During the conference, I collaborated with other students representing other countries in formulating possible resolutions to real life challenges the world faces today. The conference drew participants not only from different states across the U.S but also from around the globe including France, Germany, Ecuador, Japan and many more – students from 105 UN Member States to be exact. One particular topic that I focused on was ensuring access to healthcare for migrant workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, I learnt how to think critically and develop empathy, which has allowed me to understand both sides of an argument. Many of these skills are very well founded with my study of both law and international relations at Sussex.
On the final day, as my schedule had no sessions until the closing ceremony in the afternoon, my friend and I decided to walk to the United Nations. According to Apple maps it was a 30-minute walk from our hotel. At the time it did not seem very long, and surprisingly we got there pretty fast without getting lost.
Back in the hotel after a busy morning – visited Central Park for a spot of lunch then went to Starbucks for a dragon fruit refresher. Highly recommend. The days went by fast – it always does when you’re having fun right? The University of Sussex even got an award at the end of the conference.
Taking part in this conference and working in a team has allowed me to understand international diplomacy, specifically how the United Nations operates through simulation. As someone who had never heard of MUN before, this opportunity really has educated me on world issues and overall been a fun experience. It definitely has developed my confidence too. I believe that overall, this experience has better equipped me for my current studies providing me with a range of skills that will give me the opportunity to make changes and solve problems in the world that we live in.
I believe MUN gives you the necessary skills for success as a law student – so why not start your very own MUN experience today. I highly recommend joining the weekly debates held by Sussex Model United Nations Society whether you have an interest or not – this might be the start! The society also gives you the chance to attend various MUN conferences across UK including London International Model United Nations.
The NMUN New York 2022 conference is definitely an unforgettable memory of new experiences and new friendships globally.