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MUNerds: What’s Up With CB Model United Nations?

Model United Nations is a simulation of the United Nations, an international organization of states created after WWII to maintain peace and security. But what you really need to know about MUN is that we’re cool and fun and you should join.  Twice a year, the Christian Brothers Model UN team piles into two white […]

Oscar Reynolds (‘24) (MUN mascot), Lily Barrett (‘24) (who claims she is not in fact a nerd), and Stanford MUN Outstanding Delegate winner Olivia Kim (‘24)

Model United Nations is a simulation of the United Nations, an international organization of states created after WWII to maintain peace and security. But what you really need to know about MUN is that we’re cool and fun and you should join. 

Twice a year, the Christian Brothers Model UN team piles into two white vans and begin their journey toward world domination. This fall, I participated in my last Model UN Conference at Stanford University as the delegation of Poland. As my second and final year in MUN, I feel that it is my duty to pay homage to such an integral part of my CB experience. 

While we dedicate hours of research into our pre-conference papers and materials for committee, rise and grind for our 7:40 AM meetings twice a week, and debate and collaborate to create resolutions addressing the world’s most prominent issues for three days straight, MUN is so much more than just work. In fact, my favorite part of MUN has to be missing school when we travel for conferences. Just kidding. Or am I?

But in all seriousness, I love spending time with my fellow delegates. Whether they be on the CB team or strangers in committee, the community surrounding MUN is full of interesting and colorful people. 

“I feel like contrary to stereotypes…our Model UN team is pretty socially adept. We’re fun,“ says Adam Sunderman (‘24).

“Some of my favorite people are in [the organization],” adds Lily Barrett (‘24). “We just get to come in and have fun in the mornings,” . 

But the typical delegates you’d meet at a conference are not always as approachable as we are. Adam describes the average delegate as “intimidatingly smart,” which I can say from experience is definitely accurate. It’s all fun and games until Korea starts talking about multilateral development banks. 

Sophia Diaz (‘24) has a more nuanced take: “They’re either in the back playing Minecraft or they’re dominating the committee.”

But being “really talkative and opinionated is necessary to be successful,” Lily says. In many fields, being confident and advocating for yourself is integral to success, and in this way, MUN really does help to develop life skills. Most importantly, MUN emphasizes teamwork. 

“The collaborative aspect was something I wasn’t expecting to be as prominent when I started, but it’s probably my favorite thing about it,” Adam says. 

Not only does the program build life skills, it also addresses real world issues, educating the younger generation and allowing them to think creatively about solutions. 

Adam puts it eloquently: “It’s academic towards a purpose.”

“[It’s not] how many things you can memorize but how many connections you can make,” says Sophia. 

My last committee, the UN Human Rights Commission, posing for the BeReal.

Having done other academic clubs in the past, I love that Model UN is not just about debate or looking to find a specific answer. It leaves room for delegate ideas to drive conversation, and you never quite know how it will turn out.

Sometimes the process of impersonating an international governing body can reach soaring levels of absurdity. At my last conference, North Korea called for dissolving the entire UN. In addition, learning how to diss people diplomatically has been an essential part of my UN journey as has referring to other people by their country name. 

“I text someone I met at Berkeley last year and her name is ‘technically’ Angelique, but in my contacts she’s Yemen,” Sophia laughs.

“The Delegation of Qatar flirted with everyone for the entire conference,” adds Lily. 

But sometimes the ridiculousness of being in the fake UN is less funny and more discouraging. Real world issues have intense real world consequences, and it’s easy to feel like none of our resolutions have any impact. 

The whole squad at Stanford.

“Even when stuff does pass, it’s like, ‘okay this is hypothetical and we aren’t actually doing stuff about it’. Even if you were the UN, you couldn’t do that much about it,” says Sophie, “The procedure makes me feel fancy, but we are in such an ivory tower. We are over here in Berkeley consuming all of these resources and people are dying, Kim.”

“It was a really weird feeling printing out my fourteen page background guide about how we need to save the environment,” adds Adam. 

That’s not even half of it. Literally. My background guide for Berkeley was double that, and I’d estimate my entire binder was at least a hundred pages if not more. The idea of how many resources that go into MUN that could instead go to actually solving the issues at hand creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. Is this really worth it to attempt to cultivate the next generation of Minecraft-playing future diplomats? 

That said, I am confident saying that Model UN has been an enriching experience. Even in the ironies of Model UN, real international politics will always be far more messy and unproductive, and it is the next generation that will have to create solutions. 

Moderator Mrs. Ellen Willow emphasizes that MUN allows students “to take some ownership of some of the big issues in the world.”

“I just like to see you as a student to be able to take the initiative,” the proud moderator says. 

While we may not be actually saving the world at Stanford, being engaged in possible solutions is a success in itself. 

“We envision a world comprised of civically engaged people who strive for peaceful, multilateral conflict resolution and equitable, sustainable human development,” reads the MUN mission statement. I can’t think of a better way to describe my fellow delegates. 

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