Recently some students from the Model United Nations (MUN) interest group attended the Pacific Model United Nations (PACMUN) conference, one of the biggest MUN conferences in the Pacific Northwest. PACMUN is a 2-day student-led conference where people from across the country come together and engage in intense debate. This year it was held in person at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Seattle. If you saw a bunch of teenagers wearing western business attire in downtown Seattle, you were likely seeing the many delegates attending PACMUN this year. I had the opportunity to attend this conference with my MUN peers, and I am sharing my experience to encourage more people to get involved with MUN.
The Model UN interest group at the Northwest school is focusing on debates and discussions this year and less on presentations. We usually take the time during interest groups to discuss things like current events and global issues to broaden our perspectives with input from different people. It is a very open community where everyone’s ideas are embraced and expanded upon; we strive for an atmosphere where people are not afraid to speak or share their opinions.
I had the fortune of attending this conference two years ago, but for many first-time students, there was a lot of anxiety about what the conference and debates would be like. The anticipation in my experience is always the worst. Once you get into your committee room you begin to feel right at ease and you get the feel of the conference. There are many different committees in the United Nations, for example, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the World Health Organization. In a non-specialized committee, two topics are given, topic A, and topic B, which relate to the committee. When you register you choose a position to represent, commonly a country, and you debate and conduct research from that country’s perspective. The goal is to create resolutions to the topics you are discussing and get them passed in your committee. Usually, there are many new people so the rules of procedure are gone over in every committee. The rules are things like you are not supposed to use personal pronouns, and in a moderated caucus you do not have to yield your time to the chair. The rules of procedure may seem daunting but they are pretty simple and the dais (organizers of the committee) are very nice when correcting people.
The conference started on Saturday morning at around 7am, when many people were getting dressed in their formal attire and making their way to the Sheraton hotel. Registration ended at 9, but many delegations (school groups) arrived early in order to get settled into the hotel. The Northwest School delegation, consisting of 12 students and 1 advisor, met up at 8:15 in the lobby and registered together. We showed our vaccination cards to the desk, got our keys, and scoped out the rooms. This year I was part of the African Union (AU) representing Uganda. I am generally a very anxious person, so talking in front of people is very hard for me, especially in a committee like the AU which can have over 50 delegates (singular people). I was pleasantly surprised that my nerves were minimal when the first committee session began at 10, as many people were new-timers and therefore likely more nervous than me. In my committee we were first discussing African wildlife conservation, a topic with many overlooked complexities. There was much discussion about how to fund conservatories and prevent smuggling. After lots of discussion, lunch began at 12:00. People in the Northwest School delegation checked in with our advisor and then went out into downtown Seattle to find a nice place to eat. The atmosphere is very chaotic, with many teenagers going around talking about what they’ve done so far in their committee, some in groups of 20. It feels very exciting to be a part of everything. After lunch we returned to our committees and talked for many hours with breaks in between. I was on a committee with my friend, so I was not completely alone. It can be nerve racking but you often get so sucked into the hours of debate that you forget whether you are alone or not. The first time speaking is the hardest part; after that it gets a lot easier. For dinner, everyone from the Northwest school ate pizza together; it was a funny sight seeing a ton of people in formal wear eating incredibly greasy food in the convention center.
After dinner there is the midnight crisis. This year it started at 7am rather than 12am, as there were day delegates that could not stay overnight so it wouldn’t be practical to hold it from 12am-2am like usual. The midnight crisis is a fun session where everyone goes wild and talks about things that aren’t a part of their committee discussions. In my committee we played a mafia-like game where we had to figure out who stole Egypt’s camels, and many things happened, like a bird spy network was established across Africa, and Tanzania cut itself off from the African continent! It is a time to unwind and have fun, while getting to know your fellow delegates. After the midnight crisis you can attend the delegate social, although usually people from the Northwest school go to the advisors’ room to eat snacks and share everything that has happened in their committee. When my friends and I went back to our rooms after a while, we probably should have slept, but the excitement of the whole day made it really hard.
In the morning we woke up at 7:15am, ready to restart the day and eat a breakfast nicely prepared by one of the students. We were excited to go back into debate. In my committee we had started on writing resolution papers to protect the animals, and were figuring out how to present them and get them passed. Ideas were being thrown around and the atmosphere was pretty tense, but eventually two resolutions out of 3 were passed, one of them being my group’s. There is nothing more exciting than passing a resolution paper. It may not seem like a big deal, but it feels very validating when people agree with your ideas and raise their placards to vote for your resolution. After lunch, since my committee’s first topic was exhausted, we moved on to topic B, about reversing the effects of imperialism and assimilation in the African continent. This topic was very difficult to discuss because many countries in Africa were affected very differently and it is very hard to suggest resolutions. Given there was not much time left we decided to just talk about the topic rather than write resolutions. We talked about education to prevent imperialism from happening again and how to boost economies. Eventually we decided that it was time for fun MUN, which is where you start doing things like superalives and stop debating serious topics. It was really fun to connect more with the other delegates and everyone was super nice. After the closing ceremony it was time to go home, and everyone was excitedly talking about what they did and how fun the conference was. For me, PACMUN is an experience that I will never forget, and I always look forward to it next year. It is a time of intense debate, creating connections, and breaking out of your shell. PACMUN gives me confidence, I feel okay when I stand up and talk in front of many people, and that’s not something that happens for me very often.
I hope that if you are interested in politics, or just looking for a new experience, you try going to PACMUN next fall, or even a different conference. I guarantee you that there will be nice people that are willing to help you, and that you won’t be the only new person. If you want to find any conferences or learn more about them you can reach out to me, or join the MUN interest group. We are not currently planning on attending any more conferences as a school, but things may change, and everyone is welcome.