COVID-19 has redefined what “normal” means, and therefore has changed the way many events have operated. Rather than spending three days in Stamford, Connecticut, this year’s Yeshiva University National Model UN conference lasted only a day. Each year prior, delegates from around the world have met in person and discussed critical issues spanning from air pollution to counter-terrorism. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet in person this year, but we were able to speak and discuss the issues over Zoom. Though the conference was conducted virtually, all of the meetings ran smoothly and were just as enjoyable as they were the year before.
This year, my peers and I represented the Islamic Republic of Iran. We arrived at school promptly at eleven in the morning and entered the high school modular ready for a day of collaboration. We were sent into our respective classrooms for each of our meetings, but during the breaks, we rejoined each other. The majority of us were able to spend the day together at school, but some were quarantined at home alone; regardless, the day was fun for all.
The meetings were conducted as they did in the past years; we held up placards when we wished to be called on and were only referred to as the country we were representing. Because we had already experienced the conference and how the meetings ran, we all entered the sessions much less anxious than we did just a year before. This worked to our advantage as we were not spending our time worrying about how the conference was going to work; instead, we could spend time focusing on the meetings themselves. We were truly able to interact with the other delegates and work together to solve our committees’ issues.
Our day at school lasted about ten hours, but it hardly felt that way. We spent the time in four committee sessions with breaks in between. During these breaks, time was set aside to meet the delegates from other schools; we were put into Zoom breakout rooms and had the opportunity to talk with each other. The experience wasn’t the same, but it was excellent considering the circumstances. We spent most of the time within our group: talking and connecting. YUNMUN did not only allow us to meet others from around the world, but they sparked deep connections amongst peers from the same school.
If given the opportunity, everyone should participate in YUNMUN. “Model UN is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I would do it over and over again. Even though it was online, we managed to make the most of it,” explains Stephanie Wolak. This conference gives you the tools you need to speak in front of an audience and learn how to cooperate with others that you have never met before. Additionally, those who participate gain the skill to learn how to debate topics and create a defensible position. Regardless of how much preparation you go into the conference with, you will leave with a great deal of knowledge and skill that will be useful for years to come.