Expectant students from all over the world fill a 400-seat room, dressed in everything from Western to Muslim business attire and beyond. This is the Model United Nations, an assembly simulation filled with student delegates representing different countries as if they were ambassadors at the U.N.
Student must learn to compromise in order to find practical solutions to issues, all done while staying in the mindset and perspective of the country they are representing, said Jacklyn Vasquez, head delegate of Cal State Fullerton’s Model U.N. team.
On this stage, students are not challenging one another simply for a grade, nor do they discuss matters that most college students would be interested in. In the Model U.N., students confront international issues and collaborate with their peers on topics with real-world implications.
This is a process that takes months to unfold, with each student adding to the overall success of the group.
Model U.N. delegates from CSUF spend a semester preparing for the National Model U.N. conference, which takes place each spring in New York City.
Over 5,000 college students, more than half of whom are international students, discuss contemporary global issues. Participants must come prepared to solve at least three issues pertinent to one of the 21 simulated U.N. committees.
“Being able to interact with people from all over the world is a really great ability just because of the world we live in, where those skills are now becoming more necessary,” said Andy Marin, CSUF Model U.N. delegate. “I think (Model U.N.) provides that international experience where you’re getting to learn, first-off, how to deal with people, but then, secondly, you’re getting it from an international perspective.”
While the entirety of CSUF’s delegates were designated to study the country of Togo and its national policies, many students were assigned to separate committees.
Students serving on committees must collaborate on particular issues, such as peacekeeping methods, sustainable development, renewable energy and poverty reduction.
“It’s really stimulating. It really teaches you how to work with other people, how to have a world perspective on issues that aren’t just about the United States,” Vasquez said. “It’s about learning for the world.”
Students compete for awards by earning points for their conduct in committees and speeches. They are also awarded points for good leadership skills and for how well they interacted with other delegates.
At the 2016 National Model U.N. conference, CSUF’s delegates received the Outstanding Delegation award, the highest award in the competition. The award is given to the school that receives the most points for remaining in character, participating in committees and following parliamentary procedures, Vasquez said.
Not all delegates participate in the competition. Some, like Vasquez, are able to coach new members as they experience a national competition for the first time. Others, like Armando Robles, serve as committee chairs at the conference.
Robles served as the chair of the Human Rights Council and was responsible for the procedural functions of the committee.
“Seeing the other side, the administrative side, of the organization that hosts the event was very interesting because I got to see how much of it really comes down to it just being an educational experience,” Robles said.
This is the first semester in which Model U.N. has been open to students with majors other than political science.
“It was, I think, a smart move to open the door to other majors and really show how the U.N. isn’t just a political science thing. It’s a global thing,” Robles said. “Any major can find an interest and a role within some committee in the U.N.”
At the end of the day, the students who participate in Model U.N. are just that — students. But these students are driven to understand complex social issues that take place on a global scale and to understand the people those issues affect.
“If you’re someone who is academically driven and doesn’t mind to put in the work for the amazing rewards, (Model U.N.) is the place to be,” Vasquez said.
Model U.N. students are trying to find solutions for problems that professional members of the U.N. are struggling with.
“Right now, the United Nations is really trying to utilize youth. That’s the No. 1 priority,” Vasquez said. “They’re trying to have younger generations in the driver’s seat of the future policies because we do have a different perspective, and we are the ones who are going to be in charge once their time is finished.”
But for the time being, these students are striving to learn as much as possible through Model U.N.
“The point isn’t to change the world. The point isn’t to win millions of dollars for your school,” Robles said. “It’s really all about just learning how to deal with people and giving people a perspective about the world that they might not otherwise know.”