East’s Model UN attends conference in Chicago, brings home award

Sophomores Sanjana Kota, Rebecca Blood, and Samay Inampudi sit at the February 6th conference’s opening ceremony. “Considering it was my first conference, I’d say it was very successful. I learned a lot about my country and topic, along with how the United Nations work and formally debate such important issues,” Kota said. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Walters.

On Thursday, February 6th, members of the East Model United Nations team traveled to the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago to compete in a four-day competition where they debated on the world issues. Since it was the team’s first time attending the Model United Nations University of Chicago (MUNUC) conference, it was a pleasure for attending members to discover the teamwork, applicability, and excitement that a conference of this size — roughly 3,000 people — entails. 

Model United Nations is a nationally-recognized club where students assume the role of various nations around the world and debate on prominent topics that range anywhere from bureaucratic corruption to the sovereignty of the Antarctic. The end goal of each conference is to write a resolution paper with other participants or countries that explain to what consensus the mock United Nations should reach.

Most students from a school represent the same country but are sorted into different committees such as the World Health Organization or Economic and Financial Affairs Council to debate topics specializing in varying aspects of global politics. 

This year, most East students were tasked with representing Syria in their respective committees. Only one student — freshman Anshul Puri — represented a different delegation as he debated as a member of the 1814 Congress of Vienna.

Sophomore board member Annika Srivastava said that the prior research that competing members conduct is often the singlemost important factor in determining their success at the conference.

“The organizers of the conference, the University of Chicago, provided us with background guides to read and analyze the topics before actually debating them there. You actually have to write and submit a position paper before the conference that details your country’s perspective and proposed solution regarding the issue,” Srivastava said. 

Srivastava debated the topic of bureaucratic corruption within United Nations Development Program along with sophomore Aryav Bothra as they were part of a double delegation, where two students from a school are in the same committee representing the same country. They debated alongside sophomore Samay Inampudi, a new member of the team this year, who explained how he thought his first conference went. 

“The actual debating and committee went very well because I became more comfortable speaking with others and began to understand the parliamentary procedures and technical terms. I also liked how the conference was structured because we typically got about five to six hours of free time every day to explore Chicago and just enjoy our time away from school,” Inampudi said.

“My favorite part of every Model UN conference is when committee ends, everyone’s facade drops and we are all teenagers again, not delegations.”

— sophomore Rebecca Blood

Freshman Aanya Roy said that she appreciated the learning environment fostered by those running the debate.

“I’m extremely passionate about Model UN, and I aim to improve as a delegate throughout my high school years. I was successful and won an award in my first competition, but MUNUC is a completely different, larger playing field. I learned so much from the conference, and it was extremely exciting to have the opportunity to be there,” Roy said. 

Ten East students competed at the competition and although they were divided among a variety of committees during the majority of the day, it was during the free time that they truly appreciated each other’s company, according to Blood.

“My favorite part of every Model UN competition is when committee ends, everyone’s facade drops and we are all teenagers again, not delegations,” sophomore board member Rebecca Blood said. “People acting as countries that hate each other no longer have to show distaste in everything that person says. It is super interesting to see how different everyone becomes after the committee ends … and I really think that’s what makes it such a fun learning experience.”

The University of Chicago organized the conference and offered an admissions session to explain to those attending what attending UIC entails — which junior Avinash Moses said was very helpful.

“Being at the University of Chicago — one of the top schools on my list of colleges — I really got an idea of how the students are lead and how they are taught to lead,” Moses said. 

Walters said that Model UN students would continue to find success at future competitions if they continue to engage in debate aiaihas been running the club for many years and shares the benefit she sees for members if they continue to engage in debate, at platforms such as MUNUC. 

“[Model UN] helps peers learn to work with their peers, debate, and understand real-world problems, which can be used in any career field,” Walters added. 

Senior President Angel John said that the competitive experience went beyond simply debating with other students, which some may associate as the only skill needed for Model UN. 

“It’s not only debating, but researching, using parliamentary procedure, learning about global issues that may not be brought up here in the United States, and most importantly, collaboratively working on a resolution,” John said. “[My committee specifically tackled ways to reduce labor and human trafficking and created specific guidelines to be implemented in employer contracts. [This] really opened my eyes to the reality of the living conditions of those around the world.”

According to sophomore Zoe Pietrowiak, much of the self-discovery and newfound perspectives that many club members walk away with after a conference results from collaboration and socializing with delegates from other schools.

“It’s nice to just meet new people in general,” Pietrowiak said. “Model UN provides a great opportunity to do that because you are often forced to work with people you just met in order to be successful.”

By the conference’s conclusion, sophomore Aryav Bothra and Annika Srivastava both received verbal commendations for their debating skills representing Syria in the United Nations Development Program. Receiving an award for any member of the club was one of low anticipation considering the sheer size of the competition — with 3,000 people and over 100 attending schools from around the world. 

Srivastava added that while she does not plan to pursue a career related to Model UN, receiving the award was an extremely rewarding experience which, coupled with the actual conference, has shaped her into a more confident speaker.

“I don’t think I want to be a representative of a country in the UN, but I now know that I want a future career that involves forming relationships, negotiating, and working collaboratively with others,” Blood added. “I am truly thankful for Model UN.”

Allison McDowell & Aryav Bothra are staff writers for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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