I remember it like it was yesterday. I entered Mr. Wolfinger’s class nervous about my grade on the history final, when he announced that we would not be getting our finals back but would instead be listening to some high school students talking about a club called Model United Nations (UN). While I was annoyed that I had to wait another day to find out my grade, I quickly became interested in this mysterious club. I volunteered to debate another member of my class, Sam Winegar. Sam won by a landslide. Now, four years removed from that one v. one debate, I am president of the club and have quite a bit of dubious advice for all of you future members.
Be comfortable saying a Model UN pick-up line. I am not saying that you ever have to use one of these pick-up lines, but if you are not comfortable saying “I Ecuador you” or any other pick-up lines to strangers at a conference you will not be comfortable speaking in front of 50 or more strangers about “The Influence of Population Dynamic on Sustainable Development.” While their success rate is approximately two percent, these pick-up lines are a good way to build confidence for your first conference.
Position papers are scary on purpose. Unless your name is Lexi Hart, you will not write a good position paper on your first try. For the first time in your life you will be told not only to research a topic you have never thought about, but also to write a paper from a position that is not your own. When I wrote my first position paper I began my first few sentences with lots of optimism while jamming to “Gangnam Style.” Over the next few hours I would slowly become increasingly frustrated. By the time I typed my last word, I was listening to “Fix You.” Little did I realize that this position paper was just a test of commitment to the club. I passed my first test and I hope you pass it too. As annoying as writing position papers will always be, trust me, it does become easier.
Make a strong friend group, but don’t be afraid to spread out. My friends and I were quickly given a title that has not left us even as seniors. This was the title of “Freshmen Boys.” We were given this title because as a group we did many things at conferences that have since become traditions. While I can only hope that you will continue our traditions of swimming in the hotel pools (no matter the temperature), ordering Dominos after 1 a.m., crashing weddings, enjoying hotel saunas and many other things that we have done, I can only hope that you form your own traditions. You may not realize it right away, but the friends you make early on who stay in the club will become your best friends. Even though these two to four other people are your best friends in the club, don’t be afraid to branch out. Model UN is a great way to make friends from other grades that you would not know otherwise.
Irritate the officers until you become one. If you aspire to be a club officer one day, enjoy your days when you can irritate the officers and be obnoxious during meetings. They might tell you to be quiet 10 times during the meeting, but keep flirting with that other member of the club until they make you come to front and give a speech on something you know nothing about.
Pack lightly. You are going on many trips on which you will mainly be wearing your western business attire. Even if your mom thinks you should bring five different outfits, do not do it. You just need some comfortable clothes and maybe one nice outfit in case you are going to spend time with the person you have been flirting with.
Take part and enjoy club activities. I know, I know, you and your friends wanted to get dinner by yourself but the annoying club president is making the entire club go somewhere together. Instead of dreading this and continuing to stay with your clique, try participating. Model UN is known for its diversity of Jewish people, Indian people, Asian people, Jewish people and Putnams. Life begins outside your comfort zone, or in this case, outside your friend group.
To BS or not to BS, there is no question. Model UN was an organization created to simulate the United Nations. While speeches presented at the United Nations are written well in advance and are carefully thought out, you will only have mere seconds to come up with an idea for a speech. If you have decided to never partake in speaking drills, which is a big mistake, you are now stuck in a position of little practice unsure of what to do. I will give you your options now: A. Cry and sit down, B. Start a speech and see where it goes, or C. Quit the club. While at first you might think A and C look pretty good, eventually you will choose option B. Believe me, once you start picking option B there is no going back. Model UN will teach you how to talk about anything or quickly write about something with little preparation. Pro Tip: If you have a topic about something complicated like malaria, just steal other people’s ideas. As Steve Jobs once said, “As Picasso said good artists copy, great artists steal.”
There are motions you can use to get everyone to like you. If the opportunity arises, always move to vote by role call. Everyone likes it because they feel important as their name is called. Everyone will be really happy you did it. Move for round robins and have everyone speak as often as possible. It is really nice to get input from every single person whenever possible. Move to suspend debate when there is over 10 minutes left in a session. Who doesn’t like getting a head start on lunch? Everyone, including the Dais, will love you for this one.
Size matters. In Model UN size matters. That is, while the size of your country does matter, I am talking about height. I, luckily, was born as a 6’4” person. However, I have a friend who is 5’7.75’’ and he has told me that being short in Model UN is not easy. It is demeaning to have people bend down to hear from you, but it is something you have to deal with. I recommend shopping in the 1980s and buying 5-inch tall shoes if you think you need them. Whatever you can do to be the tallest person, do it.
Awards are not everything, they just mean a lot. Awards are the weirdest thing besides Putnam in Model UN. Sometimes you deserve an award, and you don’t get one. Sometimes you don’t deserve one and you get one. Sometimes you deserve an award and you do get one. There is no way to guarantee an award, but if you get one, be proud. Celebrate. Take pictures with it, text your mom, pray, dance, do whatever you want. You earned it and good for you. If you did not get an award, use it as a lesson to try something different next time. Think about how you did and move on…. Until the next time you don’t win again. Then be sad.
Carpe Diem. As I write this, I have come to realize I am on the way out. While graduating is an exciting thing, it means moving on from a club and school that have made me the person that I am today. I have so many good memories from Model UN. I remember giving one speech at my first conference and thinking that I would win an award because I spoke once. So much has changed since those days, but the one thing that hasn’t is how much the club has meant to me. As Model UN grew, so did I. I met knew people, made new friends, learned new things, mastered my own skills and picked up new ones. I have been both the flirter called up to give a speech and the one who calls up the flirter to give their speech. I have been the one who doesn’t want to do the club activity and the one who organizes the club activity. I have packed enough clothes for one month and packed enough clothes for one day. You will have your own experiences, and I don’t want to dictate them for you, but as time goes on I want you to realize just how lucky you are to be a part of such an amazing club. When I joined my freshmen year there were less than 10 standing members. Today we have over 60 active members and has truly been incredible to see the club grow. Not a day goes by that I do not think about Model UN and I don’t know what it will be like to move on from PV Model UN to Washington University in St. Louis Model UN, but I know it will never feel the same to me. Each and every person who has joined the club has impacted me in some way. I wish I could thank each one individually, but that would be impossible. For now, I just want to tell you, future member, that it is going to be a wild and crazy ride, but be thankful for every opportunity you get and when you are in my position looking back I hope you feel just as proud as I do.
Jordan Phillips, Class of 2016
Current President of Pine View Model United Nations and member 2012-2016