Expecting the Worst but Experiencing the Best

One student shares how his trip to the Model UN Conference changed his outlook.

A full weekend of no sleep, I thought to myself sorrowfully as my alarm rang that Thursday morning. I had been to the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference (ILMUNC) last year, and I remembered it fondly but also as an experience that might not be worth a second visit. 

I sighed again that night as I had to tear myself away from a delicious dinner at a Philadelphia Maggiano’s to go to Opening Ceremonies and then a committee meeting, an experience that I fully expected to be dull. 

But as we entered the opening ceremonies hall, I kicked myself for forgetting the magic of this conference. ILMUNC brings together students from all over the country to attend an immersive Model UN experience, with everything, including committee sessions, happening within a single hotel conference room. This past year, 15 other students and I, chaperoned by Upper School History Teacher and Assistant Academic Dean Robbie Gross and Assistant to Director of College Counseling Jackie Morillas, traveled to Philadelphia by bus to represent Sidwell Friends. 

At the Opening Ceremonies, the keynote speaker discussed the situation in Venezuela and outlined the options of the international community. She even opened my eyes up to something I had not thought of before: The majority of the Venezuelan people did not want armed intervention if President Nicolás Maduro did not resign. 

It showed the truth of the matter: When discussing foreign intervention by the United States, I had only ever considered possible blowback on the United States. Whether that be losing our soldiers in a war or by creating a power vacuum that allowed true US enemies to gain power, I had always only considered the risk to Americans and just accepted that those who did not like the current Venezuelan leader or government wanted us to remove them. Only through this lecture did I learn about that even those who support the opposition wanted to keep the United States out of it. 

Committee was just as fascinating. Although it only ran for two hours that evening, there was an infectious energy. My partner, Isaac Pickrum, and I, were representing the nation of Singapore on a committee issue of food insecurity, and within the first hour we fielded around 80 notes from other delegations and began starting our first working paper. I remembered why I loved the experience so much: The full immersal in an issue for three days forces you to care and to find a solution. I had never researched the effects that a lack of cellular connection can have on poor farming communities, but by the end of the trip I had given a speech on it. I had never tried to incorporate both Saudi Arabia and Israel in a proposal, but Isaac and I had to approach both of them for a vote. By the end of the trip, I was angry at myself for ever dreading it. I went home having learned a ton and, more importantly, having had an amazing time. Despite the fact that I got a total of nine hours of sleep this year, I still wouldn’t trade it for any other experience.

by George Wilson ’21

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