06 November 2023

The Monday Briefing: Sidewalk Talk

The Monday Briefing - Sidewalk Talk

Back in 2018, I received an email from Bellevue’s Marketing Director, enlightening me of what seemed a wonderful opportunity - an invitation to take a group of students to the Model UN Conference at MIT in Boston. The logistics of foreign trips always seem a difficult beast, but, having previously taken several trips abroad, I am fully aware that these experiences are the ones that are remembered most fondly by students. I proceeded with caution, but was excited to take a keen group of three students over to the US for what was the College’s first taste of international problem solving of this kind. More can be read about this trip here with a student perspective also detailed.


It was important to follow such steps with another trip, and it was great to pass the reigns on to our then Sociology specialist, who took another group over the following year, with the participant numbers growing to four. An account of the trip is shared here.


Two more students followed in 2020 with our current Assistant Principal, with one returning with an ‘Honourable Mention’ Award, before a two year hiatus due to the Covid Pandemic. The Conference moved online, but such experiences are never quite the same in the virtual world. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to bring all participants back together, in person, in 2023, and I was delighted to accompany our delegation of five.


One of our students, Aavani, won an award for best position paper, with students building on their excellent successes in the inaugural Bellevue debating competition, hosted by the College in December 2022 with participants coming from Farlington and Sherfield schools. An account of the trip is here, and it was tremendous to see our students form burgeoning friendships with their American counterparts.


Having grown the popularity of Model UN year on year, I was really heartened to receive eight students for the initial meeting with me on Friday, and further pleased to have paved the way for wider participation within the Bellevue group for a cohort of five students from Farlington school to get involved in MITMUNC in February 2024.


Alongside the conference, students will have the chance to take in some Bostonian culture, tour the incredible facilities of Harvard and sample some American cuisine. It’s a great trip, and one which really emboldens our students, harnessing their skills and helping grow their confidence.


So what is Model UN?

To give a simple explanation, it is an educational simulation in which students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. At an MUN conference, students work as the representative of a country, organisation, or person, and must solve a problem with other delegates from around the world. 


Delegates conduct research before conferences: they must formulate position papers, and create policy proposals that they will debate with other delegates in their committee. At the end of a conference, delegates will vote on written policies (called draft resolutions), with the goal of passing them with a majority vote. The best-performing delegates in each committee, as well as delegations, are occasionally recognised with awards.


And why take part?

There are so many skills that students will learn from Model UN that will help them in the future. These skills will be valuable long after MUN the conferences end. 


Essentially, the main skills include:

Public speaking
Public speaking is one of the biggest fears most people face. Model UN offers students the ability to create and polish speaking in front of others. They will have the chance to speak to smaller and larger committees as they represent their country’s positions. 

Not only will students be researching their country, they will also be researching critical global issues and how they relate to their committee issues. They will learn how to use and cite credible sources so that their claims are legitimate. 

Interpersonal Strategy
Learning to work with many different types of people can be useful in life. To set goals and achieve them will help the aspiring Model UNer to improve in group dynamic exercises when the time comes to get into universities and get jobs. Guiding an idea from concept to final vote, persuading tens of people in the process, is a skill of growing importance in a more interconnected world.

Critical thinking
Students will be gathering research, but Model UN is so much more than that. It requires them to analyse the gathered data and figure out how it applies to their country and committee. They have to think on their feet during negotiations with other delegates as they synthesise information in continually changing situations. 

Global knowledge

Too many young people struggle to keep up with foreign affairs. They tend to forget just how complex the world is and that other cultures and principles exist beyond their own. In Model UN, students learn to pay attention to global events. Their knowledge base grows and their understanding of global news and how it affects them increases. They will begin to see events from the viewpoints of others and be able to have in-depth conversations and form viewpoints which encourage leadership.


Beyond these areas lie several more upsides which participation can bring. From small beginnings, the College has grown a strong tradition in participating at MIT, and it will be wonderful to see a talented, expanded delegation in action come February.


I, and, I’m sure, the students, can barely wait!

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