Hundreds of delegates crowded the lobby of Le Centre Sheraton Hotel when I
arrived in Montreal, Canada. Every university student donned “business professional” garb,
the hallmark of a Model United Nations (MUN) Conference. Our team walked in together. The
bus ride from Boston College took eight hours, but the excitement of our first international
conference—and my first time out of the country—made it feel brief. Gazing at the competition
flooding the lobby, I anticipated an intense weekend of scintillating debate, foreign negotiation
and penning draft resolutions.
However, in MUN, things rarely go according to plan.
After our first committee session, my partner Harry and I realized the delegates at
this conference appeared more adept than any others we faced. We spent all morning writing
notes to allies and speaking on behalf of our country, France. But despite our extensive research
and preparation beforehand, we struggled to stand out among the competition who seemed more
practiced and natural when speaking. Harry and I knew that to win we would have to employ a
We reconnected with our team that night. Hoping to find some comfort in our difficulties,
Harry and I began sharing the problems we encountered in committee: delegates
who had not done their research, lack of support for our ideas and talented delegates who were
gaining attention. While our enthusiasm and determination drove us to work hard in committee,
we quickly realized most of our team did not share our fervor. A number of teammates had
left committee early to go to the bars, and were now “pregaming” for a night at one of
Montreal’s clubs. Even some of the freshmen, spurred on by the upperclassmen, had been
drinking early in the day—one boy passed out on a bed with a backpack on his chest to
prevent him from rolling over. While I did intend to experience the nightlife of Montreal and
their eighteen plus drinking age, the extent to which my team already embraced this culture
With minimal guidance from our leaders, Harry and I continued to struggle in committee.
We created our own faction and leveraged our “Big Five” position (the “Big Five” include
France, USA, Russia, China and UK) to gain support in promoting our agenda. Yet, by the end
of the second day our faction was absorbed into a larger bloc of delegates that began to gain
control over the committee. To keep us in check, the more powerful delegates barred us from
assuming any powerful positions within the group.
And so Saturday’s committee sessions passed. We returned to our room. Stumped again.
Later that night, Harry and I reconnected with another delegate, Stacy, a friend from high school
who now attends Georgetown. We talked about our Model UN teams and our experience at the
conference so far. She listened with interest as we explained how our leaders treated the trip like
a “party weekend”—a reprieve from the taxing schoolwork waiting back on Chestnut Hill. Her
experience did not match ours. At Georgetown, she said, they have mandatory practices before
every conference to learn public speaking techniques and strategize how to assume powerful
positions in committee. She paused before continuing, “To be honest, BC is not even a school we
worry about. We only look out for a few schools like Harvard, UPenn and Emory. You guys just
She had a point. Her school boasted many awards won in committee, while our school
brought home the annual “Bar Crawl” award two years in a row for our drinking prowess. In
high school, Harry, Stacy and I had vied for the top spot, but now she was far more versed in her
MUN skills. It was a sobering moment for Harry and I to see how far Stacy progessed in such a
short time, while we improved little.
On the final day of the conference Harry and I skipped the award ceremony and instead
discussed our ambitions for the team. We made a plan to mold the club into a competitive
program like Georgetown by assuming leadership positions of our own. But we aimed to do
more. We realized that we needed to instill discipline and focus into our team culture in order to
become a winning program. And while we know these goals will take time, next year we are
confident that we can trade in our Bar Crawl titles for more rewarding MUN distinctions.