Hartsbrook at Harvard Model United NationsFifteen Hartsbrook Juniors and Seniors and one brave Sophomore returned, along with Ms. McNaughton and Mrs. Heineman, from a whirlwind weekend in Boston at the Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) conference. I have been a part of the Hartsbrook MUN delegation for three years, representing Senegal, the UAE, and, most recently, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Model United Nations, is, just as it sounds, a simulation of the inner workings of the real United Nations. Each group representing a country is subdivided into committees that address different topics, or at times, the same topic from different angles. Over the course of over 20 hours of debate spread over four days, each committee hopes to pass a resolution or a set of directives addressed in their assigned topic. Country and position research, policy debates, lunches spent trying to grasp the rules of parliamentary procedure, all lay the foundation for the four days that we spend in Boston.

From the moment that we step into committee, from Thursday evening until the closing ceremony on Sunday, we enter into another world, we argue from a perspective that is not our own, we portray a country that may be alien to us, and defend policies with gusto, regardless of how we personally feel about them. Committee ends close to midnight and starts early in the morning, and the little time in between is spent writing pages of the draft resolution and engaged in strategic discussion–Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) weekend is run on adrenaline and caffeine and an excitement that seems impossible until we arrive.

Hartsbrook at Harvard Model United NationsThis year, we had the privilege of representing the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; a tiny country barely the size of Rhode Island, nestled between France, Germany, and Belgium. With a population of just over 550,000, Luxembourg is among Europe’s and the World’s wealthiest nations per capita and is a major player on the global economic stage. For a financially conservative country, Luxembourg is socially liberal, electing Xavier Bettel in 2013: Europe’s first openly gay politician for the position of Prime Minister. This combination of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism made my position as a single delegate in the UN’s Regional Commission on the European Union (EU), fascinating. The council of the EU is a part of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a branch of the UN that is separate from the General Assembly (GA) and encompasses committees such as the Disarmament and International Security Committee and the Legal Committee. Many committees within ECOSOC are smaller than committees in the GA, with between 10 and 40 delegates, as opposed to between 200 and 400 delegates.

With 28 delegates, each representing a member state of the EU, my committee focused on refugee immigration, integration, and assimilation, and briefly debated our second topic, right-wing nationalism and the future of the European Union. Even after spending three months living abroad in France during my sophomore year, I entered into research for my committee unaware of how complex and, at times dysfunctional European Union can be. Research and a heightened awareness of any EU related news soon disillusioned me. The issues of immigration, racism, sexism, and right-wing nationalism, that live in so many of our American communities and are at the forefront of so much American political strife, are just as troubling in Europe.

Among many things, the EU system has recently come under scrutiny for its perceived inability to deal with issues like the refugee crisis and Brexit efficiently. Needless to say, the air in Committee was tense, with strong, unwavering positions that threatened to bring important conversations to a standstill. In Model UN, we have the advantage that our resolution does not hold real-world consequences, and therefore are easier to establish than in the real UN.

As Luxembourg, I worked with Germany and the Netherlands to lead a bloc and write a draft resolution that laid out a plan to address the refugee crisis. Our resolution tackled issues such as the failure of past EU initiatives to combat the refugee crisis, the fact that some countries within the EU remain unwilling to accept their allotted number of refugees, and struggle with the issues of transportation, mental health, asylum criteria, national identity, and national security, among many others. Although this resolution did not pass by a popular majority, as the opposing bloc lead by the UK, Hungary, and Austria picked up many of the conservative eastern European Countries, I greatly enjoyed the task of writing and presenting a resolution that fully represented Luxembourg’s policies.

As a result of the small size of the EU committee, each delegate had multiple opportunities to speak every day and had the option of receiving personal feedback from the Dias at the end of every committee session. I have worked in both large, double delegate committees and small single delegate committees, and each represents a different set of challenges. A benefit of small committees is that, despite working in separate blocks, everybody has the opportunity to get to know each other. As people are perhaps my favorite part of the MUN experience, I cherished this aspect of my committee. I worked with students from all over the world, including Peru, Turkey, the DR, and Japan, and all across the U.S. I had the nerve-wracking experience of being interviewed in French by a student representing the French newspaper Le Monde, and later that day learned a few steps of Bachata in the hallway before Committee. We could laugh and dance and speak five different languages in a 10-foot radius before Committee session began, but when opened, our countries took center stage. We argued and passed frantic notes as representatives of nations more complex than we could ever fully understand.

My experience is only one of many. It is only a taste of what every delegate has accomplished and learned, and I encourage everyone to ask a high school MUN’er about his or her time at HMUN. Every single story is different and fascinating.

On Sunday afternoon, every school squeezes into a long ballroom for the conference’s closing ceremony. It is here, over a constant background buzz of tired students, that delegations receive awards for their performance in committee. The four awards categories are, verbal commendation, Honorable Mention, Outstanding Delegate, and Best Delegate, with the last three meriting a paper certificate. This year, Hartsbrook received four awards in total, a significant accomplishment, as many of the schools represented at HMUN have MUN programs that train all year and travel to up to 10 conferences a semester. Hero (grade 12) and Harrison (grade 12) received an Honorable mention for their work in the Social Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, I (Lila, grade 12) received an Honorable Mention for the European Union, and Anico (grade 12) and Janna (grade 10) received verbal commendations for their work in Special, Political, and Decolonization Committee and NATO, respectively.

Although I get butterflies in my stomach before every conference, I will greatly miss attending Model United Nations as a member of the Hartsbrook School. I am constantly amazed by the work of my fellow Hartbrook Delegates, and proud of the courage that we have all mustered to try something new, whether that be to speak in front of a crowd, to write clauses, or to wear business clothes for four days in a row.

Lila, High School Senior