A six-person delegation from Knox represented Iraq in the McGill Model United Nations conference last month in Montreal, Canada. Last year the Knox delegation represented the African country Togo at the Harvard Model United Nations conference in Boston, Mass. When asked about what it was like to represent Iraq, junior Erin Duff said, “It was nice to have a country that has such specific issues to its self, so I felt a lot more passionate when fighting for my country’s interests.”
Before leaving for the Model UN conference in Montreal, students had meetings and prepared for the conference by reviewing information packets on their individual committees. They also did research, and each wrote a one-page position paper on Iraq’s stances on issues. As a contrast to the Harvard Model Conference, which students attended last year, the conference in Montreal was more organized and committed, but at the same time did not strictly follow parliamentary procedure, said senior Shruti Patel.
Comparing going to a conference in Boston with going to one outside the United States, sophomore Josh Gunter said, “As opposed to Boston, it put us in touch with people even further outside of our realm of experience.”
Speaking of what it was like to represent Knox, Gunter, who was on the Special Commission on Apartheid, 1963, said, “Most people have not heard of it. It’s really nice when people ask, ‘Where are you from?’ and you say ‘Knox College.’ You get to explain where you’re from. It’s kind of like PR … [when] you’re from Harvard or something, you form prejudgments about them. But nobody could do that with us.”
Patel said being on the Special Session on Children committee was “intense,” as she was in a room filled with 300 people, each vying for a chance to speak. Her committee discussed children, their rights and what they should have access to, as well as the topics of health, education and war. As part of her committee representing Iraq, Patel said her delegation wanted to talk about health since the Iraq War is impacting hospital supplies, but it was difficult to push their agenda.
However, it was easier to speak in the much smaller special committees such as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People committee (RCA). RCA is a historical committee in which delegations act as if they were in a certain time period or portraying certain people. Sophomore Charlotte Young won a speaking award for her role as deceased Canadian Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson.
Students had different experiences in Montreal, as it was a city in which everyone spoke French and everything was in French, Gunter said. However, he said people spoke English as well and that Montreal “is almost like any other American city in most parts. It doesn’t feel that different but the French culture influence makes it feel more quirky.”
“It was cool to be in a city that was already really vibrant, but to have it come alive with people from all over the place, I didn’t really feel like a tourist—I just felt like I was part of this international community there,” Duff said.
Patel said her favorite part of the conference was the atmosphere in the hotel where the conference was held.
“There was this constant energetic vibe. Everyone always had laptops out working on resolutions and researching things … We’re in school all the time, we’re students, that’s our job, but there’s an entirely different world out there that’s not based on homework and assignments and exams, it’s more like you take the initiative. It’s what you make of it,” Patel said.