By Katrina Erickson
Holcombe and Futrall Halls
“Decorum delegates, the General Assembly Plenary is in session.”
This was the first phrase I heard in the Model United Nations (UN).
Over Thanksgiving break, I flew to China to participate in Model UN after months of preparation in a class with 19 other students. My Thanksgiving meal consisted of dumplings and ramen!
Before the conference started, we spent a few days exploring Beijing. In Beijing, I visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Lama Temple. Through these locations, I learned about Buddhism, Communism and Chinese history.
Travel tip: no one told me how much hiking the wall would entail — Ride the toboggan down the wall!
After Beijing, we took a bullet train to the center of the country, Xi’an, the old capital of China and the start of the Silk Road. In Xi’an, we saw the ancient Terracotta warriors and the Muslim Quarter market. As a young girl, I read about the Terracotta army, but I never imagined that I would see them in person. It was a surreal experience to see so many iconic historical places that I’ve always learned about.
After sightseeing, the Model UN began. Over 400 university students from across the world gathered to compete in the conference as delegates from different countries.
My partner and I represented China in the General Assembly (GA), which had delegates from every country in the UN. Other Arkansas students represented Japan, South Korea and China in the Security Council, Economic and Social Council and the UN Industrial Development Organization.
In the GA, we negotiated solutions for refugee child health. For over ten hours a day, we gave speeches, debated with other delegates and wrote resolutions. Resolutions are massive documents where countries agree on specific solutions and initiatives. Imagine a group project of 25 plus people writing a comprehensive paper in less than eight hours, all while competing to be the best and get noticed by the judges. (Another complication: Google is blocked in China, so imagine writing the aforementioned group paper by passing around ONE computer).
I proposed ideas centered around sanitation education for refugee camps and spent the bulk of the conference convincing other countries to join my program.
Each delegate is responsible for representing their country authentically, which can be very challenging. For example, China does not accept refugees and supports returning refugees to their home nation. Although I may not personally agree, as the representative of China, I had to strongly oppose any resolution that disagrees with China’s stance on refugees.
The University of Arkansas won second place for both our China and South Korea delegations!
Through this experience, I learned how complex foreign policies are formed and the logic behind individual countries’ response to global events. I learned how to compromise and see from others’ perspective in a fast-moving and competitive working environment. I also made friends from all over the world!
When we weren’t working, we got to know our fellow delegates. Through Model UN, I made friends from the Philippines, Russia, China and across the United States.
As a resident assistant (RA) that works frequently with international students, I have the privilege to interact with students from around the world. After Model UN, I feel that I have a better understanding of the countries our students come from, which makes me cherish them all the more.
Model UN equipped me to be a better RA, student and global citizen.