The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

Model UN attends Harvard conference

From January 25 to 28, Model United Nations (UN) members, representing Malaysia, participated in a total of twenty hours of committee at the 71st Harvard Model United Nations conference. The event hosted schools from over 60 different countries, amounting to around 4,000 attendees. 

According to Evan Schmidt, social studies teacher and Model UN advisor, students debated a wide range of global issues in committee, including the conflict in Western Sahara, the militarization of space, and female representation within the labor market.

“Our students had researched Malaysia’s position on these topics and then came together with students representing other countries in order to write resolutions, with the hopes of the resolutions they supported being passed,” Schmidt said. “Essentially, it is a simulation of what actually happens in the [UN]’s general assemblies and specialized bodies.”

Due to significant travel delays, the group was forced to forgo scheduled activities and head straight to committee upon arrival. However, on the second day, they received a guided tour of Harvard’s campus led by Alexis Hu, SHS alumna and current freshman at Harvard, who discussed college life and her recent experiences. In their free time, the group also explored historic sites such as Faneuil Hall, walked along the Freedom Trail, and ice-skated at Time Out Market Boston.

Sonia Bendre, senior and president of the Model UN Executive Board, is on her second Harvard trip. She appreciated the mix of committee sessions and leisure activities.

“I think it was a really good time and probably the best trip yet,” Bendre said. “It was a good balance of free time and committees … [and] it was fun because we took the sessions seriously, but we also got to play hard.”

Nathan Berkowitz, junior and first-time participant in the trip, found the experience to be more challenging than previous ones.

“To prepare, I had to write a position paper, which I had to do a lot of research for based on Malaysia’s views,” Berkowitz said. “I’d say most of it was research for my country’s views on the topics, and then taking notes on those views, printing them out, and getting them organized for committee.”

Club members engaged in various other methods to get themselves ready for the conference. Bendre, along with her fellow Board members, led meetings every Monday, covering topics such as position paper writing and expectations in committee. 

In addition, the club arranged a presentation by guest speaker Hasnah Hussin in early January. Hussin, a Rohingya Muslim born in Malaysia, shared her experiences fleeing violence in Myanmar and her time with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a UN agency aiding refugees in escaping persecution, seeking employment, and obtaining citizenship. Currently, she assists refugees in the settlement process in the Southeast Wisconsin region.

“I read about her story in the Journal Sentinel and I emailed her and I said, ‘Would it be possible for you to speak to our students, because we’re representing Malaysia?’” Schmidt said. “That was a really interesting conversation that we got to have with her, and another way to be prepared.”

A significant challenge faced by students was asserting themselves amidst their peers from other schools.

“It can be a challenge to have your voice be heard,” Schmidt said. “I think [getting involved is the hardest], either by speaking, writing, or working with other delegates.”

Despite the challenge, Berkowitz made it a goal to actively participate and get out of his comfort zone.

“One of the biggest challenges was getting a word in, and one of the only ways to overcome that was by putting myself out there, so I pushed myself to do that,” Berkowitz said.

According to Bendre, there were additional committee-related obstacles for the group to overcome.

“I think a lot of times, people who are giving speeches at Harvard will sound really intimidating … but they don’t actually have a lot of things to say,” Bendre said. “You have to learn how to navigate those kinds of personalities while also trying to include as many people as possible in all of the discussions that you have.”

Berkowitz found the departure from the midwest, as seen in other major conferences such as Northwestern and Carthage, to be rewarding.

“One highlight from committee was working with a wide range of people from all over to make resolutions,” Berkowitz said. “It was interesting because there were people from all over the world, rather than just from Wisconsin or the United States.”

Bendre, who herself made a close friend from Brazil on the trip, further emphasized the importance of connections with others and also the creation of smaller groups in order to voice opinions effectively. Additionally, in her role as president, she aims to encourage participants to speak up if they disagree with others’ ideas.

“I want to make everyone in the club comfortable enough to speak and to know that what they’re saying matters,” Bendre said. “I think that’s an important skill that Model UN teaches you.”

In the future, Schmidt hopes that what he believes is an already-high level of interest in the club will continue to strengthen. 

“I always would hope for more participation, and I hope that every student knows that being a member of this club is possible,” Schmidt said. “There’s a lot of different topics that I feel like students are interested in, and looking at those through the lens of a country can be interesting.”