This Week, The Gryphon interviews MUN secretary, Thomas Love, to learn more about what the society has to offer.
Model United Nations (MUN) is a society where you debate current affairs, but instead of defending your own point of view, you represent the opinions of a country within the United Nations. The debates are performed under different UN bodies, such as the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. Through MUN, you learn a lot about human rights, different cultures and get a chance to improve your public speaking skills.
When and why did you join the MUN society?
I joined in my second year, while going around the General Interests society fair unsure what society to join, I bumped into a very enthusiastic Joe Gleeson, then secretary, now president of the society. He told me what MUN did and persuaded me to come along. So, I turned up to the first session, which was quite nerve-wracking. MUN is a society where we debate topics but as members of the United Nations, so as the individual countries. I remember picking up a placard in my very first session, something small: Argentina, I think, or Angola. I just sat there and listened to all of the discussion. I didn’t have any public speaking experience before university, and was quite nervous for the first few sessions.
Does it matter if you don’t have any public speaking experience?
No, not at all. We found often that new members will come along for the first few weeks and just listen. The structure of the debate is very good because there are parts of it where you can ask small questions. You don’t have to stand up and give a big speech – it helps ease you into the debate format.
How exactly do your society meetings work?
We have a weekly debate and we publish all the details on it online usually a week before. If you want to do some extra reading you’re more than welcome to, but it’s not mandatory. We meet on Thursdays, at 6 o’clock, in Baines Wing, room 1.14, and have the debates then. The idea is to try and come up with a solution for dealing with that problem, but it can be very different to a standard debate because the interests of the country you are representing might be completely different from your own personal interests. Instead of thinking, ‘What do I think about European migration?’ it’s, ‘What do Germany, Russia, or Syria think about it?’ It gives you a different perspective.
Do you have anything special planned for this year?
We are going to three conferences in Semester 1. We’ll be sending a delegation to Manchester in a few weeks. We’ve got applications open if you want to go to Nottingham or to Sheffield. Typically, what happens is we’ll send a group of delegates over, and we have links with some of these universities, so it’s a mix of people crashing on sofas or staying in hotels. There are a couple days of debates with a few socials, so it’s a cool way to spend a weekend.
What makes a good debater, in your opinion?
A good debater is someone who can represent his or her country’s opinion well, and is able to improvise. This means that if they have a gap in their knowledge, they can fill it without anyone noticing.
If your society was stranded on an island, what 3 things would you have with you?
A classic staple of MUN would be a gavel, because for any community to function, they would have to put rules and procedures in place, so I’m sure certain members of our society would bring along a gavel to make sure order is enforced. Also, a United Nations flag, because we take a flag along to every session. I think biscuits as well, just because someone usually ends up turning up to the sessions with a packet of biscuits or cake.
Who would you recommend this society to?
Anyone that wants to improve their public speaking and get more involved with international issues. You don’t have to want to work in the UN to join MUN. Even if you just want to learn about what’s going on in the world a little bit more, that’s great. Basically, we want anyone that wants to make friends and have a good time.
Image Credit: http://limun.org.uk/cms/carousel/10_1140w_360h_m.1395675013