After a series of rigorous “sprints,” in which William & Mary students attended Model United Nations conferences at Columbia, Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania, McGill, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Harvard, the University of Chicago and New York University, the Tribe team recently participated in a diplomatic marathon that took on the world.
Nine students – Carolyn De Roster ’17, Somya Shankar ’18, Liam Arne ’18, Lucas Leblanc ’15, Alison Roberts ’15, Torey Beth Jackson ’16, Lydia House ’16, Zachary Smith ’17 and Remington Pool ’18 – traveled to Seoul, South Korea, for the week-long World Model U.N. (WorldMUN) conference. The Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Harvard co-hosted.
Shankar and De Roster both described WorldMUN as "a marathon and not a sprint,” and one that requires unflagging motivation and energy.
“It offers an unparalleled expression of passion for changing the world and interest in genuine diplomatic cooperation,” Arne added. “It challenges you to thrive in an unfamiliar environment and meet people from around the world. It provides a venue that can expand upon your international perspective.”
Delegates from 115 countries were on hand, mixed and matched into teams, each given a topic to explore from various angles. The W&M students debated at length and prepared resolutions on the rights of indigenous people, women's rights and Millennium development goals.
Finally, it was time for the team to put into practice the speech drills, writing practice and research on topics in international relations it had worked on as often as five days a week the previous two months.
In the end, four students – De Roster, Shankar, Arne and Leblanc – brought home Diplomacy Awards, acknowledgements from the Harvard Secretariat of great diplomatic and negotiation ability, in addition to excellent speaking and writing skills.
Leblanc, who ran the application process that produced the W&M contingent, said the award “recognizes (the four) as some of the most agile international relations students in the world.”
For Arne and Shankar, it also represented affirmation.
“I had yet to come into my own regarding collegiate MUN yet, so the WorldMUN award meant a lot to me,” Arne said. “Winning that award meant that I was now one of the best Model UN delegates in the world. It meant that I deserved to be at that glorious conference. It meant that I might actually make a change in the world someday.”
Shankar called it “probably the single greatest moment of my life to date. It took me a solid two hours to stop shaking in disbelief. It was simply wonderful.”
De Roster said she was so consumed with the other winners she missed the moment her name was called.
“The rest of our team had to force me out of my seat because I was in such shock still,” she recalled. “Winning the award was extremely surreal.”
William & Mary represented Indonesia. Ultimately, Leblanc and De Roster were placed on the U.N. Legal Committee.
“My partner and I were very well paired,” De Roster said. “I was strongest in writing the resolution and working outside the committee room on merging documents, while my partner was strongest in making strong speeches that rallied others in our favor, and allowed us to gain committee recognition.
“Both of us were highly motivated to win, and thus never fell off the committee radar. I think what solidified our win in the end was that on the last day, as most other delegates were burned out, we continued to strive for compromises through the process of submitting amendments, which really made us stand out.”
The position for which Arne and Shankar advocated encompassed 50 slides, lasted more than an hour and included a feedback session Arne described as “grilling.”
“I learned so many things about different cultures and traditions and it truly was an amazing experience,” Shankar said. “I don't think anyone could say that they have experienced something as amazing as WorldMUN unless they actually go to it. I definitely look at the world differently post-WorldMUN. It makes the world seem smaller to me than it was before.”
Indeed, the De Roster-Leblanc group included students from, Belgium, Venezuela, Algeria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – all representing countries such as Brazil, Morocco and Sudan.
Meanwhile, Shankar and Arne made new friends from Australia, Belgium, Venezuela, Singapore, Lebanon and other countries.
Arne, who plans to study at St. Andrews the next two years, came home with more than a Diplomacy Award.
“At the last social event, one of the [Indonesian] delegates approached me and offered me the international chair position at his conference at President University in Indonesia in September,” he said. “They were so impressed by our knowledge and kindness during debate that I hope to be staffing their conference as the only American/Westerner. The week at WorldMUN changed my life.”