Everything a Delegate Should Know before Attending Their First Conference Abroad
Every day, more delegates are encouraged to take their passport and pack their western business attire and research binder to have one of their best Model UN life experiences. During the last decade, MUN has been quickly spreading all around the world, opening the door to a new global knowledge opportunity. Whether it is a conference or a summer program, believe me: it is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Attending a Model UN conference abroad is an excellent opportunity to practice your skills as a delegate, make new friends, travel, and have an eye-opening cultural experience. Nonetheless, attending a conference abroad is also a huge challenge. Here are some tips on how to choose and prepare for your first time as a delegate in a different country.
Before choosing a conference:
Create a travel team. Planning a trip for the first time with your team might turn into a nightmare if it is not properly organized. Identify which members of your team are highly interested in an international Model UN experience, and invite them to form a travel team. Once the team is set up, you’ll be able divide the small but overwhelming tasks of traveling such as choosing conferences or even trying to get the best flight rates. Moreover, by creating a travel team, you’ll guarantee your team as well as future delegates to continue traveling.
Establish a budget for the trip. Establishing a budget per delegate will facilitate the process of choosing the right conference while making sure all the team members will be able to attend. The budget should include costs such as conference registration, transportation (flight tickets and shuttle/taxi from/to the airport), alimentation, cultural/recreational activities, hotel, and papers or permits required (visa, emigration permits, passport updates). As a result, your team will be able to identify which countries are a good option to travel according to their budget. At the same time, don’t forget that you can always get some help with the costs. Conferences such as YMUN (US), HMUN (US), and VMUN (Canada) have available financial aid.
Plan with time. Don’t expect to get the best rates planning 5 months before the conference. The closer you are to the conference, the higher the costs will be. Conference registration tuition as well as flight tickets are more likely to become expensive when they are bought a few months before the event. Moreover, if visas or any other papers or permits are required, you’ll be able to execute them properly with no major worries or hurries. Thus, make sure to plan with at least 8 months of anticipation. You’ll plan an amazing trip without struggling that much with your budget or ending up thinking you won’t be able to travel because your papers won’t be updated on time.
Identify your team’s priorities. This can be one of the most troublesome but necessary things you should do before choosing where your team travels. Plan according to what your team (or at least most of the team) is expecting from this experience. If your team’s priority is to practice a second language, then choose a conference at which the main language is your second language. If your team’s priority is to learn a completely new parliamentary procedure, depending on the procedure you are used to (UNA-USA, THIMUN, UN4MUN), choose a conference that utilizes a different set of procedure. If your team’s priority is to be challenged by a highly academic advanced conference, you’ll probably choose a conference organized by a top university for a high Model UN experience. If your team priority is winning awards, then you’ll probably get rid of options such as THIMUN affiliated conferences. If your priority is having a new cultural experience, you’ll end up choosing a conference located in a completely different country or even if your team’s priority is that conference dates do not compromise your or your team agrades (end of year exams, IB mocks, etc.), you’ll start planning with a calendar by your side. Whatever your team’s choice is, it will facilitate the conference selection process as your priorities become more specific.
Before attending the conference:
Understand and practice parliamentary procedure. Although the concept of discussing world issues does not change from one country to another, parliamentary procedure does. Whether the conference manages THIMUN, UN4MUN, UNA-USA, or a regional standard procedure, learning, understanding, and practicing it before the conference will prevent you from any embarrassing mistake such as making a point in a conference in Argentina, where most conferences manage only motions. Additionally, some conference procedures may provide you with new advantages or strategies. For example, the Colombian standard procedure (mostly in high school conferences) requires a minimum number of operative and pre-ambulatory clauses. If you send an amendment to delete an operative clause and the resolution operatives become less than the minimum, you’ll be able to table down the whole resolution.
Make sure to read the conference rules. Conference rules, as parliamentary procedures, also change from one country to another. This includes awards policy if any (THIMUN-affiliated conferences do not have awards), dress code (conferences might ban the use of skirts or demand that female delegates have their hair up), warnings (some conferences have determined sanctions or punishments depending on the number of warnings a delegate has such as staying out of the committee for a long period of time) and technological devices (conferences in South America are more likely to accept the use of laptops in committee compared to US conferences).
Chair strictness does change. When I participated for the first time in a conference abroad, I felt a huge change in chair strictness. Coming from Latin America, chair strictness in the US was pretty low compared to what I was used to. Chair strictness in THIMUN and Latin American conferences tends to be stricter than any other conferences. Thus, if you’re not familiarized with THIMUN or Latin American conferences and it’s your first time attending one of them, prepare to be a little bit annoyed by the chair on the first day. On the other hand, if you are familiarized with this chairing style and you’ll be attending a conference with a different chairing style, prepare to be a little bit annoyed by the lack of order in committee. You’ll get used to it, and in the end, it is all about learning new things and facing new challenges.
If you are debating in a foreign language, be prepared to experience a little trouble. Although the improvement you can acquire after attending a conference in your second language is amazing, it is not as easy as you would expect. Even if you have practiced the conference language for many years, discussing world problems in your second language is one of the biggest challenges you’ll experience throughout the conference. At the beginning, you’ll probably have some difficulties organizing your ideas, or even making sure your pronunciation is good enough for native delegates to understand. However, as you keep speaking and take with you necessary tools such as a dictionary, things will get better everyday. By the last day, you’ll see a huge improvement in your second language speaking skills.
By: Natalia Daza - October 2014