Using a Semester Break – Model United Nations Conference


by: Frederike Kipper

There are many things an MPP student is able to do during the time called “Vorlesungsfreie Zeit” (Semester Break). A rough two months of time after a long period of lectures and finals during which no more lectures take place – maybe an exam or two and most certainly, your term papers are due. But what else to do with all that time? You can travel back home, explore what Germany and Thuringia have to offer during travels, or make use of the free time and engage in extracurricular activities like spring schools or, going for international student conferences. One very popular one around the globe is Model United Nations. A simulation exercise for students where they engage in political discussions, practice their business English while being introduced to international law and regulations – especially those governing the United Nations.

Students become diplomats for a week during MUNUSAL 2015, a conference happening each spring in Salamanca, Spain. Salamanca is one of the big student towns in Spain and hosts one of the most prestigious (international) law faculties of Spain. Local students organize the conference and were hosting 50 students from around the world, discussing issues such as the human rights violations in Nigeria (given the rise of Boko Haram) or the principles of national sovereignty and self-determination of a people. Heated discussions in which students are encouraged to discuss not their personal viewpoint but truly become the diplomat of their assigned constituent – meaning you might have to justify Russian foreign policy as the delegate of the Russian Federation. This is an exercise that greatly shapes your own ability to understand other viewpoints but also to engage in a true discussion where right and wrong might be a matter of position. On top of that, diplomats only have so much time to discuss the issue – the goal is to come up with a document, a resolution in the purest UN sense, that offers guidance at least or for the case of the UN Security Council, a legally binding piece of international regulation. Time pressure, need for legal research, writing according to the official UN conduct and all that while keeping the discussion going to ultimately achieve a global yet, compliant with your nations’ policy goals, outcome is a challenge to all delegations in the committee.

However, there is more to MUN than the session. There are many students in one place, a university town on vacation, beautiful weather and affordable prices for food and beverages – so only one thing remains – spending your free time together. You enjoy dinners with your committee members, go out at night to clubs to let go of the pressures from a full work day in sessions and just to enjoy the little time you have while in Salamanca. “You get to know friends you did not know you had” is a common saying in the MUN community. And that was certainly true for MUNUSAL and is true for so many more in Europe and elsewhere. I am glad I was able to go for the conference as part of the German university experience – a couple of weeks after the semester where you are free to do what you consider a benefit for your personal and academic development. And for that, MUN is a great support. MUNUSAL 2015 has taught me again so much both in international affairs and law, but also of course, also on a personal level where I made new friends and learned more about, for example, organizing my work day efficiently and effectively – a skill needed when engaging in Public Policy as well.