On & Off Campus Blog

Navigating through virtual Model UN
Navigating through virtual Model UN
by Jayden Personnat '21


I was sitting in a black leather rolling chair with my MacBook opened and positioned at the center of my desk. My dresser, closet, and bookshelf were located to the right of the desk while my window and twin-sized bed were situated to the left. By now, you've probably guessed that this is a simple description of my bedroom; however, unbeknown to me a year ago, my bedroom would become the venue for my first online Model UN conference.

During the first two days of August, I attended the Global Leaders Online Model UN Conference (GLOMUN). There, I represented the delegation of Germany and engaged in parliamentary debate on the role of the World Bank in mitigating the 2008 Financial Crisis. For three 4-hour committee sessions, I debated with fellow delegates on issues such as fiscal stimulus, economic stability, monetary policy, and microfinancing, all from the comfort of home. The GLOMUN conference used the videoconferencing platform Gatherly—a platform specifically designed for Model UN. On the platform, participants could travel across virtual rooms and form meeting groups of up to 25 people.

This conference offered me the chance to experience my first virtual "spin" of Model UN. While I would walk from room to room on foot during an in-person conference, in an online conference, I could change rooms simply from the click of the mouse. In contrast to the usual frantic physical note-passing common to Model UN, I communicated with delegates during moderated caucuses via text messages and chat. Instead of raising my placard in the air to speak, I signaled my intent through the click of a "hand raised" button. Rather than dressing in western business attire from head to toe, I dressed in a suit and tie while wearing red shorts and Nike socks.

My experience during this online conference was clearly different than any of the experiences I had in previous in-person conferences such as Yale or Brown. This was a conference where I had to navigate through a new platform, deal with some disconnectivity issues that would render me incapable of finishing a speech, and stare at multiple squares with people's faces for several hours.

Although this conference had its anomalies and outright defects, it gave me the unique opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds and cultures. In my 20-person committee, I was one of the three individuals from the United States; without the restraint of travel, I was able to connect with students from countries including Brazil, Colombia, France, the Czech Republic, India, Poland, and Egypt. Each person had an unique story to tell about topics ranging from Model UN to school to COVID-19. For each new person I met, I was enlightened with a piece of information about a certain culture or background that I hadn't known before. Even while this conference may have diverged from my previous understanding of Model UN conferences, it did what Model UN is ultimately supposed to do: bringing people together.