By: Amber Nguyen
We checked in at the hotel after a day-long trip. Everywhere, people were striding with confidence. Their heads straight ahead, Starbucks in their hands, pens and paper clipboards neatly spread on the tables, and attire as professional as CEOs of multinational corporations. It was only the meet-and-greet session, the first day of the Princton Model United Nations Conference (PMUNC), yet most seemed to have their plans already mapped out. It was then that I felt slightly intimidated. Princeton MUN goers were intense and passionate, which was overwhelming for me. I stood in a corner dressed in jeans, a graphic tee, and a bed-head. Covering tired eyes, I thought about the next few days with excitement.
Nine students and two advisors from CATS Boston took their seats for the opening ceremony. It was a formality and involved a college-style lecture about something that was meant to be important. I could have easily forgotten it just like any other opening ceremony if not for the eloquent speeches and humorous deliveries of the PMUNC organizers, who were all Princeton students. The way they spoke with self-assurance while making fun of their peers contradicted the ideal model of people in fancy business suits. The whole audience seemed to agree by bursting out laughing whenever the Secretary General jokingly called out his friends.
After dinner I searched for my committee room on a maze-like floor. There were so many more people there than I had previously imagined there would be. Everyone seemed occupied in clusters of people, likely from the same committee. Although most of them were strangers to each other, they quickly established comradery with polite introductions.
Then, the first committee session took place. My committee – the International Criminal Court (ICC) – went straight into business. The chair introduced the procedure briefly before calling on the first case. ICC is a specialized committee and does not function like normal general assemblies: we were a court. Therefore, each individual did not represent a country, but rather a judge for the court. Each team had four to five judges, and were appointed to defend, prosecute and judge different cases. Judges were all unfamiliar to each other, and I was no exception. My team were lucky (or unlucky due to the strain from travelling previously in the day) as the chair looked favorably upon the defense of Ariel Sharon. With extensive research and background checks, I realized that Sharon was almost impossible to defend before the ICC for the crimes of Genocide that he committed. With minimal contribution in the opening statement, I went back to CATS meeting at 11pm in defeat.
The next day was the campus tour and two committee sessions in the afternoon until the evening. After a late arrival to the hotel, I burst into the committee room with adequate preparation that I have gathered the whole morning. My teammates did incredibly well, and the witnesses we cross-examined were all giving answers to our favor. I caught up with the fierce flow of the court and began to actively participate in every case. Outside the sessions, our team met up for more tranquil times to prepare for our next arguments.
We functioned independently then came together as a group to put our ideas into a logical schedule. With sharp questions and distinctive observations (and tons of notes scribbled with ugly hand-writings), my team won the first case and successfully defended a man who was – as the chair said – completely guilty. Now, if it was reality, we would have felt terrible. Still, the simulation of a real-life event was what PMUNC (and MUN in general) is all about. It was a special event for high schoolers to take up roles and emerged themselves in the world of professional politics. Nothing was clearly white nor black, and one’s logically assessments were the key to determine a specific case. After all, our team ended winning another case – the prosecution of Tony Blair – and fairly pronounced Harold. S Truman as guilty.
After four days of hard work and determination, I left PMUNC with pride, friendship, experience and knowledge. Before leaving, we took a walk down the famous Times Square. On the bus back to school at 8pm, I thought of the event thoroughly and decided that Princeton Model United Nations Conference was a great thing before falling asleep.