misc photo of plymouth because Jacob forgot to take any pictures :(

Panthers take France: Model UN at PSU

Luke Young


Managing Editor


The Model United Nations Club from Plymouth State returned from their trip to Paris, France over spring break. They attended their conference and engaged in some tourism before returning back to the country. I got the opportunity to speak to their faculty advisor Filiz Ruhm about their trip and the club as a whole.

What does the average meeting of Model UN look like?

It depends on when we meet. September is usually all about recruitment and telling everyone what we’re about and getting excited about it. Then, when we settle on the number of students, we meet weekly. Part of it focuses on fundraising right away because almost every year Model UN travels internationally to attend a conference. Model UN has been to over 20 countries. From Southeast Asia, Taiwan to Peru, and Italy to London. The trip is partially financed by the university and then we fundraise. During that, it becomes deciding where we want to go. We usually try to attend Harvard University’s World Model UN conference in March over spring break.

 For years, we also hosted a high school conference on campus, so we started deciding when we were going to have that, the logistics of it, and what topics or committees we were going to simulate. But usually, we’re just chatting and having fun. What’s great about Model UN is that students become friends quickly, talking and joking about the week, but the structure of it is getting ready to make decisions on the high school conference, to financing and then just prep work.

What does it take to be in Model UN?

People always assume that Model UN is a poli-sci organization because I’m the advisor and the United Nations is a political organization. It’s not and is open to any major, from art to meteorology. If you’re interested in making friends, building your resume, conflict resolution, or even just the travel aspect, Model UN is for you. The one big thing that differentiates Model UN from other student organizations is that it’s globally an academic organization. It’s an easy way to tell your future boss, “I’m good at public speaking and research. I’m a great teammate and a leader.” You’re telling them that you’re a writer, a speaker, a team player, and know how to solve problems.

How often does the club meet?

It depends because the club decides at the beginning of the semester. We do a poll on what days are best for everyone. This year it was either Tuesdays or Thursdays at 5:30. We sometimes met biweekly or on Zoom, but usually it was in person. You can be a member of Model UN and engage in the activities even though you might not attend every meeting. You can still do fundraising and research if you communicate so you can fulfill the duties of the Model UN.

How did you plan your trip to Paris?

It was a bit tricky. As I said, most of the time we follow Harvard University. The way they decide is through bidding done by countries and organizations around the world, which helps decide which country they’re going to. Under normal circumstances, they declare what country it will be next year, at the end of May. This year it was Paris, and we usually try to include at least a few days of cultural visits around the country. We went ahead and registered because we were lucky enough to have substantial money, to begin with. We assessed how much everyone could contribute, per person, then we did our fundraising. Harvard then assigned us a country to represent in a committee, which was Ireland. What you do from there is start researching what that committee does, what they’re looking into, and what Ireland’s stance on it is. It requires research that you write a position paper on. After that, it’s getting ready for the conference, and individual research, but as a group, we brainstorm and help each other out. We ended up spending a night in Dublin, which was a fascinating coincidence for us because we were representing Ireland and were returning from there to get back home. 

Do you know where you are going next year?

There’s a good chance we’re going to hear from Harvard at the end of May where next year’s conference is going to be. However, Model UN is entertaining the idea that moving into next year, we might go to a different conference somewhere around the world, which might be better for our newbies. Usually, small countries are less expensive, so we’ll decide come fall which conference we’re going to, as there are many options. We want to pick one of a good size and quality with a topic that fascinates us, so next year will most likely be different. We also want to go to countries, so that will probably be Brown or Boston University’s crisis Model UN conference in the fall. We’re hoping to have one domestic and one international conference, but we aren’t sure which ones. It makes sense, because come fall there will be many new members that should be part of the decision.

What did you plan for the trip?

Other than the conference, I did a Versailles trip, but sadly there were demonstrations, protests, and strikes in Paris, which interrupted our plans. A lot of things we thought we would do we couldn’t, such as the trip to Bruges, Belgium. In the past, we would plan that since we were in Singapore, we could do two days in Hong Kong on the way back and see it together. We would visit museums and chat with locals, but this time around we didn’t do much outside of the conference. Harvard plans things out though. During the day, you’re at the conference but at night there are social nights and activities. One of the events was the gala diplomatic at night, where you’re the VIP there, which is a unique experience. The conference organizes a lot of extracurricular activities.

How do you fundraise?

Like any student organization, the students decide what they want to do. In the past, we’ve done Raking for Diplomacy, bake sales, or trivia nights. We did fruit sales for several years, but this year we only did a couple of activities, so we’re hoping to do better next year.

Finally, what was your favorite part of the trip?

I love being with my students and helping many of them catch the travel bug. For the majority of my students, it was their first time out of the country, which I know is a life-changing event. In the past, almost all of my Model UNers became world travelers. It changes you. That’s always the best part of it for me, and it changes my students for the better. I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m glad to be part of it.

Model UN is hoping to do a welcoming event or two, so if you are interested, you can get in touch with Filiz, their president Charles Scott (22-23), and vice-president Aidan Woods through their emails, linked below. They hope you attend their welcoming meeting because they’d ideally like a larger group to go both internationally and domestically next year. The meeting will take place in Rounds Hall 307, on April 18th, from 5:45-6:30.

Filiz: foruhm@plymouth.edu

Charles: cwscott@unh.edu

Aidan: abwoods@plymouth.edu