Students broaden perspectives at Model United Nations conference in Berlin



Students on the Model UN trip relax after their time at the Model United Nations conference in Berlin.

Rachel Lee, Staff Writer

A conference room echoing with debates about international negotiations and diplomatic issues appears to be a scene for professional political figures, but the voices communicating these ideas belongs to none other than a group of high school students.

In November, eight members of Brookline’s Model United Nations (MUN) club attended an MUN conference in Berlin where they took on the roles of representatives for Israel and Kazakhstan. The international connection broadened global views and perspectives for the MUN students.

Despite the fact that the MUN club has gone on numerous trips within the country, senior Chris Gaehde, a leader of the club, noticed differences between the Berlin trip in comparison to the other domestic conferences due to the international aspect.

“We were all English speaking, but people were from all different parts of Europe, all different parts of Asia. That was a really interesting experience because you’re always adopting different views from different countries, but these people also share the views of these different countries,” Gaehde said. “It was interesting to talk to them in and out of debate.”

Gaehde said that MUN pushes the ability to take on new perspectives and argue points of views that one would not normally take, especially in a more global setting such as Berlin.

“It allows you to really step out of your comfort zone and not always debate with kids from the same culture zone and same cultural setting as yourself,” Gaehde said.

Social studies teacher and MUN club advisor Noah Gronlund-Jacob noted the high caliber of debate seen at the Berlin conference and the elite level that the competition functions at.

“We like that we’re competing with strong students — students that we can learn from, students that we can hopefully teach. And then once we’ve learned from them, we can bring that back and not only strengthen the students that went, but pass those lessons on to the next generation,” Gronlund-Jacob said. 

Senior Brandon Chen, another student leader in the club, said that in addition to the advanced level of debate at the conference, the ability to make international connections made this conference unique.

“An overarching theme was connecting with kids who are from all around the world. That’s always the most special part,” Chen said. “It’s making friends who live thousands of miles away or hundreds of miles away or even go to the same school as you. It brings people closer together.”

According to Chen, MUN provides an environment for students to understand issues through a global context and gives the opportunity to argue multiple perspectives.

“What it does is it reaffirms our commitment to showing kids that there’s a whole other world out there,” Chen said. “MUN itself is about broadening perspectives on an international level.”

Gaehde said that from his experience in the club, he has taken steps to grow as a public speaker and an analyzer when put in these global context situations.

“MUN is three hours of people getting up and speaking in front of a group,” Gronlund-Jacob said. “It’s definitely sort of building an acceptance, a familiarity in front of a group and talking to a group of strangers.”

According to Gaedhe, although there are numerous beneficial outcomes from participating in MUN, there still remains the challenge of trying to integrate a more diverse community within the high school’s own club.

“We’re trying to look to ways to expand and make this a more comfortable zone for everybody to become involved,” Gaehde said. “If it’s really homogeneous just from the outside looking in, less people are going to join or stay, so we’re trying to work on that and help the next recruits of MUN.”

Additionally, according to Chen, one of the most important qualities of being an MUN member is the ability to adapt and learn, whether it be growing from your peers or from your own self.

“You need to know how to learn and how to learn quickly,” Chen said. “You don’t have to be a great public speaker, you don’t have to be some sort of international whiz kid, you just have to have a commitment to learning and a commitment to improving yourself. That’s all you need.”