Ever since I arrived at Taipei American School, I had the dream of traveling to another country with a competitive traveling team. I did not know if it was going to be sports, speech and debate, or an art competition. I just knew it was going to happen. Upon arriving to the school, I quickly realized that sports were not a major priority in middle school so that was already scratched off my list but what I didn't know was that there was a program involving the United Nations. The school clearly spend much time and resources to compete internationally because almost every teacher was involved one way or another with the program. I had never heard of this club and was pretty intimidated by the kids who already had several years of practice and experience behind them, but I knew I had a background of international relations and travelling all over the world so I went along forward and tried the application process anyways. Luckily, my dream came true about 6 months ago, October 2016, when I got accepted in the traveling MUN team. This prestigious program consists of a team of 14 kids, all from the 8th grade, which participates in a competition at the International School of Singapore in Singapore to debate against kids from all over the Asia. 27 schools to be exact. International school of Kuala Lumpur, American School in Amman Jordan, and Shanghai American School to name a few.
So back to life before the conference itself. We practiced twice a week, 2 hours each session, from beginning of November until February 24, the day before our departure for the conference. It was not just us kids debating by ourselves after school. We were accompanied by two teachers, one from the IT department from the school and another from the lower school English department. Both were very experienced and thoroughly explained the basics of MUN along with many other useful skills. But this is not where the team of people coming along us stopped. There were 2 high schoolers, both part of the very extensive MUN program in Upper School, that were here as mentors to guide the debate and make sure that all of our work was well crafted, composed with general ideas not just pinpointed issues, and most importantly correctly formatted. These high schoolers, Brent and Dylan, were the driving force that made us want to spend those Friday nights completing our final clauses or final points of our against speech. Without these playful leaders, the team would have less energy overall and we would not have completed as much as we did over the course of our 4-month journey. They also came on the trip because they would be chairs (I will explain later) at the conference along with high schoolers from all around Asia as this is a Middle School only conference. Apart from their serious MUN duties, they were some of the funniest people I have ever met with jokes and made up phrases that will stay with me until the next time I spend time with them where I will hear some more of these thrilling jokes.
Brent Lin Dylan Sun
I especially got along with Brent as he is an Eagle Scout and I went to his Eagle project the year before this conference:
Now to the first day of the actual trip:
It was 11 am when we were all in the bus and headed to the airport. It was a rainy and drowsy day which just added to the excitement of leaving Taiwan. Most kids just saw this as a regular trip, but this weekend’s trip would not only mark my first trip while traveling on a school team but also my 45th country I had been to overall. The list keeps on growing! So we arrived at the airport, did the usual check in with Singapore Airlines and then headed to customs.
The candy that we received at the check-in counter
I took the pictures by the way with a tin foil background, and i thought it would look cool but it didn't really work out :)
Everything went smoothly and not soon afterward we were in the food court, calming our growling stomachs. Everyone started to order so I quickly grabbed some of my favorite noodles with sour chicken and sat down with the rest of the group.
We then headed to the gate which featured an unusual model plane as you enter. The airplane ride was especially nice as the movie selection was excellent featuring Mullan and Lala Land. TV shows featured the Simsons and the Big Bang Theory. The electronic setup didn't stop here as every seat had a USB charge port and a 3 plug charger below the seat.
Four hours later, we arrived at the best airport in the world, Changi Airport, and off we were to the hotel.
Our hotel had a beautiful view on a marvelous waterpark with slides up to 20 meters but unfortunately it is school policy that we are not allowed to swim on school trips. So we checked into our rooms and headed out for dinner. The rooms in hotel were very intricately detailed such as the ones below:
We all went to the mall and searched for our favorite restaurants. My two roommates and I found a nice halal shop where they sold excellent rice with chunks of chicken inside. We went back to the hotel, put our computers to charge, and went to sleep. My friends and I talked a bit and finally went to bed at 2:30 am!
Here is a screenshot of mt Fitbit tracker showing my lack of sleep:
Team bonding was clearly not a problem as shown in this picture:
And yes the kid who is not smiling was one of my two roommates who also did not sleep very much during the trip. The other roommate is the Indian child in the front. He always smiles!
We woke up towards 8 am and headed to the lobby for breakfast. Although today was not the first official day of debate, we would still go to the school to participate in the opening ceremony and then do some quick icebreakers to know everyone else better. We had some time to spare before heading to the school so we all decided to practice our opening speeches. These would be very influential to our reputation as a delegate as it was really our first impression to other delegates. Here are some picture of us practicing below:
We boarded the bus towards 1pm and headed to the school. Singapore Overseas Family School is located in east Singapore and is a pretty large campus. 3 spacious buildings, each 11 stories tall all encircling several soccer fields. And then, in a hangar type structure, tens of basketball courts all sheltered from the rain, a very imminent issue in any south east Asian country.
Unfortunately, today was a rainy day so playing soccer was not an option. Anyways, we went into the large amphitheater, and commenced the opening ceremony. It started off with a nice song from the choir, completely uncorrelated to the topic of MUN, but nonetheless very a nice start to the event. Then the president of the school came to talk and mentioned how his whole career in public speaking began at 7th grade conference and how much it benefited him as a whole. Now it was time to walk into our committee rooms, away from all my friends, and meet some new people. We started off with several presentations, vaguely reminding delegates on how the procedures work and when to ask certain points. Some of these include motion to move to previous question, which makes the house skip to the next procedure and point of personal provide audibility which suggests that the speaker speaks in a more audible tone. After finishing this, we headed to the more fun part of the day. Quizzes. Since everyone in the room had some kind of electronic device, we played this game called Kahoot where everyone in rooms can respond to a quiz hosted by the chair and we try to get every question correct. So we started off with a flag quiz. I completely crushed everyone else by a score of 13000 when the 2nd best had a mere 4000. We then went to type of birds where I only placed 4th but then we came back to my strong game of airline logos where I got another 13000. It was now 5:30 and we headed back to the hotel for a quick dinner before heading to sleep. Just as a side note, we were more reasonable tonight and slept at 2 am :))
This still had an affect on me as I was extremely tired the next day. This picture pretty much sums up the whole situation:
It was 7 o’clock when we woke up and headed to the hotel breakfast. It consisted of some sausage, eggs, toast, and some orange juice. We all discussed our excitement for the competition and immediately after finishing breakfast, we all went around the hotel in search of kids from different schools and talking about the upcoming conference. This was pretty easy as every single school that came from abroad stayed at this hotel.
About 30 minutes later, we headed to the school and searched for our committee rooms. My organization, the World Health Organization, was located on the 11th floor of one of the 3 immense buildings. We started off by all presenting our opening speeches which briefly outlined our country stance, which one of the 4 topics we had chosen to do research on and then we all finished by the same sentence that read: this delegate is excited about a weekend of fruitful debates and wishes good luck to all other delegates. If you haven’t noticed yet, in MUN there are certain words that are repeated millions of times. Fruitful, well-crafted and in an attempt are just a few of these words. Now it was time for lobbying.
In MUN, about 2 months before the conference starts, the school hosting the competition publishes a document stating all four of the topics that will be debated in the conference for each committee. These topics are usually final but in certain special cases such as one of the topics of my friend, the topic had already been debated in the real United Nations so he had to choose a new one. Anyway, each delegate then chooses one of the topics to research on and after doing several tens of hours of research, we put it into a document where the delegate proposes several original solutions that address the issue. This document is called a resolution. You are only required to choose one topic and write one resolution but since our school loves to over-prepare its participants, we all wrote a resolution for 3 out of the 4 topics. Not only does this help us to write better resolutions in the future, but also the debate is more interesting as you actually have done research and know what is happening during debate. And if you really think that one of the clauses in you resolution would enhance the resolution debated, you can submit an amendment where you propose your idea and then the houses debates on it for a certain period of time.
My resolution just for an example: World Health Orginization resolution Loic Bosch (1)
Writing resolutions is a very effective way to prepare and that is why some of us even wrote a fourth one just for fun to enhance our experience. What we did not know was that some delegates from other schools had not even written ONE full resolution. They had no idea what was happening and only hurt the debate as when they were required to make a speech, it was utterly bad and annoyed the delegates who had actually prepared. Next came the lobbying: everyone separates in 4 groups depending on the topic they chose, and then the small group creates a google doc and everyone puts their resolution in the doc. The people then agree on which clauses are good and then the delegate with the most good clauses is determined as the main submitter. This title is very prestigious and many delegates fight for it by saying that their grade for MUN depends on this. This is because many schools have MUN as a class but this way of main submitting as a guaranteed good grade makes no logical sense as I am sure that the directors of the schools prefer that their students contribute to the debate overall instead of main submitting a bad resolution. Anyways, we now started on lobbying. My first topic was measures to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases but when I saw the majority of people heading for that topic, I decided to switch to one of my backup topics of measures to make dental health worldwide and inexpensive as I knew that I would not only be main submitter but I would also have the chance to educate the rest of committee.
Some pictures of our time during the trip:
Thank You for reading the entire post on this incredible experience!!!