Nicola.jpgAn update from head delegate Nicola, a junior majoring in political science who served on the Model U.N. Special Political Committee:

After months of preparation and research, many late-night meetings, and hours of fundraising, the trip is finally here! I honestly couldn’t be more excited!

Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN) is the largest and most diverse international university-level Model UN conference in which participants engage in a simulation of the practices, actions and debates on topics of the actual United Nations. The SMU Model UN team will be participating in this prestigious global event for the first time, representing the Holy See (Vatican). About 2,451 students, from 275 universities of 53 countries and five continents, will gather in this 18th session of Harvard WorldMUN in The Hague, or “international city of peace and justice” to tackle some of the most pressing issues in the world today.

Arrival in The Netherlands

After a quick flight from D/FW to Houston and then a hop over the Atlantic, we arrived in Amsterdam this morning, where we took a train from Amsterdam to The Hague. The Hague is the third largest city in The Netherlands and home to many important places, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), Intentional Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and even the Peace Palace.

After arriving in The Hague we had to figure out how to get to our hotel. Thanks to some helpful Dutch people we managed to find our hotel and check in without any problems. As head delegate, I had been a little nervous about everything going smoothly and was relieved that we all made it in one piece without any major mishaps or luggage problems.

A beautiful day in The Hague

After settling in, we took time to explore The Hague. It was a beautiful afternoon, which made the city come to life. People were out shopping, walking, picnicking, and it was very easy to get a feel for the slower lifestyle in The Netherlands.

I was extremely surprised by the number of bicycles. Honestly, I can’t explain to you how many bikes there are here! Literally, everywhere you look there is someone riding a bike or there is a bike parked. A fellow delegate told me that The Netherlands is home to more bikes than anywhere in the world, apart from China. That fact is very easy to believe!

I was also surprised by how kind the people are. They were so interested in making sure that you found your way and knew where you were going. It was nice to see such kindhearted people, who honestly weren’t too busy to go out of their way and help a stranger.

After an afternoon of touring, shopping, and relaxing, we all went to dinner. We hoped to find a traditional Dutch restaurant but unfortunately learned that there isn’t a distinct Dutch style of cooking. We settled on a nice little Italian place instead, where we enjoyed group dinner as a team.

Preparing for the week

It was a long day and I’m energized to see where this week goes. I have really high expectations about the conference and can’t wait to spend time with people educated and passionate about the same things I love.

My committee topics are on Refugees, Immigrants, and Racism in South Africa and The Individual Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. I am hopeful that the committee chooses to discuss the second, as I had the opportunity through the Human Rights Department to speak with Nicholas Kristof about this issue when he came as a Tate lecturer a couple of weeks ago. The committee Facebook group’s debate however, currently looks like the first topic is favored to be discussed. This would not be a bad alternative, though, as it is another major world issue that is increasingly growing in importance as the World Cup and elections near.

This trip has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait to see how the week unfolds. Goodnight for now, but tomorrow will be an amazing day in Amsterdam that will include trips to the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House.