From Knights to New Yorkers

The Bishop’s MUN Team Travels to NYC for Columbia’s MUN Conference and sightseeing.

As I took my first step onto the airplane, I felt a sense of honor and excitement to attend the Columbia Model United Nations Conference and Exposition (CMUNCE) in New York City with the Bishop’s MUN team. Over the course of four packed days, my teammates and I participated in simulations of the UN General Assembly and Crisis Events where “students perform an ambassador role while debating topics such as gender equality, climate action, global health, and more,” according to The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).

Many of my teammates, such as Marina Khoury (‘24), Kasie Leung (‘23), Emmie Kao (‘25), Dylan Navarette (‘24), and Jonas Pfefferman (‘24), found that the conference was super fun. Other teammates, such as Eliana Leff (‘26) and Selene Wang (‘25), appreciated that the conference was well organized. Sophia Bao (‘25), Nason Li (‘25), Sydney Chan (‘24), and Summer Hu (‘25) also attended the conference. We engaged in challenging and fast-paced debates and explored Manhattan’s famous buildings, subways, and markets. 

The advisors of the team, History teachers Ms. Abby Perelman and Mr. Matthew Valji, gave us countless advice when we needed it and helped us navigate through the “hustle and bustle of the city,” as Mr. Valji put it.

CMUNCE was in the back of the minds of the advisors in the spring of 2022. Mr. Valji and Ms. Perelman started “planning intensively in September when we registered for the conference,” according to Ms. Perelman. There were many things the advisors had to do, for example, “gain approval from [the] school, budget, create applications, read applications and decide, figure out money collection, packing list, flights, hotels, policies, and procedures, etc,” said Mr. Valji. But in the end, Mr. Valji said that they are happy to do it due to the rewards it gives students.

Out of all the 12 students who went to CMUNCE, I was the only one who did a General Assembly (GA) committee. I participated in the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM) as a representative of Azerbaijan. The overarching topic we discussed was climate change and its impact on cultural erosion and natural habitats. Due to some error, I was placed in a dual delegation committee — two delegates from the same school work together and represent one country – on my own. That was the most stressed I have ever felt. But all things aside, it allowed me to not only debate a topic I was passionate about but also create solutions and compete with other excellent delegates.

However, a majority of knights attended crisis committees. Crisis committees are fast-paced and instead of representing a country, students represent a character or a person, and every 30 minutes to an hour, there is a crisis update that changes the focus of the debate. Marina Khoury (‘24) took part in the Incan Civil War and Spanish Conquest, 1532 crisis committee, in which delegates had to work together and solve a power vacuum. In working to find a solution, she said, “there were a lot of attempted power grabs and even more accusations. We served cyanide-spiked lemonade, built underground prisons, convicted two delegates of treason, and sacrificed our ruler.” Selene was part of the Taliban Shura crisis committee. As a representative in the Islamic council, Selene and other delegates had to decide how to resolve the humanitarian crisis that took place during the committee. She said that she had to “develop solutions to build oil pipelines, [and] implement opium taxes.” 

Eliana took part in the Twilight Joint Crisis Committee (JCC): a committee based on fantasy novel, Twilight, in which tensions were high between the Quileute tribe and Cullen Clan It was the delegates’ job to negotiate these tensions. Eliana had an eventful 16 hours as her committee created “hybrid mythical creature armies, [made] peace treaties, and [and invented] a new type of UN!” said Eliana. “We had a delegate go on trial, assassination attempts, private investigators, superpowers, and more!” Many Bishop students’ crisis committees came to wild conclusions.

Sydney was the only member of our team to participate in a specialized committee–The Press Corps. A specialized body is a mix of GAs and crisis committees that cover historical and modern-day topics. Sydney said, “Instead of participating in formal debates and attempting to divert crises, delegates in this committee were assigned a publication to represent and a committee to follow and write articles on throughout the four days of the conference.” She was assigned to The Guardian and was in charge of reporting on the CMUNCE Nigeria-Biafra Civil War committee which was “a really fascinating conflict,” Sydney said. She went on to say that during the first two-hour session, the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War committee was sharing snacks and drawing funny characters on the whiteboards. 

Two panel discussions on the topics of cyber security and nuclear disarmament were offered during a midday break on the third day of the conference. The panelists for the cyber security symposium discussed how cyber security plays out in the current Russia-Ukraine Conflict, how crucial it is to the world, and how it works. The nuclear disarmament symposium discussed how “nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to humanity and the different solutions and agreements to disarm nuclear weapons,” said Dylan.

The Columbia MUN Trip was not all about the conference as we visited many tourist sites, such as The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the UN building, the Chelsea Market, World Trade Center, Wall Street, and more. 

Dylan noticed the different ambiance of each site. “The 9/11 Memorial was a good place to truly reflect on our nation’s history and how something that seems far away from us really affected real people,” he said. Dylan added, “The UN Headquarters had a special feel to it because we were there for a MUN conference and it was something we had learned about in the MUN club. As for Times Square, it was exciting to just stand in the middle of it all and take in the bright lights.” Jonas also enjoyed the variety of perspectives the places brought. He said, “Seeing each one felt like the establishing shot in every movie set in New York.”

Most of all, Dylan’s favorite tourist destination was Hershey’s Chocolate World because he has a massive sweet tooth and loves chocolate. Hershey’s Chocolate World was a store that contained tons of chocolate from Kit Kats to Hershey’s. One could buy pillows, milkshakes, king-sized candy, and more. Dylan had a giant s’more and a milkshake, giving both a 10/10 rating. Jonas, on the other hand, said that the UN building was his favorite.

Lasting memories were created from this conference. Dylan and I did the griddy dance at the San Diego International Airport after winning awards; it is something we both will remember forever. Emmie said that the conference was, “one of the funniest —if not the funniest — I’ve been to.” 

Ms. Perelman also said, “ [the students] also had the opportunity to grapple with complex issues, and, in so doing, they refined their public speaking, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.” 

On the last night of the conference, we hung out as a team together in the elevator lobby. We played UNO while sitting or lying down on the floor and eventually transitioned into playing Crazy 8 in our hotel rooms as a team. Dylan said that the conference made the bond between the team tighter and created new experiences.

In the end, Mr. Valji said, “Your generation is going to take up the mantle of climate action, of war and peace, of poverty, etc.” He added, “ultimately your generation is going to be in charge, which is why I think that these opportunities are important to help students begin to see both the problems in the world and the ways we can try to address them.”