This article is published as part of MUN Spotlight, a special series dedicated to Model UNs from around the globe. The aim of this series is to introduce MUNs and their organizers to our MUNPlanet audience and beyond. Today we're taking you to Toronto, one of the world's most livable cities and home to SOMA 2016!
MUNPlanet: Please introduce yourself to our community.
Kyra: My name is Kyra Colbert. I am a grade 12 student at the University of Toronto Schools and am responsible for SOMA XLIV’s Outreach. I’ve been involved in model UN for 6 years and am really excited to be involved in SOMA’s operations this year!
MUNPlanet: In one sentence, tell us why delegates should not miss this year’s conference!
Kyra: SOMA brings together students from all across Canada, United States and Mexico, of all different experience levels, to debate and deliberate at the picturesque University of Toronto downtown campus!
MUNPlanet: Since its inception in 1972, SOMA has become one of North America’s oldest, largest, most prestigious secondary-school level Model United Nations conferences. Is it hard to make conference bigger and better each time and do you plan some innovations for this year?
Kyra: It is definitely difficult to keep improving SOMA; however, each year we expand to more schools across North America and add interesting and unique committees to our index. This year, we’re in the process of redesigning our website to make it more sleek and accessible as well as adding some fun committees such as NATO and our historical crisis on the Punic Wars. We are also looking to partner with the University of Toronto to provide campus tours during registration so prospective students will have time to explore their surroundings and the world renowned University.
MUNPlanet: The Southern Ontario Model United
Nations Assembly (SOMA) is one of the most stimulating and realistic Model
United Nations assemblies in Canada and is led entirely by high school
students. How do you gather the organizing team?
Kyra: We use a competitive application process that consists of both written and interview portions. We want to ensure that each individual on our organizational team has the experience and skills necessary to make SOMA a success year after year.
MUNPlanet: Will this year’s edition feature any exciting workshops or keynote speakers besides standard sessions?
Kyra: We offer a delegate procedural training to help less experienced delegates feel more comfortable and confident with speaking out in committee. We are also looking forward to inviting a knowledgeable and exciting keynote speaker to our opening ceremonies. A few of the notable speakers we have had in the past are: Allan Rock, Canada’s Ambassador to the UN; Chris Alexander, Canada’s former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; and David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada.
MUNPlanet: What should first time delegates do in order to successfully prepare for SOMA?
Kyra: I think confidence is key for first time delegates at any conference. The more research a delegate does, the better he or she will understand what’s going on in the debate and the more comfortable and confident he or she will be to join in. Additionally, the delegate handbook that SOMA provides at the beginning of the conference has everything any delegate will need to know in terms of rules and procedure.
MUNPlanet: We expect that there is a plenty to see and do in Toronto. Tell us one thing we should not miss during our stay?
Kyra: Toronto has a lot of great places and attractions; however, if I had to choose one, I would recommend exploring the downtown core. You can spend the day shopping on Queen Street or the Eaton Centre, catch a sports game at the Rogers Centre or Air Canada Centre and eat at one of the many top-rated restaurants nearby.
MUNPlanet: With more than 600 delegates in attendance, SOMA will probably be offering a huge variety of committees. What are your favourite three and why?
Kyra: Three of my favourites are the Human Rights Council, the Historical Crisis and the National Hockey League Commission. I particularly like the Human Rights Council because of its size: big enough to maintain fresh debate and explore a variety of opinions, whilst small enough to seem personal and less daunting than other, larger committees. I was a guest chair of the HRC at last year’s SOMA and my committee was absolutely excellent and engaging. The Historical Crisis is another one of my favourites because of how fun and impromptu it is. It’s definitely a great option for any history buffs out there. The National Hockey League Commission is one of the more fun committees that we have had in the past. As a big hockey fan, this committee was unique and refreshingly informal from other committees.
MUNPlanet: SOMA is aimed at high school students. Do you think that MUN conferences can awake the younger generation as far as international issues of paramount importance are concerned?
Kyra: Yes. Not only does model UN involve the younger generation in the study and discussion of international issues, it also encourages students to develop lifelong skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution, compromise and cooperation. Allowing students to play out real-life conflicts in an authentic environment, such as at SOMA, gives them new perspectives on the complexity and variety of issues facing the global community.
MUNPlanet: MUNers are very often traveling on budget. Can you give us some tips on the cheapest ways to commute, eat, explore, etc. Do you, perhaps, have collaborations with some of the local restaurants or hotels/hostels where they will offer discounts to the attendees?
Kyra: Our conference is located less than a 5 minute walk from the closest subway station, which is an extremely cheap and efficient means of transportation. Additionally, given that our conference takes place on the University of Toronto Campus, there are many options for food and residency that are compatible with a college students’ budget. We are also partnered with the Hilton Double Tree Hotel to offer reduced rates to groups attending SOMA. The Hilton is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, about a 10-minute walk from the conference.
MUNPlanet: How do you see online knowledge communities such as MUNPlanet helping current and future MUNers find conferences to attend and better prepare for them?
Kyra: I think resources such as MUNPlanet are an excellent way to unite the MUN community. We would never be able to reach as large of an interest base as we are doing without MUNPlanet’s promotion. It’s also a great resource for MUN clubs to find conferences, either local or abroad, to attend and plan out their yearly competition calendar.
MUNPlanet: What is one thought or feeling that you want all of your participators to take once the conference is over?
Kyra: I definitely want all the delegates and staff to have a ton of fun as well as to feel like they gained a new perspective on the world around them, whether from the new friends they made over the week or the debate they witnessed and participated in!
MUNPlanet: Thank you for devoting your time to MUN Spotlight and telling us more about you and your MUN. MUNPlanet is looking forward to your conference and strongly advises all MUNers to check it out. Good luck on your conference!
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