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This article is published as a part of MUN Spotlight, a special series dedicated to conferences from around the globe. The aim of this series is to introduce the conferences and MUNers to our MUNPlanet audience and beyond. Today we're taking you to Zurich, Switzerland for a special interview with Shuting Ling and Sebastian Lang, Secretary Generals of ZuMUN.
ZuMUN started out as a project to counter what some delegates from Zurich saw as unconstructive and overly competitive MUN experience at some of the large international conferences. It has developed into a small and incredibly familial international conference for delegates interested in truly getting to know fellow participants and being an integral part in the committee debates, instead of being relegated to the sidelines. We want every participant at ZuMUN to expand their knowledge of international affairs and their skills, and to bond with like-minded people, as well as people “across the aisle”.
ZuMUN last year was a huge success considering the tremendous amount of positive feedback that we received via our MUNPlanet Insider program. What are the new things you are preparing this year?
Owing to our fifth anniversary, our socials are really jam-packed: Game Night, Fondue, Karaoke, Silent Disco, a boat ride, a club night… Apart from that, novelties we are proud to unveil are the Press Corps, inspired by a Secretariat member’s positive experience with it at Singapore MUN 2018, and a conference app, thanks to our hard-working IT department.
What are some of the crucial ideas that have been driving the ZuMUN conferences forward? What were the biggest challenges you encountered over the years?
Collaboration and experimentation. The first concept is exemplified by the very fact that the Secretariat consists of both MUN University of Zurich and ETH MUN members. It is one of the largest and most long-term projects carried by only two associations at both universities to date. The interdisciplinarity from this collaboration is indispensable. Moreover, collaboration is what we wish to see in our committees, which is why we do not offer any awards and never will. The Secretariat is very diverse and always buzzing with ideas, which is why we always experiment to counter calcification - the journey really is the destination.
Moving on to the questions about this year’s conference: What is the committee situation? Standard committees or are you experimenting with some new topics and committees?
ZuMUN offers few conventional committees - for university delegates the only one is DISEC. As mentioned earlier, the Press Corps for both university and high school delegates is something we are excited to bring to delegates. Another treat for university students will be the historic NATO committee, which will deal with some of the biggest events in recent history, whose effects can still be felt today. Our crisis director has also been working hard to assemble a backroom of unprecedented size for our four-cabinet joint crisis committee, we really see potential in crisis becoming one of the foci of ZuMUN.
MUNPlanet is regularly researching and surveying the global MUN landscapes, asking MUNers about what they think about conferences, topics, and other things. A piece of information from our 2018 research that caught our attention was that many attendees believe that MUNs are starting to lose their mojo, mostly because of the repetitiveness. Has Model United Nations concept become a bunch of ‘same old, same old,’ or do you believe that MUNs are becoming more and more innovative with every year?
We definitely think it’s important for MUNs to avoid repetitiveness, especially if MUN should remain a relevant fixture in people’s lives for more than just one year or one semester. That’s why crisis committees and very specialized MUN conferences are so important and popular. In the end, there should be ample supply of conferences and MUN experiences for all levels of MUN expertise. If being a delegate gets repetitive, trying one’s hands at being an official or becoming an organizer are always enrichening options. We see innovation both within ZuMUN, as well as around us and think demanding it is a valuable challenge to the MUN scene.
Is there something special about MUNing in Switzerland, besides the breathtaking vistas?
At ZuMUN we want some Swiss stereotypes to come true. We will impress you at our conference with attention to detail, impeccable organization skills, great sense of community and camaraderie and respect. Also, Switzerland is very unique in being a relatively heterogeneous country, and it is fascinating to see how this clash of cultures in Switzerland is just another daily thing. And of course, there will be Swiss fondue included in one of our social events.
How about the host city? Zurich is one of the most beautiful and popular cities in Switzerland and therefore it provides so many exciting things to see. Can you give us a few of your suggestions on what we should not miss?
The Monday after the conference, an old tradition called ‘Secheläuten’ is happening in the city of Zurich. Once a year the historical guilds of Zurich are doing a procession through the city and burn the ‘Böögg’, a huge snowman symbolizing the winter. This is a unique chance to discover Swiss culture. Besides that, the old town called ‘Niederdörfli’ with its various churches and cute shops is clearly worth a visit.
This is one of our standard questions: assuming that there would be a lot of first-time delegates, can you give them some advice on preparing for the conference in order to have the best experience?
It is always a good start with reading the study guides that are provided by the chairs. With that, you can easily get an idea of the topic, which makes it easier to find out more about your country’s position. Besides doing research on your country’s position on the particular committee topic, it is also important to find out something about the relations of your country in general and to know your likely enemies and allies. To better understand ZuMUN’s rules of procedure and practice resolution writing, we recommend taking part in our beginner’s workshop on Thursday before the opening ceremony.
Why is Model United Nations significant in students’ professional development? In what ways can this experience be useful to them later?
MUNers learn a lot a great deal about international relations, politics, and specific committee topics which one would probably never get in touch with otherwise. Also, MUN is the perfect chance to train soft skills that are useful for career advancement in any field. During the debates, one learns to formulate an opinion in a concise way and a host of interpersonal skills, from mediation to negotiation. And of course, MUN helps to improve non-native English speakers’ language skills.
What is one thought that you would like ZuMUN delegates to leave the conference with?
‘Winds of Change - Navigating Through a Multipolar World Order’ is the overarching theme of our conference. We hope that all participants develop a better understanding of this world order through debating and conversations with fellow participants. Ultimately, we wish for everyone to go home with a feeling that they learned something for life and made new memories as well as amazing friends!
Applications for ZuMUN 2019 are still open. Click HERE to claim your spot.