Illustration by Zharmakhan Nurkhanuly.

NYUAD’s Model UN SIG Attends its First Virtual Conference

Adapting to the pandemic-era reality, members of the MUN Student Interest Group attend their first virtual conference in Abu Dhabi.

Apr 4, 2021

Joining the droves of students around the world adjusting to virtual platforms for activities, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Model United Nations Student Interest Group participated in the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi’s virtual MUN conference on March 18. It was the first MUN conference this year for NYUAD and also its first virtual conference. The conference, which lasted for three days and consisted of five committees, was attended by students from various universities, including 16 students from NYUAD.
The Gazelle sat down with Grace Bechdol, Class of 2023 and the president of the Model UN SIG at NYUAD, to understand the ins and outs of the conference and how it was different from an in-person experience.
Bechdol explained that the virtual conference was very different from previous MUN’s she attended at NYUAD and in high school. “To be completely honest, I did not enjoy my virtual conference experience,” Bechdol added. “It's very awkward, doing Model UN online and having the silence and not having the energy and sitting alone in your room for hours is exhausting and it feels weird.”
For Bechdol, the biggest difference between an in-person and a virtual conference was the energy.
“A big part of the Model UN is feeding off the energy and the body language of other people in the room when we are giving speeches. On Zoom, it’s odd because, between speakers, you have this weird silence where the chair is calling on the next person and they are muting and unmuting your mics,” she explained. “Such an enjoyable part of the conference is the energy and excitement and a lot of times, anger … and you lose a lot of that over zoom.”
Another difference that Bechdol mentioned was that everybody had access to the internet for research during the conference. At an in-person MUN, the internet would not be accessible. This was beneficial for students who were new to Model UN since they could research on-the-go if they were not as prepared.
When asked about the feedback that students provided regarding the conference, Bechdol stated that students were a little frustrated with the format of the conference and new students found it particularly difficult because there was no roadmap for them.
“The experience varied a lot for students who were new to Model UN entirely, it was very different for students who are used to Model UN in person but had never done it online and it was very different for students who had done both online and in-person Model UN,” she explained.
Bechdol also highlighted that one of the reasons students participate in MUN is the opportunity to travel as they get to visit countries outside of the UAE through conferences. However, travel for MUN has been halted for the past three semesters due to the pandemic and this has affected student participation and experience.
On the upside, Bechdol mentioned that the virtual setting was a little easier to follow since it is all on one screen and the chair can share their screen when needed.
“We really learned a lot about how to make the Model UN work in a virtual setting. There were definitely the parts of the conference that were really great and even though it didn’t always run perfectly smoothly … there were a lot of positive aspects of that experience and the actual Model UN, debate style, can translate really well to that format,” she explained.
Bechdol is optimistic about future MUN conferences and as the president of the MUN SIG, hopes to have more internal competitions to enhance student experience.
“Going forward, I believe that the MUN SIG on campus will focus on doing internal competitions and practices while the pandemic continues so that we can give students the most positive experience possible,” she shared. “I am optimistic about opportunities with the Model UN [going forward], now that we know what people like and don’t like about the virtual conference setting, we can create a better system that tailors more to the individual team member’s needs and wants and that would make it a much better experience for everybody.”
Vimal Karimbhai Minsariya is Deputy News Editor. Email him at
gazelle logo