6.1 Preparing for an International Conference

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Back to Unit 6: Preparing for More Complex Conferences.

When the budget allows, Pace University’s New York City Model United Nations program will take a select group of senior delegates to an international conference outside the United States, such as the Geneva International Model United Nations (GIMUN) conference or the UN University for Peace Conference (UPMUNC) in Costa Rica. If you have been selected to go to such a conference, please note that it will require you to do additional preparation, beyond the conferences that you have attended in the past. You will need to consider how you may be affected by culture shock, the different

a. Culture Shock

No matter how much you have travelled, immersion in another language, culture and context can be profoundly disorienting. You will be out of your comfort zone in many ways – away from the big city, away from foods and climate that you are used to, immersed in a language that may be new to you. You will be confronted with the vast inequalities of wealth of poverty. This mean you will need to prepare yourself for the struggle you may face in adjusting to the new situation. We will send you a few additional resources on culture shock, but here are some key things to keep in mind:

  1. Self-care. Make sure to take care of yourself, emotionally, physically and mentally. Try to avoid straining yourself, and allow yourself more time than usual to relax, sleep and reflect. Go easy on yourself for not understanding and allow yourself to self-sooth through listening to music, reading magazines, watching movies or other unobtrusive activities. Many people find that journaling allows them to unwind and mull over what they are experiencing.
  2. Community. Remember that you are not facing this experience alone. Talk through it with other people. Share your struggles with the faculty advisors. We will be having a daily Pace debrief to talk as group.
  3. Humility. Knowing that you do not know much about the lives of other people will take you a long way. You do not need to impress your hosts with your knowledge of the host country. Rather, try to adopt an open, listening and curious approach

You may also want to read the following book:

  • Ruth Stark. (2011) How to Work in Someone Else’s Country. Seattle, University of Washington Press.

b. Health

Travelling to a new context and climate can be immensely stressful for one’s physical and emotional health. It is thus important that you take care of yourself both before, during and after the trip. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat well and take time to relax and reflect.

Please make sure that you let your faculty advisor know about any medical and mental health issues you may have on the medical information form sent with your application, so they can be anticipated in advance. Make sure you bring sufficient prescription medicines (with the accompanying prescription and/or original labeled box or bottle), with extra in case of an emergency.

Please read through your travel insurance rider to be familiar with what it covers and clarify with any additional insurers you may have about coverage for while you are at the conference.

Make sure you have all the necessary immunizations and have read through the Centers for Disease Control profile for the country you are travelling to, available here.

c. Packing

There are many good checklists out there to help you pack (e.g. http://www.independenttraveler.com/packing or http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/packlist.htm). Please make sure to bring formal clothing for committee and diplomatic receptions, some small gifts for your host family and your conference binder. It can be a good idea to pack a few dry, packaged snacks (like granola bars) in case you do not like a meal or have dietary needs. Check the various country profiles on travel websites to review the weather and conditions for the time you will be at conference will be there to determine what sort of clothing you should bring. (e.g. http://www.lonelyplanet.com). Try to pack relatively lightly – review the baggage allowance information available from your airline.

d. Ground Rules for International Conferences

When Pace University New York City’s Model United Nations Program travels to an international conference, we expect students to commit to the following ground rules:

  1. During the day, you must attend all the planned group activities. You must come to the seminars, committee sessions and receptions that are on the official schedule. It is not acceptable for you to skip these activities, show up late or leave early. They are the reason Pace is paying for you to go. Showing respect for the presenters, organizers and professors is essential – the same behavior expected of you in Pace classes (not texting, sleeping, chatting) applies here.
  2. In the evenings you must stay with your host families. It is crucial that you do your utmost to be culturally appropriate, polite and appreciative, not creating stress for your host. This means we will not tolerate unofficial activities, there will be no meeting up for parties, and no disrespecting your host families by coming in late, being drunk, high or loud. Do not bring anyone back with you to your host family’s house. Stay with the group during the day and host families in the evenings, even if you happen to know people in the host country.
  3. You must agree to follow “the highest standard of behavior while in the host country, including compliance with Pace University codes of conduct, US and host country law.” This means that if you are under 21 you cannot drink alcohol and we will have a zero tolerance policy on drug abuse, including the use or possession of illegal substances. If you break either US or host country laws we will send you back to the US immediately and Pace will bill you for the expense of changing your plane ticket. If you are arrested in the host country, neither Pace, nor the head delegates, nor the faculty advisors will pay bail.
  4. When you filled out the application form, you agreed to act “in a manner that is conducive to and fosters a safe learning environment free of harassment of any kind.” You do not have to accept any kind of harassing, bullying or intimidating behavior from anyone – either a Pace student, a conference participant person, host family member or anyone else. If you feel you have been subject to such treatment, please come see either a faculty advisor immediately and let us know. If we find out that Pace students have been engaged in such behavior we will send you back to the US immediately and Pace will bill you for the expense of changing your plane ticket
  5. Please disclose any medical conditions that you have so that we can be aware of any potential problems in advance.
  6. It is important that we make a good impression. Please be courteous and culturally appropriate with those you come in contact with at the conference and the local community. This is often a good opportunity for Pace to build links with a university that could be a good place for our students to either study abroad or go to graduate school. Even if you do not want to do so, some of your classmates may, so do not spoil it for them.
  7. While you may wear appropriate casual clothing while travelling, once the conference starts you must wear formal, Western business attire.

(c) Pace University, 2013. Version 3.0 BETA. For information, permissions or corrections, contact Dr. Matthew Bolton, mbolton@pace.edu