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Students from l’X participated at the National Model United Nations held in NY

A team of students currently in the Ingénieur polytechnicien program represented l’X at the National Model United Nations (or NMUN) organized in New York in March. The final debates and the closing ceremony took place in the UN’s headquarters.

From March 22 to 26, sixteen students from l’X participated at the NMUN conferences organized in New York. “The idea is to simulate the UN international committees on specific subjects, with each student representing a country that is not his or hers”, explains Charles Bernardaud, president of the club called ‘X on the MUN’ which encourages and prepares students from École Polytechnique to participate at those events. “There are hundreds of MUN gatherings taking place every year all over the world”, says Charles, “but New York’s event is the most popular”. Indeed, it attracts more than 5,000 students interested in global issues and international relations and the final debates take place in the UN’s headquarters, an advantage that only New York can offer!

Charles Bernardaud at the Paris MUN event

L’X students representing Laos

Charles adds: “Another specificity of the MUN event in New York is that all students coming from the same university represent the same country”. In March, the students from École Polytechnique thus defended the interests of Laos. “With 16 students, we are a small delegation. Some universities send teams of 50 students or more, so they get to represent major players such as the USA or Russia… But I like the fact that we are more like the underdog! It will be a real challenge to make ourselves heard and to influence decisions, but that is exactly what debating is about!” Charles, who participated to two other MUN events – one in May 2014 in Paris, another in Hamburg in December 2014 –, is now used to what he calls the “game” of debating: “I like making strategic alliances with other countries in order to win the arguments!”

An opportunity to meet students from all over the world and to bring back a prize

Charles also enjoys meeting students from all over the world. “It is obviously a very important social event: exchanging ideas all day long is a great way to connect and get to know one another.” On the first evening, an opening ceremony was organized for all participants – the Diplomat’s Ball – where students from École Polytechnique stood out with their uniform. The closing ceremony, when prizes were awarded, was also one of the highlights of this 5-day experience. Charles explains: “There are three types of prizes: ‘Best Delegate’ awarded to the students who show the best debating skills in each Committee, ‘Distinguished Delegate’ given to the second best and ‘Best position paper’ distinguishing the students’ written skills as showed in the papers we all have to hand in before the conferences.”

So what is the secret for winning one of those prizes? Charles, who won the ‘Distinguished Delegate’ award at a previous MUN event he attended, stresses the importance of the preparation work: “you obviously have to learn a lot about the country you represent – its history, its economic assets and weaknesses, its politics… – but you also have to know which countries can become its allies and why”. To get ready for the debates, students at l’X can also attend English MUN classes taught by professors Denis Hirson and Luc Shankland. Charles concludes: “Winning an award at the NMUN is a big deal – it can actually become a real competitive advantage later on, especially for students hoping to do a career in politics or international relations – but above all, it is a very fun and exciting experience!”