LEIDEN, Netherlands – A Metro-east sophomore from Lebanon, Illinois went to far-east Budapest as a study abroad at Webster Leiden this spring.
Natalie Fuller is doubling-up on undergraduate majors at the university. In addition to English, Fuller is a human-rights major and was in Leiden to complete international relations classes required for the degree.
The Webster international relations program in the Netherlands, as part of a practicum component of study, sends students to Model United Nations events in Europe. In April, Fuller went with the Webster-Leiden delegation to Munapest – the Model United Nations (UN) of Budapest in Budapest, Hungary.
Students had to submit position papers as part of their entry materials in order to participate in the conference. As a first-time delegate, Fuller had to rely on her own initiative to get the paper ready for Munapest.
“They didn’t really tell us a lot about it,” Fuller said. “We had to learn for ourselves as we went.”
International relations major Vesna Ratkovic helped coordinate the trip.
“Natalie just stepped up and told me, ‘I want to be in the human rights committee,’” Ratkovic said. “She had already seen Munapest’s marketing and messaged me herself.”
Fuller ended-up on the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as a diplomat for Germany. Two dozen other states were on the council and the group presented one resolution to the General Assembly April 15.
“The first day, I wasn’t prepared for how intense the debates were going to be,” Fuller said.
Working on the UNHRC was the first time Fuller had worked in larger collaborations.
“It’s always challenging the first time,” Ratkovic said. “Very intimidating, but I think she did a great job.”
Part of the job for Fuller was to represent herself on behalf of Germany, the country most Webster-Leiden delegates represented at Munapest.
“For Germany, Natalie was excellent,” Ratkovic said. “She stayed well to the German policy and her committee managed to pass a difficult resolution on to General Assembly.”
Since the council was addressing three topics in the Latin American region – conflicts within and between Colombia and Venezuela, along with gang violence in El Salvador – the group split-up into smaller groups around each issue.
The first day is usually spent proclaiming your country’s position on an issue. Each of country on the council brought these positions into the sub-groups and had to make proclamations on, and write, amendments for two more full-day sessions.
The second day revolves around defining what your ambassador will or will not accept out of the upcoming resolutions. On Fuller’s second day, each group created their contribution to the resolution in the form of a “working paper.”
“By then, I had become active – saying, ‘This is what Germany wants… I agree with this person, I don’t agree with that person,’” Fuller said.
On the third day, Fuller said the bulk of the eight-hour time frame was spent in un-moderated caucuses to evaluate what each group had decided to put into the final resolution.
Munapest not only gave Fuller a chance to think with a group, but she also saw how people from other countries approached issues like state violence and fundamental human rights.
“Going to Munapest, I was able to see what other people from different cultures thought about these things that were happening,” Fuller said. “I worked with other people more openly, and saw how they dealt with it.”
Getting back to Europe
While abroad in Leiden, senior history major Christian Hoppenjans and Fuller shared an Introduction to Political Theory class this semester.
“Natalie has great routines and habits,” Hoppenjans said. “I know a lot of smart people with really poor habits and Natalie just does the usual, good things that will always get you through, if you do them every single day like she does.”
Since Fuller intends on enrolling in graduate studies in Europe, she has become aware of the all the different model UN’s on the continent. But until that time, her next Budapest trip could only occur within a U.S.-led delegation to Munapest.
“I would seek them out on my own,” Fuller said. “When you are studying at the home campus, you just see St. Louis. You are learning about the world, but you don’t get to actually see it.”
Photo by Emese Bauer – MUNAPEST