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by kelvin ong poh siang


began as a fantasy, has become reality.

At first glance, NUS students Sharmeen Alam and Ngiam Jing Zhi are just like you and I – she is a third year political science and economics major, and he a third year geography major. But what you probably don’t know is that this semester, they are also wearing many other hats. Apart from playing the role of students, both Alam and Ngiam are also co-presidents of the upcoming Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN) 2011 in Singapore, multitasking as leaders to a team of 52 members (also NUS students) and playing round-the-clock caretakers to 2300 tertiary delegates from all across the globe. A Chance Evening This all arose remarkably, out of a coffee table conversation one evening eighteen months ago. It was June. Both Alam and Ngiam were at a BBQ gathering celebrating the success of the 2009 Singapore World Model United Nations Conference for JC Students, which they were involved with. At some point in the evening, the group began sharing their previous Model United Nations experiences. “I talked about my fun memories at the 2009 WorldMUN in the Hague. Pretty soon, we were all talking about what it would be like if the conference was in Singapore instead. We talked about the places and parts of our country we’d show off to the delegates. Jing Zhi was particularly interested and we began wondering about how we could end the conference with a beach party at Sentosa, how Marina Barrage would be a great venue for one of our events,” recalled Alam. Their uninhabited imagination has become fact. During the weeklong conference this March, a beach party and an event called Asean Night will be held at Sentosa and the Marina Barrage respectively. “It’s so unreal, so... (Alam pauses to find the right word) unbelievable. These things we spoke about in a casual conversation actually became the impetus for something greater.”

Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions), as well as for the renting of Suntec City as the conference’s main venue. Of these early campaigning days, Ngiam said, “In between seeking sponsorship and funding, working on our image for the conference, looking at potential venues and getting NUS on board, we just went deeper and deeper. By the beginning of 2010, we were so immersed that there was just no turning back.” The process in getting the bid proposal ready was not an easy one. “The preparation in submitting the bid was hectic to say the least. The bid team consisted only of Jing Zhi and I and we produced the entire 100 page document by ourselves, detailing exactly why the conference should be held in Singapore,” said Alam. She continued, “However, before we knew it, we were in Taipei to attend the bid briefing and eventually submitted the bid to Harvard University a few weeks later.” Success

Preparing For the Bid Not long after and without a concrete plan in hand, the pair decided to see where they could go with this pipe dream of theirs. Their first step was to reach out to the Singapore Tourism Board, enquiring on grants that the government offers for MICE (Meetings, AUTHOR KELVIN ONG + PHOTOGRAPH WORLDMUN 2011 ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

And the rest is history. On May 2nd last year, the co-presidents received the news from Harvard University that they had won the bid. It was an impressive feat. This was Singapore’s first ever try out and in winning, they became the first Southeast Asian University in the event’s 20-year history to do so.




“Winning the bid was surreal,” said a retrospective Jing Zhi. “Both of us were literally speechless and had to check with the Harvard WorldMUN team’s Secretary-General, Reihan Nadarajah repeatedly if he was serious!” Nadarajah was full of praises for the duo’s meticulous proposal. He said that “the Harvard team was thoroughly impressed with the overall detail in the bid, the professional layout of the bid itself, and the level of dedication showed by the bidding team throughout the process.” Being Bosses: Recruitment Drive However, the ensuing celebrations following the victory would not last long, much less any time for a break. Now, the two had to turn their attention towards an equally important task – recruiting members. And they had to do it fast. By this time, it had already been exactly 12 months since that fateful evening in June when everything came into being. They would find out that recruitment is a whole different ball game. It was no longer “just” the two of them doing a lot of writing, perfecting a proposal for submission. They were now bosses looking to employ the best candidates to fill the spots in the different directorates.

Being on the other side of the table “felt odd at times”, said Alam. “The applicants were from different faculties and levels of education. I even had to interview some PhD students and that seemed so wrong!” Eventually, with help from the Office of Student Affairs and a series of email blasts, they selected their team. Today, the WorldMUN Singapore team consists of 52 members and seven directorates – Conference, Conference Trips, Finance, Hospitality, Media, Social Events and Sponsorship. *** It’s now mid-February. The semester is well underway - the library is packed every day, students are scampering to keep up with readings and scampering after professors along the walkways with endless questions. But for Sharmeen Alam and Ngiam Jing Zhi, school is the last thing on both their minds. WorldMUN 2011 is the priority. Well, for the time being at least.

World Model UN 2011: An Unexpected Success  
World Model UN 2011: An Unexpected Success  

Article written for monthly NUS magazine, The Ridge.