I recently had the pleasure to attend a model NATO conference and speak at the NATO Engages event, ahead of the NATO Leaders’ Meeting. Apart from making my mum proud, I also gained valuable experience in public speaking and diplomacy. Here, I share my experiences at the conference (spoiler alert: it was amazing!). I will tell you about the model conference first, and then about the NATO Engages event, organised ahead of the NATO Leaders’ Meeting in early December.

A model NATO conference is an event where students get to act as delegates of NATO countries in solving a crisis. In our case, the crisis was a set of natural disasters – earthquakes in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, and tsunamis in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic. Therefore, one of our tasks on the day of the model was to prioritise resources, taking into account both national interests and international agreements. This was a challenge but I am happy to say our three model committees rose to the occasion and the conference ended in a resolution. The day was fun and engaging, made even better by the fact that we were hosted in the Foreign and Commonwealth office. I couldn’t help but wonder what important meetings were held in the rooms close to ours.

I was in the German delegation, alongside two other UoB students, Lea and Kieran. They are both absolute stars, and we spent hours in the library preparing for the conference. We studied everything from NATO’s civil emergency resources to German airports and power stations. The hard work paid off though, because we were given the Outstanding Delegation Award at the model.

The real excitement started the day after our model conference, December 3rd, when I got the opportunity to speak at the NATO Engages event. I spoke alongside Professor Mark Webber from POLSIS, and Capucine, a student from King’s College London. I practised my part of the talk until 2 am that night, pretending my hotel room mirror was the audience, memorising every last word. I fully expected to faint with excitement on the day! We spoke right after Jens Stoltenberg, the current Secretary-General, who is a tough act to follow. However, as we stood in the green room, I was ready to run out on stage and start talking.

To be honest, the speech itself is a blur – I just remember having a lot of fun and wanting to keep talking. The rest of the event was filled with interesting talks on the impact of climate change on security, new defence technologies, and how to engage young people in politics. I got to watch Justin Trudeau speak, which was a definite highlight for me. I am so glad I got to go and would strongly encourage all students within the School of Government to apply for the conference – I promise it is a fantastic experience!