Inspiration in all its forms makes us feel capable, powerful and motivated to do almost anything, change our habits, change us, and change the world. But sometimes, such feelings are not enough, and we need to take it one step further, start changing our habits, start changing our lives and in the end start changing the world, one step at a time. For me, MUN conferences were probably that first baby step.
For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, MUN stands for Model United Nations and MUN conferences are 1-week simulations of UN sessions done by students who represent a country different than their own in an UN committee or Council. Both high school and university level Model UN conferences are happening worldwide and attracting thousands of participants, but these are statistics you could easily find on Wikipedia. I want to present an individual point of view on this activity and acknowledge its impact it had on me on a personal level. My initial reasons for taking part in an MUN conference were all wrong. I had heard that it looks good on your resume, that I would get away from school for a week and that the social life at such events was great. I didn’t even bother to attend the meetings my high school MUN club was organizing to help us prepare, as my teacher told me I would be fine. She was so wrong. Not that she underestimated me, but she did underestimate the other 400 or so delegates present at that first conference of mine, delegates so dedicated that they had been researching their assigned countries, writing their position papers and sketching draft resolutions for months in advance. I was shocked to find out that some of them were at their 3rd, 4th, 10th or even 23rd conference and all they were willing to do to become best delegate in their committee.
Needless to say, I had never felt so on the outside in my life and managed to gather my courage and make a point of information only on the 3rd day. However, I did not lose time there: I paid close attention to how the students/delegates were interacting in informal caucus, how alliances were formed, how speeches were structured and delivered and learned so much about the UN, the problem it tries to solve and the global issues we are facing as humanity. I was disappointed I couldn’t affirm myself but so inspired and determined to truly become a delegate at my next conference.
And so I did. I thoroughly prepared over the coming months and managed to become 3rd best delegate at my second conference, while representing Saudi Arabia in the Human Rights Council (Saudi Arabia did not even sign the Declaration of the human Rights, just imagine what a great defense I had),following the US and China who won the first 2 spots. While in Germany, I lived for 7 days one of the best experiences of my life. My host was amazing, taking me everywhere, introducing me to all her friends and being genuinely interested in my well-being. It probably helped that I spoke German, and that was another thing I gained while there: invaluable language practice, in German and English. The actual conference was tough. I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to be able to hold speeches, raise valid points and talk to so many strangers to convince them my country was right. Long debates, diplomatic fighting, gathering of votes, all were stressful but entertaining and I immediately experienced what I had missed out at my first participation. If you were active in your council, people would get to know you and as a result it was so much easier for me to interact with them afterwards at our outings. I was never alone, always meeting new people, always being part of a group and made some lasting friendships while there.
I was thrilled. I still am, and I still find MUN so challenging but so rewarding. I am especially glad I am now being able to respond to the accusations I now face and I myself had made while still being a newbie of this world. Some say, MUN has no real value, that all we do is just pretending, not solving anything and only making ourselves appear and feel important while changing basically nothing.
They, and I, were wrong. Perhaps the resolutions we end up with at the end of conferences and that we send to the United Nation Mission Headquarter in New York will not be adopted by the real UN. But we are changing something, we are changing ourselves. By deciding to be interested in world issues we become aware. By researching a country and defending its position we learn empathy and develop an open-mind. By working on all skills needed to be a good delegate, including researching, writing, speaking, being convincing, being charismatic, being sociable, being patient, being focused, being a good listener and so many others we are improving ourselves and become prepared to face real issues and find real solution later in life.
And probably the most important thing of all, we are creating a network. Living and working in such a diverse, international environment is changing our perceptions and helping us form bonds that transcend age, sex, race and all other social barriers and which represent the foundation of our globalised, interconnected world. Not to mention how many of these delegates will become actual representatives of different forums, countries, firms, NGO’s or influential people and who will perhaps use these connections made now.
I, for instance, know for certain I have changed. I no longer fear speaking in public. I now know when to listen and when to talk. I now can be persuasive and I now can form and respond with clear and logical arguments much faster. I now am aware of the international political climate and I now possess a greater general knowledge. I now have memories to cherish for life. I now have a friend to stay at in many foreign countries. I know have more friends and more connections and I now know how it feels to be important. No, actually I now know I can be important and that my opinion can count if only I have to courage to present and support it.
I am now one step further to change my life, my world and, why not, perhaps our world and for an extra-curricular activity do manage to make me feel and make me be this way is pretty amazing in my opinion.