Dear MUNers, welcome to “Fridays with MUNPlanet”. I am Marko Kovačević, Chief Editor at MUN Planet, and I will be your host in the first in a series of interviews with members of our community. Our guest this Friday at the MUNPlanet headquarters here in Belgrade is Blaž Grilj, one of the leading MUNers from Slovenia. We asked Blaž, a security studies major, to tell us about his MUN experiences, their relevance to career development, and how he sees the role of MUNPlanet in facilitating the MUN community building process.
MUNPlanet: What led you to your first MUN and what was that deciding factor?
Blaz: I joined the MUN club of Slovenia almost by accident. It is quite a funny story. I was sitting in a class, and two girls behind me were talking about this debate club/MUN club, and I did not have any idea what the MUN was at that time. I just wanted to try something new. I asked them what was that all about and heard it was about the Security Council issues. Then I just went for it. I joined the club. At first, I had no idea what I was talking about during my first mock session, but through these trainings and simulations at the MUN club I developed my presentation and negotiation skills, as well as public speaking skills.
I got an amazing opportunity to attend my first international conference, which was one of the most challenging things for me. I went to New York for the West Point security conference as a part of a twelve-member European delegation. This was a really big thing for me, as I joined some of the best MUNers from the United States, Europe and Asia [...] It was an interconnected crisis committee simulation - which was for someone attending their first MUN, a really shocking experience […] A lot of things happened: notes circulated around, the crisis occurred, people talked about things I had no idea about. However, I enjoyed everything very much: the US military academy, New York, a great team of Europeans […] One week after I returned home, I went to Belgrade for BIMUN [...] Basically, I attended two international conferences in two weeks.
MUNPlanet: Do you think that MUNs are addictive, and what is their most addictive feature to you?
Blaz: Yes, sure. First of all, you have a chance to meet hundreds of new people from all over the world. You get to talk about the issues you are interested in. For example, I am interested in security issues and MUNs give me a chance to argue things from different perspectives. I could argue that I had learnt more from a single MUN than from many classes throughout the year. You really dig deep into your topic. You become an expert on the topic you are debating. Even though it is not the main part of MUNs, we have to admit everybody likes to party and that this is a quite big thing at MUNs.
MUNPlanet: How many MUNs have you attended so far?
Blaz: Until now, I have attended five MUNs, and numerous weekend and training sessions.
MUNPlanet: What have you sacrificed because of them?
Blaz: I sacrificed some of my free time. However, I would not really call it a “sacrifice”, since I had much more fun at MUNs than I would have had back home. Of course, I sacrificed a decent amount of my earnings, but then again, it is not really a sacrifice when you spend money on things that mean something to you, things that bring experiences, a lot of personal and professional benefits and satisfaction. To conclude, it is not that much about sacrifice, as it is about changing your plans, changing your way of life […] going for an MUN instead of laying on the beach for vacation. It is just a different approach to your traveling, to your lifestyle, and not really a sacrifice.
MUNPlanet: As a student, you’ve acquired some considerable professional experience so far. You are engaged with OSCE and Slovenian Euro-Atlantic Council. How did MUNing benefit your current activities with these organizations?
Blaz: I believe that MUNs bring benefits to all aspects of your professional career. They give you knowledge you cannot really get in a classroom. You learn how to debate, how to represent certain opinions, certain positions, about diplomacy, how to conduct business in professional world […]
As far as my other professional activities go, I am an Executive Board member of the Euro-Atlantic Council of Slovenia, and the Youth Ambassador to the Model OSCE project.
You learn how different cultures look upon the same issues and you really start to appreciate the diversity of our world […] It actually opens your eyes. You start to realize that you are not the only one. There is not just one way of doing things, but many different ones instead.
MUNPlanet: So, you say it is perfectly possible to integrate your MUN experience as a vital part of your CV. Has anyone ever noticed your MUN experience and have you experienced any advantages when looking for jobs, internships, etc.?
Blaz: Definitely! I would say that everybody should include these experiences in their CVs, because not only that you represent yourself as an active individual interested in things outside the classroom, but also as someone willing to go an extra mile and achieve more. People will value your leadership potential and see that you are adaptable and capable of research.
Everyone who attended MUN only once know how much work must be put on before the actual simulation. You have to dig deep, do research on your country, on your position, you have to step in somebody’s shoes. You never represent your country, you have to adapt to a different culture, to different opinion that you may not believe in, but you have to act as you believe in.
So, I mentioned leadership potential, research capabilities and, of course, debate. These would be three strong abilities that you will develop during your MUN career […] and employers will appreciate that, and this is really changing. I hope that with MUNPlanet this will change even more. I hope that more people will start appreciating experiences that acquired through MUNs.
MUNPlanet: You are engaged with a local MUN club in Slovenia. Can you give us an overview of how the MUN community in Slovenia is developing and how you see the value of having MUNPlanet as a global platform for MUNers?
Blaz: I am a member of the Executive Board MUN Club Slovenia. It is the second year of our club and I would say the whole MUN community in Slovenia is developing rapidly. Two years ago, when our club was established we did not have any body that would instruct MUNers in their career - how to prepare for the conference, how to do research, how to write a position paper and resolution. Now, we have training sessions for all of these. Somebody who is not really familiar with MUNs can kick-start very fast. Once you join the club you will be able to attend your first conference in two or three months.
In Slovenia we have big conference called SiMUN, which is supported by our Faculty. Our club will continue to support the whole community in Slovenia and educate young people and give them skills necessary to be great delegates. [...] I see a great future ahead.
MUNPlanet: I am glad to hear that MUN community in Slovenia is developing rapidly. You had a chance to try MUNPlanet, so, what are your impressions and how you would describe it to your fellow MUNers?
Blaz: I had the privilege of visiting the headquarters of MUN:Planet earlier and I must say they have a really beautiful office and very welcoming staff. I really like the idea of MUNPlanet. It will contribute a lot to the whole community as it is something that the community really needs at the moment. Before MUN:Planet, MUNers did not have some central place where they could connect and debate. Now they do! I think MUNPlanet will also be very beneficial for the MUN alumni because they will be able to share their experiences and knowledge. Having all MUNers at one place will improve existing friendships gained through MUN.
MUNPlanet: One of the goals of MUNplanet is to gather MUNers who could become agents of positive change. Do you believe that MUNers can make for a real and impactful change in the world, and in International Relations as such?
Blaz: I think that MUNers are leaders. Almost every MUNer that I have met so far had a lot of leadership potential. I believe that most of the people who are working in the MUN community will eventually hold leadership demanding positions. I believe that, if we will stay connected, and continue to believe in the values that we share through this MUN world, we will be able to make a change.
MUNPlanet: This was a great point to end this interview with. We are really hopeful that MUNers can be this agent of change in the years to come. After all, thousands of MUNers are attending conferences every year. It was my great pleasure to host you in the first in a series of Fridays with MUNPlanet sessions. I do hope that your MUN efforts in Slovenia will be fruitful and that MUNPlanet is going to be a really helpful tool for MUN community in Slovenia and beyond. Dear MUNers, this was Fridays with MUNPlanet, episode 1, with Blaž Grilj. Thank you for being with us, and goodbye until next week.
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