I still remember the day that I first joined my high school’s Model UN club. I was shaking, scared of the competition, was selfish enough to not let my male best friend be better than me at this, and quite in the shadows on what I was supposed to do in Model UN. Until then, all I knew was that my English was good and that I knew quite a lot of stuff about oil, economy and Sadam Hussein’s recent -at the time- death. So, I walked in, slightly irritated because I was missing out on a history class and instead had to talk as Liberia on water supplies and the Myanmar issue. Of course, I had no idea what to say. And of course, I didn’t want to talk during the whole mock session, until I was forced to by my English teacher. So, I did what I knew best as the debater I was – I challenged and contradicted what the others had said. Quite impressively, I never thought that after ten years in this circuit, I would still remember that moment but as I am typing these lines, I can recall it rather vividly…
So, I am now supposed to give you a passionate piece on the benefits of Model UN and along the lines tell you what I have learned. Frankly, all I can actually say is that I have no freaking idea other that I am a scared global citizen in a local environment.
You first walk in, with the reassurance from your older peers that your public speaking skills will be improved and that you will fall in love with debating even more. And yet, there will be times where you will be so tired to simply stand and talk, that it will make the registration fee seem like wasted money. There will also be times where you will walk into the room looking only for people to socialize with, or you will be pissed at your chairs for not recognizing you, or mad at your delegates for being crappy and raising so many points of inquiry on matters that you take for granted.
As the conferences pass by, you will see real power getters, people who will suck up to you just to get a spot on fictional power. You will be surprised by the amazing personalities you will meet along the way and disgusted by the tricks that people will do just to get some extra money from you. You will try to teach what you learned to the newbies and you will find yourself tempted to break the rules – if you do so, you will have a damn good reason or you will be so fed up with the hypocrisy of others that you will simply stop caring. You may not speak for the whole conference and come up with the worst joke ever for your closing ceremony speech - and you may actually stop having such a vivid interest in your studies because you are way more interested in traveling around the world and pretending to be a diplomat. Also, there is a high chance of never finding out how mistaken is the Neverland you chose to live in for a while. The real UN will never include kidnappings with water pistols... Quite surprisingly though, the effort to change a trend in the Model UN system is equally hard with any UN reform! Same stands for MUN mentalities, do not expect the pedophile fossile sleeping with underage people to cease attending simulations over a night.
So, here is the drill; your public speaking has to be practiced on a daily basis to remain impeccable, and that will not happen only in a MUN room. Your academic knowledge has to be brushed up regularly, if you are interested in your good grades because, and I hate myself for bringing it that roughly on you, MUN won’t pay your bills. You need to have an actual touch with reality because you don’t want to end up liking jokes related to the fictional universe of simulations, you want to be able to have fun with non-MUNers as well. And trust me, the last thing you want in your life is to have one activity becoming the center of it. My friend, you are a part of a global world and you eventually have to understand it. MUN won’t help you land a job in the UN, but will give you a good understanding of how it works. MUN won’t get you into MIT, but will help you dazzle the admissions committee. MUN definitely won’t help you to conquer the world, but help you understand your place in it. You start off as a delegate, where you have to play by the rules. As a chair, you have to enforce them and lead your group and as secretariat, you get to write the rules of the game. The question is whether you will top your real life game. Will you release your inner Underwood in your everyday life, or continue to be that person with the squeaky voice? Will you be able to actually say how you feel to another person or will you always have to come up with a witty pickup line, because you know no other way? It all comes down to you.
I know you want to reach the stars, same here. And I know that you dream of having, roads and UN wings named after you, but you have to be trained first. When in astronauts training, they are told that they have to survive the simulator - otherwise, they are let go. And they only have one chance, but you get to stand up and practice as much as you want before you go out there. You just have to know when to stop preparing and put yourself in the real world. It all comes down to you.
To be honest, I feel like I am repeating what you already know because this is lesson number 1 that you are taught in the muniverse, how to pretend. And it freaks me out to think that I had the chance to practice that lesson on various locations around the world in different situations. So, as I go through my memorabilia, I realize that I learned a lot from the people standing next to me in each and every one event that “marked” my MUN story. People were the ones who taught me to stay calm no matter whether the sky was falling on my head, people were the ones who helped me go through a bad day, people were the ones who challenged me to excel. And people were the ones who created the absolute chaos that pushed me to form my very own identity and love it no matter what. I saw others trying to adapt to the needs of every situation or other people, and I am really happy that I stayed unique even if considered as mouthy, bitchy, too strict, and judgmental along the way. I was so happy when I was authentic because I now know that that’s what people are so jealous of and scared most of the time: people who are not scared to show their scars and walk tall with them.
People, who know how to tear apart stereotypes because they simply do not think of them as something bad, eg females running crisis. And it gets better when I get to realize that while I type these lines in Greece, I am actually summarizing trips that turned me broke in the short term but vaguely rich in the long term – I know very well who I am and I know that I can care for friends regardless of distances etc. And before rushing to tell me that this happens regardless of MUN, let me tell you this, I really know who I am, and I am not afraid at all to show my flaws because I really love them. You may never find that out. Yes, my all critical non-MUN-involved reader who ended up reading these lines accidentally; my suits and my gavels gave me lessons that you may need a lifetime to figure out. I am idealistic, but I know that there are others like me out there with a pretty good concrete plan of what they want. Also, I know when I really wanted to retire; the breaking point of losing joy when conferencing inevitably has touched us all.
When got the first draft of this piece I sent it to a bunch of friends to ensure that there were no severe linguistics mistakes. Quite honestly, I did not expect to amend it in the future but here I am writing that MUN is not only getting inside a prestigious location but solving real-life problems by implementing the MUN mentality. Take it to the streets, use the strive to change the world as the motivation of acting towards that in small but realistic scales. I definitely sound romantic, but I really hate it when after a conference we see drafts going wasted, wouldn't be fantastic to actually agree and do something for once? Again, the UN has ended up being a rather weird place to be dull of hypocrisy and toxic political correctness, honesty is what was initially led to its creation along with the necessity to cooperate. Try that out and all the networking circuit will come to you.
To conclude, I learned that authenticity is the best way to win over any room and that acting like Underwood, won't get you very far...
In memoriam of M.Z, the last true gentleman.
*This post attempts to summarize what an exceptional MUNer like M.Z would have said at a MUN-fresher, or at least this is how I believe he would have done so. And yes, it is quite emotional.
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