This MUN interview connects several perspectives: the viewpoints of an MUN participant and organizer and TED enthusiast, leading a Speaker’s team while studying abroad and in the international environment. Nikola Mladenović was also an excellent host during a recent TEDxAUBG conference in his student city - Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria. MUNPlanet team sincerely hopes that after this exchange you will go to TED.com website more often for a daily dosage of inspiration.
Nikola Mladenovic is currently enrolled at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) where he is majoring in Business Administration, and in Political Science and International Relations with a minor in European Studies. Nikola is an alumnus of the American-Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange program (A-SMYLE) and the former American Councils’ Alumni Coordinator for Serbia. Together with three fellow alumni, he founded the NGO “Think Big Team” in 2010. As a person with keen interest in diplomacy and international relations, he had a chance to participate in few model UNs and a pleasure to be on organizing team of Belgrade International Model UN. At AUBG, Nikola is actively involved in the Student Government, theater production and the TEDxAUBG club, which he started with a group of friends in 2011. His interests also include volunteering, sustainable development, and leadership.
MUNPlanet: Could you tell us about the connection between TED talks and international relations? TED encourages ideas worth spreading and can the ones related to global politics be found on the website and at TED conferences?
Nikola: Frankly speaking, political topics are not really allowed at TED because it is an apolitical avenue for idea exchange. If we look closely, that – talking about politics is the biggest difference between MUN and TED. At MUNs you discuss serious issues and different scenarios – both the realistic and unrealistic ones. On the other hand, TED is a delivery of knowledge that is sometimes one-sided. At TED there is no direct exchange of knowledge although the talks are inspiring and usually held by one expert. One official TED rule is ‘‘NO Q&A’’ but you may ask the speakers what you want during the breaks.’’
MUNPlanet: How did participating at MUN help you in organizing TEDxAUBG, the affiliated TED event at American University in Bulgaria at Blagoevgrad?
Whatever event you organize with other people, you learn how to face challenges. Certain things happen on a repeat and some personality traits appear. You learn how to deal with difficult personality types because in the end it is about knowing how to approach people. These things can be only learnt by experience.
Nikola: There is a similarity between the knowledge I obtained and used at MUN and TEDx, especially about fundraising, logistics, corresponding with your audience and speakers (at TEDx), i.e. delegates (at MUN). Then, concerning Model UN, it is up to the organizers to choose the best topics and team members. You (within MUN Organizing Committee) are leading everything; delivering content, organizing ideas. Also, the chair has the power to steer discussion and help. As TEDx organizer, you have less control over the content and process. You do not know how exactly it will turn out; what the speakers will actually say once they geton the stage; how audience will react and will they get something out of it.
In terms of Model UN participation, if you look closely at Security Council, there are usually discussions about urgent issues when you have aserious crisis. Within Security Council, more often than with other committees urgent issues have to be resolved quickly. During Syrian crisis, for example, there will be the feeling of crisis in a simulation and the country you represent will defend its position, no matter if it is Iran, Russia or USA. You will also come up with a compromise. 5 members have the power of veto and can stop everything. The power of negotiation becomes critical and you need to find a really stable diplomatic solution because otherwise everything fails.
MUNPlanet: Could you share with us 2 things that you like most about (organizing)TEDx and about (organizing) MUNs?
Nikola: It may sound like a cliché but one talk, one 18-minute video can really inspire you to do something in your life. It is a powerful learning tool as you may learn things that you would not have the chance to learn otherwise. Then, I love the actual organization when you select the speakers who you want to hear and you give them the opportunity to share their ideas. So, the person with quality ideas can be heard. Actually, because the videos get uploaded on YouTube, the whole world has the chance to hear them.
At Model UN, you negotiate, discuss, share and these skills are not just useful for MUN, but in everyday life. Negotiation, tolerance and diplomatic skills can help you in everyday situations and the more you understand them, the greater prerequisite for success you have in life, or any business field. The second thing that I like about MUN is your opportunity to connect once and meet again great people. You go to different MUNs in different countries and you see the next generation of leaders. One day we may become politicians, business leaders and we may cooperate closely. Some of the problems in the past were happening as people were separated by their own countries, cultures, the way of thinking. Now we have the entire generation thinking similarly, growing up together, especially in Europe. Also, they have the power to connect and stay in touch via internet. People constantly meet at different places and they can create a better world together. There is a network that grows up together and constantly.
MUNs are great because you develop a healthy way of thinking and doing politics. This concept might prevent many problems because of such healthy principles and developed thinking.
MUNPlanet: In what ways are TED conferences and ModelUNs beneficial to your future career?
Nikola: MUNs portray the environment where I can communicate a lot, discuss, share ideas and get surrounded by outstanding people
It is difficult to relate TED to career explicitly as TED talks inspire you to do something more, to hear more about the topics you like, create your start-up or organization.
In my future, I see myself working in changing environment, trying different projects as I have a wide sphere of interests. TED can inspire me to accomplish those ideas no matter how unrelated they are in the first place.
It might be oversimplified but I think MUN is about different people, understanding others, how they behave, discuss as everybody is interconnected. MUNs are about figuring out how you function in this environment, assessing your way of thinking, learning from others as your approach may not be the best.
TED is about yourself, what you can get from one particular talk because the information you receive is one-sided and from an eminent speaker.
MUNPlanet: Thanks a lot, Nikola! We will also like to hear about your Favourite TED Talks About Politics and International Relations in a seperate text.
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