Things I've Learned From Model United Nations Conferences
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Politics and Activism

Things I've Learned From Model United Nations Conferences

An exclusive nerd club that changed my life

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Things I've Learned From Model United Nations Conferences
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I'm on my way back to school and normal life after the NMUN 2016 NYC Conference and I are tired. NMUN is the National Model United Nations Conference. It's where a bunch of different schools from over 90-something countries get together and discuss global issues and try to find solutions. But they have to do it using the perspective of a country assigned to them. This year, we were Sri Lanka. On Thursday, the day of the closing ceremony where we all pack into the General Assembly hall of the United Nations for one last set of speeches and one last motion, our professor gives us a quick debriefing speech.

He said, "MUN will always be a part of you now. You will carry this experience with you for the rest of your life." And I think he might be right. I've learned a lot about myself over the past week going to committee early in the morning, wearing business professional clothes, trying to find time to grab a slice of pizza while scouring through resolutions and official statements, staying up late to "network" and carefully bandaging my blisters so I can wear my heels the next day.

I've learned that I'm competitive. I've learned that I thrive under pressure. I've learned that there's nothing that can make me feel better than the sense of accomplishment of passing a resolution after hours and hours of negotiation.

I guess I'm a nerd. I kinda always have been. But I'm a competitive nerd. If I was good at any sports other than floor hockey and this thing that the kids in my neighborhood used to play called mud sled racing, I probably would have figured out that I thrive in competitive settings earlier.

I learned that there's nothing more satisfying than challenging myself and accomplishing my goals. NMUN demands a ridiculous amount of work from you. Every year, I challenge myself to research for hours, think about fundraising almost every day, to write this paper from the perspective of a country that I've never been to. Then I get to the conference. I challenge myself to 14 hour days in business professional clothes and then we go out to clubs (#rip delegates lounge) at night. I challenge myself to figure out a way to balance eating researching and listening to the daily UN news segment.

I've learned that I'm capable of doing anything. I've fundraised so much money for this club. I've given speeches in front of hundreds of people. I've studied policy. I've looked at both international and national programs. I have a pretty good understanding of four different countries constitutions and the Charter of the United Nations. I didn't even know that I liked policy. Or the UN. But look at me now. I'm teaching it. I even helped create a policy on peacekeeping operations and got to vote on it in the UN General Assembly Hall. Sure, it pretended policy, but I got to push the same button that the delegates from Sri Lanka do to vote on real (debatable) international policy.

I survived 5 days of extreme stress, minor dehydration, no sleep and foot blisters to make international policy. I can get shit done. And this year, I was a head delegate. I got to walk around from committee to committee and see everyone else on my team do the same exact thing. I'm so proud.

But like, I'm also very much privileged. To get to NMUN, I had to get into college, I had to be in a good enough place to be able to afford to go to NYC for a week, I had to be able to miss school for a week. I'm a white American native English speaker. In college. In a blazer. And although conferences are attended by a diverse group of people from around the world, it's got this prestige attached to it. I have been accepted into one of the most well-known liberal bureaucracies in existence. It's like this weird club of academic elites who like to get drunk and scream about current affairs while trap music is playing. You have to know the rules and dress code before you get confirmed as one of those like yuppie nerds that get high off of academic stress and probably Adderall.

NMUN is one the best experiences I've had in college. I'm gonna do it again next years and I'm definitely going to try to keep it part of my life after school. But the exclusivity of this nerd club is not one of the things that make it great. If Model UN and government simulations are so important to individual development, then why doesn't everyone have access?

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