Seven years ago, when I first started the life-changing experience that is Model UN, my twelve-year old self knew deep in her heart what she wanted to commit her life to: international relations. Fast-forward seven years, and I am not only pursuing my dream major, I also have the honor of representing both my University and the United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic in the real United Nations. To say that my MUN career was not responsible for all this would be a lie, since it was through these life-changing experiences that I am starting to make a change in the world through the United Nations. Below, I would like to share some advice so that you can all turn your committee experiences into actions that will have real, positive impacts in your community and beyond.
Always be respectful towards everyone. Just because it is a Model UN conference and you are not with your parents does it mean you should forget common precepts of decency. Furthermore, no matter where you go in life, solidarity and empathy are two traits that will help you and everyone else make the world a little better. We humans are social beings, thriving in the strong relationships we cultivate with others and the possible rapport we build when we help others in need.
Do your homework! If there is one thing I should thank MUN for, it is cultivating genuine interest in research and the world around me. If it wasn’t for this amazing tool, I would not have been exposed early on to controversial and relevant topics such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Reading up on a topic beyond the Wikipedia page will not only enrich your in-conference experience, but it will also help you realize why our society needs well-informed individuals who can craft solutions to the most complex issues it faces today.
Take some time to read the news. Although this can be somewhat tied into the previously mentioned point, it is definitely worth mentioning. The stakeholders in a given problem or even the reasons of the conflict themselves can change in the blink of an eye, and it is embarrassing when you confidently speak about a problem’s outdated trends. On that note, it is also advisable that you read news from as many sources as possible in order to gain different perspectives and form your own, well-rounded conclusions. Personally, I prefer Reuters, BBC and the The Independent, since I notice quite a few other news channels citing them in their reports. Regardless, you should also branch out and follow those you enjoy the most.
Learn to look beyond the awards. As a former member of the competitive Model UN circuit, I once knew what it felt to not win an award when I thought I deserved it; little did I know how nearsighted I was back then. Looking back at the seven years that have passed since I first became a MUNer, there are two things that come to mind whenever I think of a conference: the people I met, and how much I learned. To this day, quite a few of my close friends and international relations professionals I regularly interact with are people I met at a conference. Furthermore, the knowledge I acquired from extensive research has helped me be more involved in my collegiate classes and offer insightful inputs whenever talking to seasoned professionals in the area.
Ask thoughtful and insightful questions during speaker events. At the conferences I had the privilege of attending in middle and high school, there were always interesting panels before and after working sessions and in-committee experts. I remember one of my best Model UN experiences was when I participated as the United States in the UN Committee On Narcotics and Drugs (UNODC). Our in-committee expert was an actual DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agent who worked with drug smuggling and dealing in the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. Although my research helped me deal with such a controversial position, there were some doubts I had regarding specificities of how far the DEA’s jurisdiction could go in dealing with problems outside of the U.S. Because of this, I proceeded with my question, citing some reports and news occurrences I had read beforehand. The agent was quite pleased with my inquiry and provided the answers I needed for several delegations to stop making outlandish remarks about my country and for my bloc to write what ended up being the committee’s most comprehensive and up-voted resolution.
Attend a school that caters to your interests. A wise person once said that it is not always about what you know but who know that will help you get far in life. Year after year, extraordinary talent and fiery passion are wasted because young adults do not know someone in their respective fields. In addition, these determined individuals attend schools which, although are great, do not necessarily cater to their field of interest. What I basically want to say is this: attend a school with good value, but also attend one that helps you excel in your field. To this day, I am grateful and really happy that I am attending the university I chose, for I believe its course offerings and internship office are helping me become a respectable person in the world of International Relations.
Make the most out of career development opportunities. This is also a point which caught my attention when applying to universities: how much better of a professional I could become. My university offers workshops and hosts speakers on a near-weekly basis, providing students with the tools to become seasoned professionals while still in college. I cannot begin to express how much the resume, interview, and even LinkedIn workshops have helped me gain more exposure with diplomats and foreign policy experts. The speaker events helped give me a first-person perspective of quite a few internships or jobs I may be interested in and will make the whole job and internship hunt seem less daunting.
If you have any questions whatsoever, do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org! College has taught me that if you dream it, you can make it happen, and only you are the greatest obstacle standing in the way of achieving your greatest aspirations.