With secret note passing to their crushes, late night talks during the conference and many more social opportunities to engage in butterflies-in-the-stomach enduring conversations with your crush, delegates at an MUN conference fall in love left and right. This phenomenon is not unusual; I’ve seen it several times happened at my own conference as well as at other conferences I’ve helped manage. Whether you’re a student officer, delegate, faculty advisors or administrative staff–we all grapple with this behind-MUN phenomenon.
The management team of each MUN conference has developed different approaches for this phenomenon. Some strictly prohibit it; some are a bit more lax; some don’t simply pay attention; some actively encourage it. (Words of advice: don’t attend the one that actively encourages dating culture on the MUN floor. I’ve rarely seen a conference with such culture being able to succeed in delivering its educational mission.)
I cannot claim to know the right way to approach this phenomenon from the management’s perspective. I know too well that regardless of the management’s standards, students are going to do what they want to do; management as well as the student officer team has a very little power to control a matter like this, especially as this MUN dating culture is often viewed by many as innocent, cute and inevitable.
So this article is rather for students who will have a choice to fall in love on the MUN floor (that’s almost all participants). I write this so you as a young adult can make a conscience decision, the one that is going to be good for your heart and mind.
There are mainly two reasons why people declare their love in MUN conferences.
#1. MUN conferences are far more conducive to growing romantic feelings than you think.
You would imagine that with all the intense debates and diplomatic lobbying people would become detached, focused and driven—and they do. But they also become more empowered to view another in a romantic light, especially as they become more invested in the powerful role they’ve given to play on the MUN floor.
You’re dressed up to speak on behalf of a country. You take charge. You demand attention. People listen. You’re in control. You’re looked up to. You’ve instead got a country behind you that you’re responsible for.
Students are given an opportunity for days that have never been available to them before. It involves power, looking neat, being able to lead, network and simply being fancy. This role takes over their reality for the duration of the MUN conference. Their first name becomes their second identity; their role on the MUN floor takes over. From the moment they enter the MUN floor and until they close, they’re referred to as the “Delegate of South Korea” rather than “Alexandra”. This alone gives them a powerful incentive to think, act and behave differently from their usual, less-powerful selves.
As they remain as the delegates, students are encouraged to put aside their reality as well as their name. Academics, social responsibilities…they are temporarily shut down. Debate and lobbying continue. A day into the conference, most students confess feeling the sudden rush of irresistible emotions: excitement, enthusiasm, passion, pride. They feel empowered; inspired; admired; respected. These emotions from debate and lobbying allow students to engage their emotional faculties–the ones that students often had to shut off during their academic careers–in what feels like a real “outside world”, the one that they will head into after they graduate.
Now that the emotional faculties are turned on and fully channeled, they use them–on people around them. Throw in an attractive opposite sex (who is almost always there in the same committee and often in the same resolution group for their convenience to fall in love!), and the emotional faculties take off. Why would they not fall in love?
At this point, the opposite sex not only is on his/her best behavior but also is at his/her best looking self. That’s part of the student’s responsibility as on the MUN floor: to look presentable, fashionable, likable (hey, you need the votes), and respectful. So with students’ emotional faculties fully engaged and with students’ appearance and behavior at their very best, we’ve got a literally perfect surrounding for infatuation, crush, attraction, and our grandest emotion–love.
#2. It is easy to confuse the message with the messenger.
MUN conferences are designed for a role-playing. As a delegate, chair and secretariat you’re given a responsibility to deliver a message that is partially someone else’s (the country you’ve been assigned to represent). Don’t get me wrong—you will have to own the message. You have to be able to project yourself onto the message of your prescribed character. (I discuss more specifically about this power of role-playing in my upcoming article. Please stay tuned!)
But your message—world peace, justice and love—is what you represent. It’s not who you are, what you can accomplish alone. That’s why you’re on the MUN stage: to ask others to join you in accomplishing these wonderful goals. What you can and should do on the MUN stage then is to be a faithful, truthful messenger of the message you are trying to convey. Good delegates are good at doing exactly this. They know the character they’ve been assigned to play; they embody the character. They know from their research exactly what their character wants them to say on the MUN stage. They project such message with practiced charisma; well-thought-out plans; carefully-carved-out tactics; and other qualities they are able to bring from their practice and research.
A number of students often forget that the delegate at the podium is a messenger, not the message itself. Students fall in love with what they stand for (as they absolutely should): justice, love, peace, and all the ideas that drive the UN. But it’s those ideas—the ideas that make the UN so great and the MUNs around the world so worthwhile—that students fall in love with, not the conveyer of the these ideas. Erase these ideas that the delegates promote in the MUN and you get someone overly stressed about academics, someone just as confused about their own future, and someone who still has a lot to mature.
Off the MUN stage, the messengers are students, a lot to learn, a lot to grow, and a lot ahead. That’s why MUN brought them together in the first place: to foster their personal, academic and intellectual growth. Delegates are students, eager to learn, grow and succeed, as they should through their experience with the MUN.
As someone who has experienced a lot of what MUN has to offer, please allow me at this point to offer a sisterly advice.
MUN dating does not work.
I’ve heard of several wonderful stories in which people who met at MUN fell truly in love and even got married, but they are stories one in a million. Dime a dozen are accounts of heartbreaks and excessive nostalgia for something that was fictional to begin with. Love that began on the MUN stage often makes the student look back on that particular MUN and want to go back. All MUNs hold this magical power to create in students a sense of longing, but that sense of longing is not what MUNs have been built to create.
MUNs are built to help you envision a clearer, brighter future. They are designed to help you realize that a future even more meaningful, wonderful and powerfully filled with love is possible for you; all you have to do is work hard to achieve it. Looking back at your MUN experience, you should be able to smile, scoop up that beautiful life lesson, and simply move on. Know that something as wonderful was possible for you and that if you work hard, focus on your present and keep sailing on, something even more rewarding will surely happen. Think about it: if something as wonderful was possible for you at the point where you’ve got a whole life ahead of you, how many more wonderful events do you think are going to be possible for you when you’ve actually grown into someone of influence, success and value?
Ladies and gentlemen, students of bright futures, let the love go.
When you go out to the world as no longer an aspiring world leader but a real one, you’ll have a plenty of chances to fall in love—real, authentic, incredible love. This love will be naturally inspired, make perfect sense, help you move toward something far greater than yourself. It will no longer be contingent upon the surrounding that has helped you fall in love. It will work both because and despite your environments, timing and everything else you can think of to break up that love. It will be unconditional, out of your control, inspiring and way beyond beautiful than you could have ever imagined.
And at that point, you won’t have to involve a secret note passing skill to declare your love.