MUN Reflection: The True Meaning of Success

by prathmj on December 26, 2013

As I look back upon the past two and a half years of my life, there is nothing that has taken as much dominance in my life as Model UN. So as I reflect on these years, I have this seemingly unbreakable desire to make sure that when I leave the High School MUN circuit, it continues to represent what it is meant to. Diplomacy. It’s sad to say this, but MUN has taken a turn for the worse, and it’s necessary we fix it before it truly reaches an irreparable state.

So what exactly is the problem? What’s preventing Model UN from reaching its pinnacle? It’s the lack of definition of true success. If we are to listen to any “motivational” meeting before a major conference, there will be delegates saying “we want all of you to come out of this conference with an award in your hands, so make it happen”. This paradigm that success in an MUN conference is defined by the award you receive is what is slowly eating at the diplomatic reasoning behind MUN. Don’t get me wrong. I was just the same last year. I had placed so much dependence on winning an award that I can’t even recollect the committees I participated in. All I cared about was being the best, and I disregarded everything and everyone else that stood in my path. That same ego, that same superiority complex, is what led me to consistently receive that second place award, that outstanding delegate, and for this convoluted reason, I was never able to appreciate that. All that I cared about was that I couldn’t call myself the “best delegate”.

UCLA Best Delegate summer program (shameless advertising)

UCLA Best Delegate summer program 

And then, it all changed. Everything MUN meant to me ended and I gained a completely new prospective. Why? I attended the Best Delegate summer program at UCLA, and it truly made me realize, I was doing MUN wrong.

I started to look at a different side of Model UN, the one my predecessors told me about. They spoke of how they walked out of MUN conferences with new friends, great connections, and a new outlook on life, something that I was never able to comprehend because it never happened to me. This new viewpoint is what led me to have the greatest MUN experience of my life at the William and Mary High School MUN conference (WMHSMUN), and it’s truly priceless. I walked into WMHSMUN with the attitude that I didn’t care about the end result, just as long as I made something worthwhile out of the conference. I ended up making a plethora of friends, learning everything there is to know about state building in French nations, and walking out with my first Best Delegate award, ever. Surprisingly, that last part means the least to me. I’m still great friends with some people from WMHSMUN, and I enjoyed myself significantly more in committee because I had actually created bonds with others.

I mentioned before that MUN had taken a turn for a worse, and by that I mean that the circuit is comprised of many with an outlook similar to the old me. People who will go through any means to win that Best Delegate and leave others with nothing but despair. The United Nations runs itself on diplomacy, and evidently we are simulating the United Nations. Deleting resolutions, crossing people out of sponsors lists, yelling at others, saying that everyone else is wrong, spreading slander, all of these things are not accurate representations of the values the United Nations prides itself on. However, fear not, this is something we can fix.

With that said, here are some tips on how to define your own success:

A gavel is only meaningful if truly earned

A gavel is only meaningful if truly earned.

Forget the Awards: Absolutely ignore the fact that all of your hard work will be judged by people who don’t even know you. Only you can truly assess your performance in committee, and you will know what you deserve at the end of committee. It happens all the time, the true best delegates, the ones who are diplomatic, the ones who help others learn, the ones who represent their country accurately and also make a name for themselves in committee end up with a lower tier award or no award at all. Then somehow, the best delegate is awarded to someone who doesn’t truly represent MUN and wins because of their sheer rudeness and power delegate attitude. If you forget about the awards, you will actually see the true meaning of MUN and enjoy yourself. The best part is, you might just surprise yourself with an award at the end of all of it.

Strive to be the nicest person in the room: This is easily the most important piece of advice I can give you. Many people will tell you that MUN is all about “doing anything” so you can win. If you truly want to win, be the person that others can trust, make friends, and make sure that after committee everyone in that room will still want to talk to you. This is the most indispensable talent to have because it makes you the charismatic center of the room, you become everyone’s friend as well as everyone’s ally.

Help Others: Going hand in hand with the previous tip, the easiest way to leave your mark on others is to help them out. There is no question that in most committees there will be a decent amount of first timers or novice delegates, and everyone needs help. Teach others how to write resolutions, how to send notes, how to gain committee presence, how to not get overrun by power delegates, and how to make certain they enjoy their experience.

Learn: Actually try to use your MUN experience as a learning experience. The amount of knowledge you can gain from listening to other people’s ideas as well as closely paying attention to the structure of debate is surreal. It’s quite simple, pay attention to debate and pay attention to the research that you and other delegates bring to committee. It’s amazing how much a rewarding intellectual experience MUN can be if you pay close attention.

Make the most of it: Yes this is ridiculously cliché, but it’s also completely necessary. Making the most out of committee is the number one thing you should be focused on. The MUN experience is a culmination of weeks of research, hours of debating, and countless sleepless nights. Because regardless of what anyone says, MUN is a lifestyle, and every conference is just another marker of your success. Success that can only be truly achieved if on the next day you feel like a completely new person. A new person that has made the most of their opportunity, someone who has learned enough to be able to call themselves a diplomat, someone who will be a future leader of our world.

Most importantly of all, forget the end result, because success can never be defined by a piece of paper.

  • Andrew Chen

    This was a really insightful article! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I know that I can learn a lot from outstanding delegates like you!

  • Vignesh G.

    Thanks for writing this Prathm! I attended WMHSMUN also, and I didn’t really feel like my performance justified my award. But your article really convinced me that it is best to take the honorable route that you do. Thanks for showing me the light! 😀

    • Daksh Bhatia

      Hey Vignesh!! I was in your PMUNC committee and I do agree. Awards don’t represent true performance. In fact awards aren’t the true reason to do MUN in the first place. People that “hunt” for gavels or “gavel hunters” as they might be called, should be ashamed of themselves for ruining the spirit of MUN (and christmas).

  • akal

    This is a great post and I commend you on what you’ve learned during your MUN journey so far, Prathm! Keep at it, there are so many opportunities that MUN has to offer aside from competition that numerous programs do not focus on.

    Through my own experience I have noticed that the definition of success originates from the values of every club. Some value enjoying themselves, others value winning awards, and there are programs in between these two extremes. In my opinion, the best programs emphasize each person making the most of their conference experience. Like you mentioned, MUN is not just about winning an award (although those are nice), it is also about developing one’s leadership capabilities, meeting interesting people, learning about pressing issues, etc. These types of programs tend to have older members that lead with their values by example. They are delegates that have experience and talent; they are also respected members within their clubs. They are happy to go to a conference and they help their team to enjoy the conference.

    Delegates who lead by giving value to their committees and the delegates they interact with are the delegates that enjoy themselves and embody the spirit of MUN. Every club deserves those types of leaders. It’s our job to become those leaders and train the future leaders. It’s awesome that you’re seeing MUN from a new perspective. Happy MUNing!

  • Guest

    Hi PRATHMJ, i am currently a sophomore in Highschool from New Jersey. I want to say you are such an intellectual individual. I just want to ask the community this; If awards did not exist, would people continue doing MUN? “Huh” ?

    • akal

      MUN used to be more of an educational simulation as opposed to a competition and this continues to hold true in certain regards. In fact, numerous conferences don’t even offer individual awards on today’s circuit. So yes, there will always be people around to do do MUN. Awards are simply one aspect of the experience and that aspect attracts only certain individuals.

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