Guest Article By Justin Etzine
“My fellow perishables and on-looking humans,” I began as I gave my first speech supporting vegetables in the great “fruits and vegetables debate” at the Best Delegate Summer Program at the University of Florida. Even though I already had three years of Model UN and even a few awards under my belt, I never had any formal training for Model UN or debate in general; thus, I found this speech to be particularly intimidating. Several questions ran through my mind as I scanned the room: “How will everyone react to the speech?”, “What if I’m doing this wrong, and I’ll embarrass myself in front of all of these people?”
I understand now that those questions should never have been a concern for me, as we were all in similar positions; we all were here to sharpen our debate, public speaking, and collaboration skills to better our performance in Model UN. The constructive feedback from our counselors and fellow campers not only showed us our areas for improvement, but also provided us with the tips and techniques for bettering ourselves, the success of which was apparent as the week progressed.
What I hadn’t realized is that, in addition to learning the skills necessary for “becoming the Best Delegate”, I would experience situations that would give me a better understanding of how I interact with others. For example, during our emotional diversity exercise, I learned that we each had a trait that made us all unique, which changed how we treated one another both in debate and in general social interaction, for the better.
I distinctly remember our first simulation feedback session. Our group, which we decided to call NATO, sat in a circle and received feedback from both our brilliant counselor, Marta Canneri, and every teammate. I was shocked and impressed at how Marta had detailed, thorough notes on each of our performances, and what she thinks our course of action should be to improve.
In addition, we were given the incredible opportunity to conduct social media campaigns for non-governmental organizations. Our group supported the organization Shot@Life, and our media campaign exceeded over two-hundred likes. Our campaign even prompted a donation to the organization! The satisfying feeling of knowing we could make an impact was comparable to none.
In the course of just one week, we became what nobody had expected: an empathetic, caring family. Throughout the week, we bonded in debate and out, and, on the final day, as each of us left one by one, our farewells consisted of tearful goodbyes and passionate hugs. The experiences I have gained from this program are comparable to none; not only did I learn skills for performing in Model UN and interacting with others, but I also gained some of the best friendships that I have ever had.