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Why Model United Nations isn’t your typical after-school activity

Mar. 6, 2018
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Every Wednesday afternoon, I fall in love.

Every Wednesday afternoon, dozens of loud high school students gather around in the small conference room above the library.

Every Wednesday afternoon, I bang my gavel against the wooden desk. 

Every Wednesday afternoon, our school’s Model United Nations meeting takes place.

According to the critically acclaimed Model United Nations website, it is “a roleplaying activity in which students can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations.”

This school year, I was given the opportunity to co-captain our school’s Model United Nations team along with some of the most dedicated and hardworking people I’ve ever met.

In the past few years, these meetings were mostly organized and conducted by the teachers with occasional help from experienced seniors in the field. However, this year, our teachers gave us full control over the after school meetings. We had control over everything. We made our own lesson plans, came up with delegations for everyone, researched topics, and guided mock conferences following the real THIMUN procedures. I was even be able to make a slideshow about what to wear and what not to wear to a conference. I remember the weeks before our first meeting. My co-captains and I were more than nervous about the eventual turn-out of the conferences, even discussing if we should ask our athlete friends to show up just to fill the room. We had hung up posters and sign-up sheet across the school. Yet weeks went by and hardly anyone had signed up.

“Maybe I should make up some names and fill the sign-up sheet.” I joked to my close friend who was also an captain.

“Wen, please don’t,” she said, shaking her head, “People will show up, don’t worry.”

My concern was valid, though—we hadn’t even started our meetings yet we were already the joke of the grade for “taking an L” with how empty the sign-up sheets were.

A few weeks later, it was meeting time. I walked in with my head down, not expecting too many people to show up. What was awaiting me, however, were over 50 people, some of whom I’d only ever glanced at in the hallway. I was stunned.

For our first meeting, the captains and I introduced everyone to Model United Nations. Then, we went around the room, asking everyone to introduce themselves and to tell us why they joined Model United Nations. Even though there was a handful of kids that tried to play it off by telling the rest of the group that they “only did it for their college application,” I knew it was just a ploy. All of them, despite their willingness to admit it, cared about the world around them. I genuinely believe they will all grow up to create change that will better the world.

We started off in the beginning of the year trying our best every week to not use personal pronouns, and we began using more formal vocabulary. It took a lot of time and training, and I often slipped a personal pronoun or two into my speech in the midst of a heated debate.

We quickly advanced to being able to analyze and hold debates. First-year members were suddenly able to roll The Universal Declaration of Human Rights right off their tongues, using their newly acquired information to intimidate other delegates and even win awards at conferences.

I joked about it looking like a nerd convention, but we all knew that simply wasn’t true. It was the unity of a group of passionate individuals who wanted to see positive change in the world around them; it was a group of those who crave peace and positivity and the elimination of selfish, harmful actions.

MUN members strive to make the world a better place, and we believe that everyone has the potential to do so. Some might say that Model United Nations isn’t real, and whatever resolutions we come up with may not be actually carried out in the real world, but it’s empowering to know that there are people out there at the real United Nations fighting for the same things we are.

It isn’t just your regular after-school activity. Being in Model United Nations gives its members an air of professionalism, like we're getting a peek into the actual United Nations system in which people work. It’s thrilling, too, because every word you say makes all the difference in the world.

During my address to the whole school during our end-of-the-semester assembly, I said this: “From all of us captains, we hope to see our members one day at the real UN, fighting for world peace and order, but for now, MUN will do.”

I really do hope so.