I've been involved in Model United Nations (Model UN, or simply MUN) since my freshman year of high school. Model UN is a common club at high schools and colleges that simulates situations within the actual United Nations through committees at Model UN conferences. Students in Model UN go to these conferences as delegates, representing a specific nation or a specific person other than themselves. Their job is to represent the interests of their nation or person as best as possible throughout the simulated committee.
Model UN also has a rep of being the club for overachieving students; a resume-padder for people to show off their "leadership skills." And while the club may have started as this when I joined in 9th grade, I fell in love with it, so much that 7 years later, I continue to actively participate in college. Model UN has taught me a lot about diplomacy, and foreign policy, lessons that I hope everyone can appreciate. Here's the top 4 things I've learned from my experience with Model UN.
1. The world's problems can be solved in the course of 3 days:
Okay, this is not true at all. But Model UN has taught me to look at challenges with a sense of idealism, hope, and motivation for compromise, as if I could save the world in just a matter of days. I feel that this attitude that delegates come into Model UN conferences with is what makes these conferences so successful.
Sure, not all of the resolutions pushed by delegates are feasible, and sometimes are just passed through to hurry up a slow committee so that the world's problems can be solved in the course of 3 days. But the point is that if we can approach all problems in our life with this attitude of hope, idealism, and compromise, then we can make a lot more progress than if we approached our challenges with a stubborn, unyielding, one-track mind.
2. The best solutions are not always the ones promoted by the U.S:
Maybe this is only from my experience, but in every committee I've participated in, the person that represented the U.S. was the person that did the least, participated the least, and contributed the least helpful solutions. It would be delegates representing other countries, whether it was Burkina Faso, Singapore, or Australia, that would push better and more efficient solutions.
In U.S. foreign policy, our nation has historically had the tendency to think the "American way" always equals the "best way." Model UN teaches you that this is not the case.
3. Diplomacy is not just for diplomats:
Model UN committees are not always committees that actually exist in the UN. Last year, I was a crisis director for the Order of the Phoenix committee, in which delegates were representing the decision-makers behind the First Wizarding War in the Harry Potter novels. This weekend, I will be chairing an MI6 committee, in which delegates will represent members of MI6 as it is represented in the James Bond films. The diversity of historical, futuristic, and fictional committees in Model UN conferences itself shows that diplomacy is a skill that applies to all decision-making roles, one that we need to learn to use effectively in our daily lives.
4. The interests of your constituency (should) come before your own subjective interests:
In Model UN, you are a delegate: a representative of the interests of your position, whether that position be the interests of an entire country, or representative of an important national figure. However, no matter what, you are representing someone other than yourself, and are looking after the interests and well-being of someone other than yourself. This is an incredibly important message, especially in a time in the U.S. where politics is often reduced to partisan-bickering, and politicians have stopped listening to the needs of their constituents and are more focused on winning their own personal political battles. Model UN teaches you that your role in diplomacy is greater than your own subjective interests, and that if you want to go far, you need to represent your constituency; not yourself.