As an outsider in the USA, I have struggled to fit in. Back in China, I was a pretty social person. However, when I came to the US, to experience the real Western and American social customs and culture, my attitude changed. I felt like it’s not about your attitude anymore but skills. Engaging socially and networking with people are skills to be acquired beyond just chatting and making friends. My experience of Model United Nations has brought me closer to these skills than before.
I’m pretty confident with my knowledge on world politics, from the potential leadership change in Venezuela to the Crimea crisis. However, this wasn’t enough for a simulation of the UN. I was assigned to represent Nigeria in the simulation, a nation I knew very little about. But just as in real life, where you can’t choose where you were born and who are your parents are, you must make the best of what you’ve got. I started to do research with my partner, making three point policy plans and learning the details about Nigeria. In addition, we researched about the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to prepare to make some friends at the Model UN conference.
We put tremendous enthusiasm and energy into writing the position paper, but again, this was not enough. We needed to understand how the UN system works. We learned about diplomatic courtesy and rules of procedure, how to work in both formal and informal settings. We also did some Mock sessions in class in order to practice.
On the first day at the 2019 National Model UN conference in New York City (NMUN NY), I felt lost and didn’t know what to do. Unlike the mock sessions, people were much more ambitious in trying to convince you of their plan. Fortunately, my delegation partner was helpful and patient, instructing me in what to do. After that, I felt like I had learned the drill and was more comfortable to pitch my ideas to others, and stay on my ground when I had to.
After 4 days of MUN experience, I learned much about Western culture and democracy. I learned how to deal with people in a diplomatic setting, using charisma, decency and politeness to persuade people to deal with public affairs.
— Jingfan Zhang ’19