I cried at McMUN… and if we’re going to be completely honest here, I cried at QMUNi too. This journal entry is to give you a very unapologetic honest look into my MUN journey; how it began, how it changed, the challenges I faced and ultimately, how I grew from all of it into the delegate, leader, and person I am today.
To go back to the start, I stumbled upon MUN in grade 10, when I was at the peak of “joining everything I could possibly manage” point in my life. I had an interest in travel, people, and learning new things, and MUN seemed at first glance to tick all those boxes. After my first day-long conference, where to my surprise and most definitely to the surprise of my teacher advisor, I had won an award, realizing maybe this MUN thing was right up my ally. I continued to stay involved throughout high school, going to as many conferences as I could, helping organize our student led-conference, learning how to chair, and making many friends along the way. Unlike some of my other friends, who naturally grew away from MUN as they graduated, or found other extracurricular activities of interest, MUN was the driving force and influence behind my decision to study International Development at university. Perhaps one of my proudest moments, months before graduating high school after my very last conference in grade 12, I even managed to walk away with my very first “Best Delegate” award, with the gavel and all to prove it. What followed when I arrived at university is best described in the popular saying: big fish, little pond to little fish…very very very big pond.
Even before joining uOMUNA I felt stuck and scared to put myself out of my comfort zone to join any clubs or activities at UOttawa – and for those of you who know me personally, being "outside my comfort zone" was a feeling I was not used to. Nonetheless, thanks to a little voice inside my head, and most likely paired with my parents’ words of encouragement I went and found the uOMUNA table in the UCU, registered for the club, paid my fees, and shortly after signed up to attend QMUNi in Kingston even though I knew no one in the club. The night of my first committee session at QMUNi is a memory that still feels fresh in my mind, probably because I felt like I was going to throw up the whole time I was so anxious. Things like, “how does everyone know so much?”, “Why does everyone look so much older than me?", “wait I colonized who?” (lucky for me, I was the UK), and “oh…so that's what a gavel chaser looks like in real life…" were racing through my mind as I forced myself through the motions of voting, motioning, and trying to write some notes to fellow delegates. That night I lay awake in my hotel room, freaking out. I snuck to the hallway and called my dad in tears explaining to him that everyone was smarter than me here, I would never make it through the weekend, and the high school scholarship money I had used to pay for my weekend in Kingston was going to waste…oh and did I mention, everyone here is smarter than me?!
After some well-needed parental pep-talks, and assurance that any experience where I was learning and engaging academically was truly not a “waste”, I did all that I knew how to: I showed up and tried my best. Truthfully, there was no magic spell, but after that, I did end up having a great weekend. I made friends with people in the club and even people in my committee from other schools who are still my close friends and colleagues today, and I helped write an all-women led resolution that passed on the second last day of committee. I was satisfied, and happy overall with how QMUNi ended up for me. I remained somewhat involved in the club, mostly focusing my attention on CAPMUN, the externally hosted high-school level conference organized by uOMUNA, as I had managed to be hired as the under-secretary-general of Logistics. Nothing was perfect, but it was exactly what I needed. Flash forward to second year, as I geared up to attend McMUN, a huge MUN conference (as I’m sure many of you have heard of) held at McGill University in Montreal, hosting hundreds and hundreds of students from around the world. I was nervous but I felt lucky that I was in a committee that was significantly smaller than most of the other General Assemblies which a lot of my friends were in, having sometimes as many as 150 delegates in them. But then it happened again – the dreaded feeling of doubt and anxiety. This time even after I had crushed my primary speaker's list speech, and had already started forming alliances with many countries in the room, but halfway into the second day – I froze. I remember looking around the room and thinking to myself…absolutely everyone here is smarter than me. I stopped raising my placard as much, I removed myself from a resolution because I genuinely ran out of ideas to contribute and shortly... you guessed it… I was outside my committee room crying to my mom this time on the phone. Why did this feel so familiar, and worst of all so difficult? I had literally been doing MUN for over 4 years, and I was so sure that because MUN reflected so closely what I wanted to do with my real-life career… that this meant 100% I was a complete failure. Unlike my first or even my second QMUNi I had attended earlier in the year, this conference felt different. I had totally shut down both for the remainder of McMUN and the remainder of my time with uOMUNA, and truthfully it really sucked. I felt like I had lost such a strong part of who I was, and defaulting to “just growing out of MUN” didn’t feel like the right solution. It is really imperative to mention that in hindsight there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time, and I did realize very quickly upon my McMUN experience that I had not been properly dealing with a lot of them, as it is often hard to in just your second year of living away from home.
I ended up deciding to take a bit of a break from MUN in third year - I went abroad for first semester and chaired for CAPMUN in second semester, but I didn’t attend any conferences. During that year I did a lot of reflecting and a lot of growth, and ultimately taking a bit of a break and some space away was exactly what I needed to drive me forward to my final year of university and MUN. All in all, this entry isn’t to give a tale of all my woes, but as someone who has been involved in MUN for almost 6 years, now the secretary-general of CAPMUN, participating in a specialized Model United Nations course offered at the university, and just received my first ever university-level award at QMUNi… I wanted to share a very honest account and example of how yours or anyone else’s MUN experience is never going to be perfect no matter how hard you wish it was, or how much you compare yourself to other people around you. Whether you are someone who has done MUN before high school and are going through a transition phase, or maybe you’re someone who has never done MUN before but decided to try something new, I think what you can take away from this entry is that indeed everyone has a different process, but if you show up, you try your best and you're not too hard on yourself, eventually, it all comes together.
Without reflecting on the hard parts of being a delegate, I wouldn't have the patience and knowledge in my current leadership positions, or the kindness I always try to bring to every single committee I am in as a delegate or staff, making sure everyone feels comfortable and included. In the end, it’s not about what position you hold, how ‘smart’ you feel, how ‘smart’ other people appear, or what awards you win, it’s about the learning, growing, and enriching your life in so many more ways than just academically. So yes, I cried might have cried at QMUNI and McMUN, and it’s okay if you do too!
Entry by Allison Rail