The memory of one’s first Model United Nations (MUN) conference is an inalienable presence. Ask any Secretary-General, award recipient, committee chair, and MUNer. They can tell you – without significant difficulties – precisely what their first MUN experience was like. The moment they lowered their placard as they stood up to take the floor for the first time will remain etched in their memories, regardless of how experienced they have become since then.
But what newer delegates often overlook when admiring the gavel-winner and the Secretary-General is that they, too, began as rookies. Chances are, they had little idea on how the UN made its decisions, how to deliver a dazzling public speech, and how to master the arts of negotiation, researching, and writing resolutions. We can, therefore, conclude that delegates did not merely come out of the womb ready to stun others with their skills; instead, outstanding ones must have persevered in refining their skill set through MUN. We at United Ambassadors were many of these delegates, so we understand how daunting getting started with MUN can be. But we are convinced that you, too, can thrive in it.
If you are interested in MUN, new to it, or want to improve at it, the following advice is what you are looking for:
1. Know where to find MUN
The opportunities to get started in MUN are endless - schools, clubs and societies alike can run weekly training sessions and annual conferences. Faced by this plethora of opportunity, you must begin by knowing where to look:
If you are a high school student, it is most likely that a teacher will often run your school’s MUN club or class. Approach them. You will thus gain access to a community that supports you and runs periodic training sessions. Otherwise, if your school does not have one, why not set one up? Consider asking a teacher and fellow students who may be interested in current affairs for help.
With regards to college, most large institutions will have a Model UN society you can join for free. While it may be intimidating to enroll initially, doing so is a fantastic way to make friends, learn the basics of MUN, and attend conferences with your university’s delegation.
If school and university are but a distant memory, fear not! Many opportunities are still available. Consider heading to your local community center. In the United Kingdom, for instance, a local mosque set up a Model UN club and sent many of its members to conferences. Go to your local sports club or recreational center and pitch the idea of setting up a MUN club.
Nevertheless, if you do not find any open doors, not everything is lost - nearly all conferences will allow single delegates to apply, and there is no better way of learning MUN than practicing it in the field. Attend those with a reputation for their quality of debate and positive atmosphere. If you are thinking of participating in an international conference, United Ambassadors’ Model United Nations conferences should be at the top of your list, as they provide the most accurate and dynamic simulation of the UN, at the real United Nations Headquarters in Geneva and New York in 2018.
2. Embrace the nerves
Once you have joined a Model UN club, then participate as soon as possible. Attending debates without raising your placard is not okay; to truly immerse yourself into MUN, you must take the plunge and get involved. Although there will be delegates who may abandon the activity without even attempting to deliver speeches, debate or pushing for their solutions, doing so means quitting without having indeed experienced MUN. For some delegates, the stress of speaking in front of an audience may be overwhelming. If you feel the same, hear us out: instead of rejecting this fear, embrace it. This minor change in attitude will propel you to step out of your comfort zone, and deliver genuinely passionate speeches.
To smooth your way into participation, you can develop your tips and tricks. Among the directors of this website, for instance, some would ‘close their eyes’ when rising their placard and accept their fate when called upon by the Chair, while others would begin their first speeches with the same opening sentence, easing themselves into their arguments. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, just like actors entering the stage or tennis players stepping into the court may have their Zen element, you, as a MUNer, should have yours, too. Do not be afraid to take the risk. It will be worthwhile.
3. Do not be put off by the workload
Although doing MUN is FUN, and an enjoyable distraction from school and university, it does compel lots of energy. Forming part of your society’s MUN team involves attending weekly training sessions. Participating in a conference requires extensive research to be familiar with the topic at hand, and to represent your country accurately. Organising a conference or chairing a committee can demand as much work as a part-time job.
Thus, as a student in the midst of A-levels or an undergraduate struggling with your dissertation, it can be challenging to find the balance between academics and MUN. The first thing to remember in these situations is that MUN is an extra-curricular activity that, despite its development of crucial skills for life beyond academics, should only be done when you have enough time on your hands to dedicate away from school-work.
So, a final word of advice: do not underestimate the work needed to do MUN, but do not be put off by it either – manage your expectations. MUN entails fascinating topics. Writing a resolution in an attempt to solve a practical problem that trained diplomats have been unable to resolve is not a chore, but an opportunity to exploit your creativity, and one that leads to unexpected encounters, memorable debates, and passion that can last a lifetime. It is no wonder MUN attracts over half a million delegates each year.
Take it Further
Find out more about the United Ambassadors MUN Conference (UA-MUNC) in Geneva and New York City. Feel free to read our expert series on the secrets to mastering the MUN Skill Set we teach at the United Ambassadors MUN Academy, and learn how to excel in this fascinating activity. After all, you might look back on your pre-MUN days to be awed at the difference MUN made in your life.