A Love Letter to Model UN

I am currently sitting on a bus on the way to Colonial Williamsburg. I know where I am going, but have no idea where this bus is leading me.

I spent the majority of high school hating Model UN. My Model UN team was such a male-dominated space that it was hard to develop in ways that a club like Model UN should have allowed me to. I resented a club dependent on equality and progress that refused to acknowledge either quality. I despised the “boys club” feel, relentless arguing when both individuals were on the same side, and reluctance to accept change. Model UN began to feel like a cage, condemning me to the back of the room and made me avoid becoming the active participant I am now. Perhaps that was my problem: I took far too long to speak out.

After most meetings, the next thing I said was “I am going to quit MUN.” However, I found myself unable to. I thrived in the structured, political environment. So, as a result, I decided to move up in positions rather than deserting. There is no feeling better than being in a higher position than individuals who consistently made you feel small.

When I ascended the ranks of my high school team, I began to see a shift. A single woman in leadership has significant power. A club that was completely male before myself and another two freshmen joined slowly became 1/5 female, and then a ⅓ female. When a club’s culture is completely derived from homogenous masculinity, and  a “forsaken” woman gains a seat on the executive board, the culture begins to change. I look back on these changes and feel good about them.

The completely male-driven environment in Model UN during the beginning of high school made me want to study Political Science in a place like Barnard where I would never feel uncomfortable speaking up. By the time I graduated from high school, I had no trouble calling out any sort of uncomfortable statements (there were many). To survive in a place where you are the “other,” you have two choices: walk away or assert yourself. I chose the latter. So thank you to my high school Model UN; you taught me what it means to be a woman in politics.

It took joining a whole new team to make me realize the power that Model UN holds. I did not think I would stay on the Columbia team. I expected it to be my “backup” club if all else failed. I never expected a club to become a community like I have found in Model UN All it took was someone remembering my name at the second meeting to realize that perhaps I found the right place. Now, I know I did.

While competing is fantastic and the college circuit has allowed me to learn and grow as a thinker, speaker, and student, I don’t think I will remember those moments in the end. It’s the little things like getting pizza with someone after practice, asking for help while preparing for a tournament, or even remembering a candle in my birthday cupcake, which I will hold on to.

I spent my eighteenth birthday at a Model UN event in someone’s danky suite. I would have never expected myself to say that a year ago. However, it felt natural spending my birthday at a friendsgiving sandwiched between people who I consider some of my closest friends. It felt like the right place to be that night.

I have only finished the first of what will be a spectacular four years, but this love letter feels two semesters minus a day overdue. When I found Model UN, I found a family, and that is all I can ever ask for.

I used to be someone who would roll my eyes at any mention of Model UN because it was not the community I wished it was. Coming into college as a freshman, I needed to find a group that could become my people. I will forever be grateful to Model UN for giving me a first year that I can say was fantastic.

Freshman year is hard; I am not going to say that I wasn’t for me. When I found my community, though, a bit of the burden was taken off.

Model UN is still hostile, mean, and frankly, male-dominated, but in having a team where I feel free to be myself, I no longer feel the urge to sit in the back.

So I am sitting here on a bus to Colonial Williamsburg on my way to a Model UN tournament—my final for the year. I am sitting here, and reflecting on Model UN, an activity that I used to resent that has now become a community I cherish. So thank you Model UN, you messy, loud, glorious masterpiece. Thank you for bringing me here.