By HEBANI DUGGAL
Every collegiate Model UN conference I’ve attended has taught me something new. Last year, the first conference I participated in taught me to never let anyone’s knowledge make you doubt your own and to never (voluntarily) walk in heels for more than twenty minutes. The second conference I participated in taught me that people can teach you things you could not imagine you needed to know, and that there are actually places colder than Ithaca (i.e. Canada). The Model UN conference I attended last weekend, however, caught me slightly off-guard. Did I continue my trend of learning things in unexpected ways? Yes. Was I as confident in what I learned? Not really. Did I like the realization I came to? Honestly, I haven’t exactly decided yet; you can let me know what you think later.
Enter Ian W. Ian is hands-down the most interesting person I’ve met in a while. Ian is a Cornell freshman from Kenya. Ian has the best dress sense out of every one of my male friends. Ian has better shoes than I do, and I’m not mad about it. Anyway, the reason I’ve decided to pull Ian into this discussion is not simply because Ian referred to everything this weekend as being “lit A.F.,” but because in being entirely himself, Ian was unlike anyone I’d ever met before at a Model UN conference.
There are usually several types of delegates at MUN conferences — I’m not making this up just to generalize a couple people I’ve met along the way. Ask anyone who’s travelled to multiple conferences; you can usually tell delegates apart from one another by the end of the first committee session. You have your power delegate (the one that’s writing all the directives and networking the room), you have your frustratingly ideal delegate (the one that’s not necessarily wrong, but just too difficult to work with sometimes) and of course, you have the no-show delegate (the one kid that never shows up and everyone is secretly jealous of right before lunch). Somewhere in between, you have everyone else, trying to win an award, yes, but also trying to learn a couple things from everyone around them in the process.
Ian did not fit into a single one of these “types.” This isn’t to say that everyone fits into a type of delegate, but there was something about Ian that set him apart. He had elements of each delegate type, but he also had a sense of humor and willingness to deal with even the most difficult people in the most laid back way so he could have the best time possible. It was Ian’s first time in D.C., and he was here to experience things apart from the competitive nature of a model UN conference.
So how did travelling with Ian in a car for six hours, grabbing dinner with him between hours of committee, and hearing what he had to say about each session translate over to my Model UN lesson of the semester?
Well, as luck would have it, the conference we attended this past weekend lacked a Friday night social event, leaving us with the responsibility of coming up with plans for the night that would please everyone after a long day of sitting in committee. What we decided on was a night out visiting alums in D.C. and then a 3 a.m. walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Was this the most responsible idea? Probably not. Did we regret the next morning when we had to wake up for our morning committee session? Indeed. Would I go back and change the plans I made for that night? Absolutely not.
There are several delegates who would. And I’m sure those delegates will do well in the conventional sense — they’ll receive awards, rankings and all that jazz that looks fabulous on a resume. And I’m happy for them, I really am, because if you do Model UN for the awards, then hats off to you; you’ve got the patience of someone waiting in line for Mongo at RPCC and the diplomacy of my dad at dinner with his mom and my mom. This trip confirmed for me why I do Model UN — it’s not for the grueling committee sessions, though don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned most, if not all of my soft skills through MUN’ing every year. Instead, it’s for the people — the ones I meet in committee, the ones I spend hours driving to conferences with, the ones I drag to the Lincoln Memorial with me at 3 a.m. and drive back at 4 a.m. and the ones I stumble to committee with in the morning. I learn things I would never have learned elsewhere, in any other way, from anyone else, and I wouldn’t trade that in anytime soon.
Hebani Duggal is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.