Dr. Paul Brink
POL246 International Diplomacy: The Model United Nations
25 February 2015
I Fit in to International Diplomacy
My experience leading up to model UN felt intimidating. I was not sure about how well I would be able to describe political matters. Even to describe an action as “political”, I had a foggy understanding of what sort of examples could flesh out that generalized description. I felt stressed and challenged by the conference. But after coming through this experience, I learned to more skillfully discuss political topics, and also, I see more clearly how well I might fit into diplomacy and mediation type work.
Leading up to model UN I felt intimidated in the preparation classes, especially where I was supposed to speak. The speeches were the aspect I felt most nervous about, because I was not terribly confident in my ability to go into a speech that I haven’t had much time to prepare, and I felt unconfident speaking in the Libya simulation because I didn’t feel like I had mastery over the history and position of Libya on various matters. But I have since learned to have a single point and trust myself to be able to elaborate on it on the spot and say things I haven’t thought of before, until that moment. Also, I realized the importance of sometimes being able to take a position on something I know I’m not entirely informed about. It’s okay if I take a stance on something before I have spent all the time I feel necessary to master the relevent information. So I did not need to know all the details of Libya’s history on the tip of my tongue mastery level in order to defend and take a position. Of course, having mastery over the history of Libya and current events would have been an invaluable tool. It was not necessary to participate, and thus I realized to combat some of my fear of participating in things when I feel I haven’t put as much time in as I should have. Dr. Green said something enlightening today that I think I can put back on this Model UN experience: “The grade doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you do the best you can with the time you have.” There are very few topics of discussion I am going to feel like I have mastery over before I discuss them. And, more profoundly discombobulating my paralyzed engagement in group discussions at times, my fear of engaging for the fear of messing up or sounding stupid, or stumbling for words, is the realization that in order to gain mastery of a topic to discuss it eloquently I must discuss it and stutter through it and mess up. You made it clear that we ought to take risks and make mistakes in our simulations, because that was a safer place to do so than at Harvard.
Besides what I learned in class, I learned a lot at the conference. While mastery is not a prerequisite for influential participation at a conference, some knowledge must be garnered as to hold a basic position on various substantive issues in order to productively converse and form working relationships with people. “Relative intelligence is more important than absolute intelligence.” A quote from class that bolstered my confidence to engage despite my self-perception that my absolute intelligence about the topic at hand was not very extensive. Maybe I was underestimating myself, but at least it gave me a disposition in interacting with others that allowed me to freely listen and critique what I thought, because I knew that what I knew was not complete, and I needed the knowledge of these other delegates in order to have a well formed plan of action.
As far as suggesting how to change the program in the future. I suggest having two national simulations rather than a small scale one and an international one. This gives more preparation to those who are new to model UN to practice taking on the role of a country, which requires different background understanding from role-playing or representing a person in an organization. I acknowledge the benefit that a local scenario has—a topic more familiar which is easier to describe and discuss. And yes, I realize that the focus of the first simulation is more on learning parliamentary procedure than on substantive debate, but I think making the switch to a more substantive topic would be worth the sacrifice of giving up a debate that is more primarily focused on learning parliamentary procedure. Two international debates would give more practice to delegates on thinking about and preparing for debate on these larger, international topics. I wish I had been slightly more prepared with more solid opinions about what needed to be done coming in to the conference. However, the class and you did suggest coming into the conference knowing clear positions and what we were willing to secede on and what we were not, so I should have come in having put more effort into preparing that. I think doing one more international debate would have prepared me for that as well.