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Ruthie Gopin Headshot

Why I Love Model United Nations

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"Calm down! One person at a time! I can't write this fast!" I yell frantically, adding to the noise. To the teachers and parents we must have been an amusing sight, too busy writing resolutions to eat the sandwiches they had laid out. To the State Department officials I'm sure it was downright hilarious, watching high schoolers so heatedly debate whether to sanction North Korea. To me, it was one of the best moments of my life. But it was not until later that I would realize how special that moment was. At the time I had more important things to worry about; I had to prevent a nuclear war.

For the past five years I have been participating in UNA-NCA's MUN conferences. That was a lot of acronyms, so in case you are not from D.C. and don't know the lingo, let me break it down for you. UNA-NCA is the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, and MUN is a Model United Nations. There are Model UN conferences held all over the country, run by other UNA branches, universities and high schools. Thousands of students come together to form delegations and work on committees, trying to pass resolutions that resemble those written in the real United Nations.

To be perfectly honest I first discovered MUN when a boy I had a crush on in 8th grade asked me to join. But I'm so glad I did, because I wound up having a phenomenal time. The next year, the topic for the Security Council committee was "The Situation in North Korea." I was representing Brazil, one of North Korea's largest trading partners, so I teamed up with the Russian delegation and played devil's advocate (always a fun experience). As the morning wore on, the debates over military intervention versus diplomatic outreach became fiercely heated. We were so focused on our resolutions-in-the-making that the chair of the committee had to kick us out of the conference room for lunch. Of course we were not deterred by this small setback, and so the scene unfolded.

That moment in the cafeteria of the State Department was one of the best of my entire life. It didn't matter that I did not know any of these people by name, or that they all towered over me. They were "United Kingdom" and "Russian Federation" and "India," all shouting over each other, trying to incorporate their ideas into the resolution we were drafting. In that moment, we had taken on the same mindset as every powerful leader who has ever tried to negotiate an end to the conflict in North Korea. In that moment, I was at the center of something much bigger than myself. There are no words to describe the amazing rush of confidence and pride it gave me to be involved in facilitating that type of negotiation.

In addition to participating, I am now involved in coordinating MUN conferences. This relationship with UNA-NCA has given me the opportunity to meet people who have started their own organizations, revolutionized the D.C. education system, worked with coal mining unions in third world countries and much more. From fellow high school students to undergrads, postgrads, CEO's and government officials alike, I have interacted with many passionate people. Conducting research for MUN curriculum has taught me about global issues and events that I might have never learned about otherwise. Writing, speaking, teaching, organizing and otherwise immersing myself in these issues has done wonders for my self-confidence. I've gained an immense appreciation for the art of teaching, and all of its joys and struggles. My experiences with MUN and the incredible people I've met inspired me to pursue a career in International Development. Most importantly, I have learned to bring the same passion and commitment to every aspect of my life as I do to Model UN. I'm so excited to be going to college next year, and I know that wherever I end up I will definitely be joining the school's MUN team, or creating one if it doesn't yet exist.

So if there is one takeaway it should be this: become involved in something you may have never considered before (my bias is to say Model UN, but really anything will do). You never know... you might just come to love it!