As I walked into the first conference of this year’s YUNMUN, Yeshiva University Model United Nations, I began to tremble with fear. I had researched information on smoking and air pollution, as those were the topics of discussion in my committee, the World Health Organization. I was the representative for Ukraine and the only student from Hillel that would be in my meeting room for the entirety of the conference. Not only was I nervous about presenting the information, but I would have to present it in front of a crowd of about thirty strangers, some of which probably knew my country better than myself. I took a deep breath and entered with wide eyes, walking in to find a room full of people talking with one another, either introducing themselves or rekindling their friendships made at last year’s conference.
The room of vibrant people transformed into a room of lifeless statues when the chair of the WHO committee, Jason Jubas, walked in. Everyone stood with respect, but quickly followed the chair’s orders to be seated as attendance began. Soon after, the discussion began regarding the speaking time for each delegate’s presentations and for the comments that would follow. The mood was lightened when people suggested the speaking time be only fifty-eight seconds instead of one whole minute, because that would waste too much time. The group voted on discussing smoking first, which calmed my nerves slightly because I felt more prepared on this subject than air pollution.
Many delegates raised their placards, indicating they wanted to be added to the speakers’ list. Still unsure of how the meeting would work, I decided I wanted to just listen to the discussions and comment occasionally, as opposed to presenting. Many times, other delegates held similar beliefs as I did, so I commented on their statements and suggested that we discuss ideas during the soonest caucus. The meetings ended for the night, and the rest of the evening was spent meeting new students from different schools in a reception.
I knew the next day would be challenging, but I didn’t realize how difficult it actually was until it was over. The day started at seven-thirty in the morning, and it didn’t end until about one o’clock the following morning. The day was filled with multiple conference sessions for each committee, and lunch breaks, speakers, and refreshment times filled the rest of the gaps in the day. The first conferences were similar to the meeting from the night before. I was finally adjusted to the unfamiliar situation, but suddenly, I was unknowingly called on to speak by the chair. I hadn’t prepared anything specific to say during my time, and was very nervous to speak in front of the same people who had spoken so eloquently before me. As I walked to the front of the room, my body was consumed in panic. My mind became blank and I felt as though I had nothing to say. I managed to give out some important information on what my country believed and what resolution plans it agreed with, and then I hurried back to my seat. Notes of support flooded in from the other delegates. They complimented me on my speech and mentioned how when it was their first time at the conference, they were just as scared as I was. Although it was a competition in a way, everyone was supportive of each other and wanted everyone to succeed. By the end of the night, resolutions were made for both topics, as well as for the crisis, and the final goodbyes were said amongst the people in each committee.
The YUNMUN experience is one every student should have. “It was a really fun experience that I definitely wouldn’t want to miss! At first it was scary being in the sessions, but eventually, I became more comfortable, and by the end, I was friends with everyone in my committee,” Jacob Goldshtein, a first-year YUNMUN delegate said. Not only was it an experience to learn how to speak in front of others and collaborate to solve world issues, but it was an extraordinary opportunity to meet other Jewish students. “YUNMUN was a great experience, although scary at first. I really enjoyed making friends from around the world, including Brazil and Africa!” Stephanie Wolak, also a first-year YUNMUN delegate commented. This conference included a collection of Jewish schools not only from the United States, but from all around the world. Alan Wainer said that YUNMUN was one of the best experiences he’s had. “It helped me get over the fear of having to speak in public and express my ideas through a Ukranian perspective. It was one of the greatest experiences ever and is something I look forward to attending again next year.” Regardless of how much knowledge a person has on the topics of their committee, YUNMUN is a great way to learn how to speak in formal settings, collaborate with other people, and take action in beginning to improve our world today. Even if a student only goes to Yeshiva University Model United Nations once throughout high school, it is an experience that will impact and influence them for the rest of his/her life.