Author: Sheyda Karimova
It’s 8.30 and the bus is packed with sleepy people who have little to no idea as to what exactly is awaiting them in the upcoming 4 days. Flaming Wheels are singing words of friendship and adventure into my ears, whilst the view out the window swiftly changes from grand skyscrapers to deserts, and from deserts to forests, in a bold reminder of all the miles left behind. Bonded by the same anticipation, and united in the composed cluelessness about the person sitting near, we find solace in a small chat, music or magnificent universe of fiction.
The road takes us all the way to a picturesque resort amidst majestic mountains towering above us. Doubt slowly starts to creep into my heart, and the introvert in me is suddenly screaming words of panic as I look across the huge crowd of people searching for familiar faces, and questioning what I got myself into. We each learn about our accommodation and cautiously proceed to our designated rooms.
First impression: tentative, doubtful, completely terrified.
Anonymous, “I’ve learned how to be active, and be brave. How to be a family, because MUN is a family.”
The first session starts hand-in-hand with a rainfall. The moment I take my placard into my hands, I am reminded of what made me come here in the first place.
Anonymous, “Actually, I’ve learned many things from MUN conferences, but the best thing is that every time I learn something new.”
I stay quiet until it is time to raise motions. When my motion passes and everyone approaches me waiting to make my statement, I suddenly realize how many people are looking at me. I look around in search of a place to hide and quite surprisingly find no hole to jump into.
Anonymous, “I will be more helpful to others and that will make me feel more delightful, and it will ease my communication at my job.”
By the end of the first day, I go to bed straight after dinner. Internet connection barely works and I can’t talk to my family and friends. It’s cold, I have a headache, I don’t know most of the people and I miss the coziness of my comfort zone. On the first day, I fall asleep somewhere after midnight.
Impressions: lonely, doubtful, still utterly terrified.
Fidan Huseynli, “[the most memorable moment was] my birthday. Everyone waited until 1 am to sing the birthday song to me. I was really touched.”
Anonymous, “never sleep during breakfast.”
On the next day I learn that people gathered here come from all different backgrounds. One of the participants is 15, another one is 30. Someone’s studying International Relations, while the other is a Computer Engineer major. I learn that the only thing we have in common is a passion for world affairs. I learn that that’s enough to build a connection.
Vugar Hasanov, “I am a chemical engineer, but I love having a good view on this field [of study].”
The opening ceremony goes smoothly; the Q&A session with representatives of Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs, and Ecology and Natural Resources lasts longer than expected as all of us can’t contain our curiosity. I gather up enough courage to ask a question. As I sit back on my seat, and listen to the answer to my inquiry, the realization sinks in and I feel pride wash over me. I’ve just spoken up.
Shamil Polukhov, “[This experience] will help me deliver a speech publicly with less anxiety.”
Gulten Babayeva, “[I] will be braver and more active in my speech, like I am in my own social life!”
By the end of the second day, I stay up until everyone else goes to sleep. We play games, joke around, and laughter resonates across the surrounding territory. I start memorizing names of my fellow delegates.
Impressions: slightly less terrified.
Anonymous, “The most memorable moment was of course the crisis session that made me run outside in my pajamas, and then go back and dress more officially and try to figure out a solution to the problem within 6 minutes. I will never forget this experience!”
Somewhere after midnight when everyone is either preparing for the upcoming day or already deep asleep, we hear the voices of our Directors outside announcing a crisis session. Having little previous experience with MUN conferences, I am baffled. I rush outside only managing to get into my jeans and throw on a jacket to hide my pajama top underneath. I am terrified and all I can think is that we’re all going to die and I won’t even be able to connect to the internet to tweet about it. I realize I need to sort out my priorities.
Elchin Bashirov, “[I’ve learned to] work in a team, listen to others’ ideas and find a compromise.”
Gulten Babayeva, “I’ve learned that if you want all the delegates to be pleased, coming to a mutual decision is simultaneously easy and difficult.”
For the first few moments of the crisis session, I observe people around me. I am both surprised and impressed by how everyone works everything out on the spot. I watch people with no diplomatic or political education discuss possible solutions to the crisis at hands. I figure out that the triumph I feel is really just pride for being a part of this amazingly diverse and informed community.
Impressions: contented, appreciative, really sleepy.
Anonymous, “I’ve learned what I’m capable of.”
Ulfan, “I’ve learned discipline and how to keep calm.”
On the next day, I wake up eager to join others at breakfast and talk about last night’s events. A few hours later my country’s name is on the list of General Speakers and I have to speak to the public. My hands are shaking, and so is my voice.
Jamila, “As a director of GA I learned a lot, I learned to be serious and caring at the same time, to work with a huge amount of people.”
Shamil Polukhov, “I’ve learned how to prepare a speech quickly on the spot.”
When I finish my speech, my hands are shivering and my heart is racing, but I can’t stop repeating the same mantra in my mind over and over again. I did it. I did it.
Anastasiya, “My career is associated with political affairs, International Relations. Obviously this experience will be much useful for my future.”
Impressions: excited and giddy!
Jamila, “I hope to get a directing position in UN, so I think everything I’ve learned will really assist me”
Fidan Huseynli, “This experience gave me skills that I can use in my future career in every sphere, so thanks to MUN for great assistance”
When it’s time to prepare the working paper, we skip lunch and coffee breaks, and work on our draft proposal. We’ve created a coalition and I have no idea how that influences the course of events, but others are saying that we need to hurry, so I type as fast as I physically can.
Murad Muradov, “most memorable moment was explaining the resolution without having any idea about it”
When I’m told that I will present our resolution with another delegate, I sincerely wish that the ground would open up and swallow me whole and at once.
Anonymous, “Best people I’ve ever met!”
On the evening of the third day, we have a party. I sit a little bit afar from the fun and watch people dance and enjoy themselves. Although I can’t overstep my displeasure of crowds and join the others, I enjoy occasional company of charming people who approach me when having rest from dancing. We chat, take pictures, discuss current US presidential elections (one does not simply avoid this topic). I keep shamelessly interrogating one of the organizers with unapologetic questions about their inspiration for working on this project. That night, I go to sleep thinking of the upcoming departure. That night, I force myself to go back to my room.
Aytan Huseynli, “What I’ve learned is that to make a fair decision on a complicated international problem is quite difficult and sometimes you can even be wrong. All depends on how advocates introduce their arguments and how you approach it as a judge.”
When I find out that I’ve received honorable mention, for a moment I can’t process the information. But when I do, the smile on my lips almost rips my facial muscles apart. I walk up the stage and all I can think is, thank God I didn’t trip on these heels.
Jamila, “[I’ve contributed my] directing skills and some sick dance moves.”
Anonymous, “I hope I managed to share my experience and knowledge with others.”
Fidan Huseynli “I’ve learned how to negotiate, build a consensus, and how to dance.”
Sheyla Rzayeva, “I will hopefully be an advocate in the future, [so] this was a nice simulation to try on this role.”
Anonymous, “I fell in love.”
It’s 4.30 pm and the bus is packed with tired people who have little to no idea as to what exactly is awaiting them ahead. Sara Bareilles’ voice is singing words of motivation into my ears, whilst the view from the window swiftly changes from forests to deserts, and from deserts to grand skyscrapers, in a bold reminder of all the miles and memories left behind.
Impressions: inspired, motivated, confident.
Days have passed after I’d become a part of this community, but the enthusiasm is still tangible. I finally feel like I’m a part of something bigger, like the actions I take today will make a difference through generations down the road. This community has taught me that however small your part might be, it has an impact bigger than you can imagine. They’ve taught me that the future is our responsibility, and for once, I am not burdened by such a liability, and am happy to receive the duty to commit to the building of a brighter future for all.
Notes: the points written in italics are extracts from responses to a questionnaire held at the II Model UN Summer School in Azerbaijan among the participants and staff.