I have often referred to myself as ‘an avid reveller in the MUN Circuit’, especially in interviews or volunteer applications, and other such platforms where we are made to slave away in the prospect of building portfolios, following the formula we’re told is essential for any of us to get somewhere in life. The substantiation for this claim comes, of course, from a fair amount of experience as a munner, and consequently, an understanding of the dominant environment of the MUN circuit of Lahore. Considering this, I believe I’m qualified enough to provide you with some pointers, some do’s and don’ts, I’ve accumulated an understanding of over the years.
I’ll begin this attempt at being an MUN Coach by blissfully choosing to ignore the reality of MUNs having transitioned onto an online sphere due to the pandemic (because escapism is the only cure now).
- Prepare to finally be able to unironically say: ‘Jee, mama, school nahi fashion show hai’
Formal attire is often a prerequisite to attend committee sessions; after all, this is a simulation of the United Nations, but oh, the way it is so much more. I’ve grown to realise that the outfits you wear to an MUN are almost political and must always be strategic, tactical, and more or less like armour (yes, it gets rough). You want delegates to like you while being intimidated by you, and you need to look the part of the committee leader to be able to act it out. So yes; get those stiff, suffocating suits, and further your MUN career!
Plus, the most important piece of advice you must heed to, especially if you’re part of the ‘5’2 or shorter gang’ like I am, is to wear your tallest heels and platform boots; UNMODs are not for our kind. Don’t get me wrong: the ability to subtly integrate yourself into any group of people in the committee- especially when they may just be plotting against you- comes in very handy, but when you’re up there making a speech, it is far more effective to be the one looking down on the audience than vice versa.
- It’s all in the attitude
“Diplomacy is the essence of MUNs” is what they teach you from the first day of MUN training. If there is one lesson you must take away from this article, it is that diplomacy is simply justified pretentiousness. Having been taught by more than a handful of coaches, I can quote from memory that ‘diplomacy is the art of telling people to quit muns in a way that they ask for directions’, or whatever Churchill said. To put too fine a point on it, fake it till you make it. While I have always admired the ethos of MUNs and what they aim to achieve, I have discovered that, more often than not, and especially in our circuit, the spirit of MUNs is muddled. Thus, you will likely be applauded for consistently making speeches regardless of whether there is any nuanced content. Maybe I just haven’t been going to the greatest MUNs or maybe there is some truth to this (there definitely is a lot of truth to it).
- Know your research & presentation tactics
In some seriousness (as I believe you must be hoping for more than satire from this article), there are a considerable number of effective strategies I’ve learned when it comes to research and preparation for an MUN. They help to organise my research and keep it specific, centred, and coherent. I’ll often make a long yet exhaustive list of possible subtopics (or mods as MUNerds might know them), which can be raised when the agenda is being dissected and debated. The rest is elementary; while you remember to be particular to the notions you are supposed to represent, carry them throughout the conference, refine them with rhetoric, and don’t beat yourself up for your voice cracking here and there.
This is the part where I reluctantly segue into addressing online MUNs and subtly highlight their discrepancies with physical MUNs as I hold back tears, trying not to be consumed by hindsight (although, admittedly it is bittersweet and has its pluses):
- Try not to atrophy
You probably have experienced school managements sadistically exploiting the lockdowns by developing exhausting class schedules and justifying them by saying they are to be followed from ‘the comfort of your own home’. As if said ‘homely comfort’ is not, quite literally, being infiltrated by them. Basically, online MUNs are no different with their hidden agenda to drain your soul and make you a sedentary slave. This is why it is essential to never lose sight of your health being your primary priority; Don’t give into the devil’s bidding and pull all nighters, or you’ll be blacking out while copy pasting articles you can’t comprehend to add to your research doc, pursuing a false sense of productivity (trust me, I’ve been there). So, to avoid decaying: try stretching your legs, snacking whenever you have the chance, and adding resting from the eyeball-drying screen time in your to-do lists.
- Capitalise on all the times they can’t see you
The option to turn your camera off on Zoom is perhaps one of humanity’s greatest achievements, especially with regards to online MUN’s. One click and you’re hidden; able to prepare speeches, design frameworks, take naps, cry, have full course meals as the conference goes on, and still be eligible for an award. In my head, this is what it means to make the most of the whole Covid-19 situation (read: fiasco, I apologise for being a conspiracy theorist but we gotta do what we gotta do to remain sane and justify whatever happened this past year). There is no penalisation for wearing pajamas under your coat, and thus, the politics around how you look as a delegate is eliminated by more than fifty percent. Of course, that in turn increases the pressure on your oratory skills and such to get you the prominence you desire. Online MUNs take the win for me though, because you get to scroll through your social media during those unnecessary yet staple boring speeches customary to all MUNs.
Hopefully, this takes away from some of the tribulation of what it means to be a munner, a sparingly rewarding phenomenon that has been, for better or worse, an unexpectedly big part of my life. If the preceding content didn’t make it blatantly obvious; MUNs are the cause of most of my despairing rants, but I also love them to bits.