I’m a little bit obsessed with diversity. And so when I find myself in environments characterized by different languages, a mosaic of cultures, and fascinating, unique walks of life, I go nuts – in a really good, euphoric kind of way. Model U.N. in Malaysia was literally the most international environment I’ve ever been in, and I’m still on a high from the conference. Which is why even though I already blogged about the basics of the conference, here I am again :)

on my birthday!
KL's twin towers, providing the perfect backdrop.

For five days, it was pretty much “can’t stop, won’t stop.” In session from morning until late evening, my fellow delegates and I were mentally exhausted by the day’s end – but we hadn’t flown from around the world to do something crazy like nap in Kuala Lumpur, not a chance! Every night, tons of us gathered in the city and got to know each other better. Talk about high-caliber conversation! I have so many, too many stories to write about every incredible individual I met, about the expertise with which Dalton talks about the stock market as he stands with his hands behind his back, about how Bavesh speaks ten languages – and delivered one speech in six of them – and just started learning his eleventh (Russian), about Alfonso’s enormous pride for Bolivia and the way he says “Natalia.” I’ll have to save those stories for another time, I think, but here are a few quotes from the friends I made there that have stayed with me:

Say it, say gracias. Your tongue goes between your teeth and that’s a beautiful, beautiful feeling.

Seeing Aerosmith live was the highlight of my life so far.

Well, honestly, I think we all have to be interested. We have to follow global issues. We have to ask questions. We have to care.

In the four years I’ve spent studying economics, I can sum everything I’ve learned with this: Don’t assume that in the real world, realistic things actually happen.

Later or sooner, Natalie, we will meet again.


I appreciated how much the conference challenged me and was glad that I rose to those challenges. Aspects of it were difficult, scary, and uncomfortable, but it was exactly then that I thought to myself, I am growing up in this moment. Whether I was gazing around the huge, filled general assembly hall or looking around our table at a bar at night, the significance of who I was surrounded by and what we were doing there astounded me. The theme of the conference was “Alliance of Civilizations” and the irony hit full-force, moment after moment. We were each so different in our political ideals, our mother tongues, our religious beliefs – the list goes on. Having a drink with ten friends one night, I looked around and realized we had each learned to walk on ten different pieces of ground. In ten days, each of us would be falling asleep on ten different pillows in ten different countries. And there we were, laughing about how each of us uses a different word for “bathroom.” (Washroom, loo, WC, toilet…) There we were, the true alliance of civilizations. And in that powerful moment of realization, while we were all laughing and conversing and just sharing our lives with one another around that table in a tucked-away bar somewhere in Kuala Lumpur, I was so, so truly and completely in my element.

***

I believe in the U.N., definitely. Even more strongly, though, I believe in how Model U.N. brings such different people together in the spirit of our belief in what the U.N. stands for. Without a small dose of idealism, humanity would have never made it this far, someone said to us at one point during the conference. Each of us 1,000 delegates have a different idea about what the future of our world will look like – but we were at GMUN 2010 because each of us is committed to playing a role in shaping that future. We recognize the responsibility we have, and we believe in the process.

And in terms of all of our beautiful differences, well, one of us put it well: our differences are an enrichment to the world, not an obstacle.

Idealistic? Yep. Real, raw, and true without a doubt? Absolutely.

Click here to see an article I wrote about the conference in the Burlington Times News

Click here to see a whole lot of official photos from the conference

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