By Natalia Castiblanco (7th semester FIGRI student, Interculturality elective)
It was Friday, April 28 when I set foot for the first time in Universidad del Bosque, headquarters of the 2017 version of COLMUN (United Nations Model of Colombia). Little did I know that it would be the beginning of a crazy yet fascinating process I adore even today. However, United Nations Models are no fairy tale, and the culture shock will inevitably get to you.
The preparation started in February 2017, approximately three months before the real model, and included earning the actual quota to participate in it. Once I was part of the attending delegation, I started talking to a lot of people —including students and professors, reading thousands of articles written by the NGO/press agent I was representing (The Cato Institute) and thinking about all the possible scenarios in which The Cato could get involved. The most entertaining part was attempting to think like The Cato, trying to give advice, talk and write just as if I was one of their executive writers.
Throughout this entire process, it was as though I had to forget about Natalia Castiblanco. That is how I understood one of the main products of the MUN world: delegates instead of people.
The dress code and the parliamentary procedure
My comprehension of this phenomena got deeper when the model started, on Saturday —which is usually the longest and toughest day. I was meant to arrive 30 minutes early, dress according to a very specific code and speak as stated in the COLMUN handbook (which I had already read). The handling of all these MUN practices was not always a dreamy experience; on the first day, I forgot my name tag, which not only identified me during the entire model but was my main resource to communicate during committee sessions. That day, I had to go back home and bring it back with me… Obviously, that took a while and I arrived late to my first press release - so convenient, right?
After two full work days, Sunday night was designated to host the MET Gala Ball (the official COLMUN party). Even though I was not really in the mood to attend it, my entire delegation gave some details about it and my conclusion is: partying in the MUN world is a mixture between the Latin Grammys and the Project X movie. That means fancy clothing, lots of pictures and tons of cheap alcohol… A charming experience for every 20 year old, but surely not for an introvert trying to survive their first MUN.
What warmed my heart during those four intense days wasn’t the understanding of my colleagues during Sunday night, but the entire model. Three days before COLMUN 2017 began, my brother was diagnosed with severe depression and hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic in Bogotá. The silence and sadness that surrounded my heart during those days was overcome by all the love and support from my entire delegation, especially from my directive board of the moment… Then, I understood the meaning of the fellowship perspective of the MUN world.
Less expected than ever, I won the ‘outstanding delegate’ award from among my entire committee. The feeling of walking down the hall with a full auditorium with their eyes on me was overwhelming, but in the end, it truly pleased me. The personal growth I accomplished during COLMUN is just impossible to really tell, so, for those of you who are doubting whether to attend one of these enigmatic models or not: go ahead! Doing it will change your world.