International Cooperation. Literally.

This past weekend I took part in a Model United Nations simulation at my university.  My international relations professor is also in charge of the MUN team here, and he puts on a simulation every semester to prepare the team, and also as a requirement for his classes.

I represented South Africa and the body we were simulating was the International Atomic Energy Agency.  The topics set before us were: the 2010 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Disarmament, Nuclear Terrorism, and Iran’s Nuclear Program.

As usual with Model UN, I had a blast.  I got along great with my partner Juan Pablo, who is from Quito, we had a great time joking around and working together.  South Africa is a fascinating country as far as nuclear issues are concerned. I won’t go into too much detail here but since I can’t resist- South Africa developed its nuclear program with help from Israel and France back in the 1970s as a precaution against the black population.  Once it began the transition to democracy in the early 1990s, the international community pressured the government to declare its program and sign on to the NPT.  Under the last apartheid president, De Klerk, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its entire program, the only country ever to do so.

Cool right? I know, I’m a giant nerd.

Model UN is all about learning how international relations works in the real world, and while that was certainly part of this weekend, meeting lots of new people was another version of international relations.  I got to know a lot of my fellow international students better, and met a lot of new Ecuadorean students I wouldn’t have otherwise.

It is fun walking around campus now and recognizing new faces, thinking to myself, “hey, there’s Iran!!”  On the bus yesterday, I chatted with a guy I recognized as the delegate from Saudi Arabia and we kept talking until it was time to separate to go to our classes and only then did it dawn on us to exchange names.

The team here participates in the National Model United Nations conference in New York, the same conference Ole Miss does, and I know in the future I will have the opportunity to see them all again.

On Saturday night, my professor presented a video he put together honoring last year’s NMUN team, showing them in their committee sessions and winning their Outstanding Delegation and Outstanding Position Papers awards (I won’t even go in to how jealous I am).  It brought tears to my eyes and by the time we were excused for the night I had completely lost it.  I was nearly bawling to people I hardly knew because I was so sad I would not be in New York this year.

I realized this year will be the first time in four years I will not be participating in the NMUN or NHSMUN (National High School MUN) conferences, and that is so incredibly sad to me.   I treasure every moment I have been in the General Assembly hall, I love every fun fact I have learned about the countries I’ve represented, I love the people from all over the country and world I’ve met through participating.

It’s one of those experiences like standing on top of a mountain; it really puts life into perspective.  You realize that you’re working toward something that is so much bigger than one person or even one group of people.

The 2009-2010 Ole Miss MUN team leaves for New York week after next.  They will represent Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Libyan Arab Jamahirya (for one committee).  I know you all will do an amazing job, have an amazing time!