You do not often come across an academic program that, once completed, you wish you could experience over and over again. But the Delegation Program of United Netherlands forms a clear exception to this rule. Week after week it pushed me out of my comfort zone, broadened my perspective of the world, and provided me with experiences that a classical textbook could have never offered.
When I applied to United Netherlands I did not have a background in international relations; quite the opposite. Nevertheless, I was interested in geopolitics and eager to learn more about the world beyond newspaper headlines. I trusted that a strong sense of curiosity and willingness to learn would be more important than prerequisite skills and knowledge, and throughout the six months that followed, this was proven to be more than true.
The weekly Friday sessions were composed of a unique combination between theory and practice: in addition to academic lectures, we received extensive training sessions on public speaking, negotiating, and lobbying. Within eight weeks of the start of the program, our steep learning curve became evident during the Oxford International Model United Nations conference. Here we raised our country’s placards without fear, spoke in public without hesitation, and negotiated with strangers without self-doubt.
Our return from Oxford marked the beginning of the most intense phase of the Delegation Program: preparing for Harvard National Model United Nations. What I enjoyed most about these months was that, after receiving our country and committee allocations, I could fully immerse myself in my country (Brazil) and the topic of my committee (Indigenous Peoples and International Law). A visit to the Embassy of Brazil in The Hague formed an essential part of this preparation, allowing me to directly engage with diplomats and learn from their perspectives on the topic.
The Delegation Program reached its peak during the New York Training Week, which consisted of training sessions and institutional visits to, for example, the United Nations Headquarters and the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN. The intensity of this week awakened an inner fire within our Delegation and triggered us to get into the right state of mind to compete against some of the most competitive MUN’ers in the world.
Without a doubt, I can say that representing Brazil at Harvard National Model United Nations has been one of the most exciting things I have ever done. From giving countless speeches to people whom I had never met before, to spending late nights lobbying for our Draft Resolution, I enjoyed every aspect of it. Within this extremely competitive environment I would not have expected to make a new friend from another Delegation, whom I am still in touch with today.
This leads me to what makes all the long hours worthwhile: the people. Being a United Netherlands Delegate has given me so much more than the skills of public speaking, lobbying, and negotiating. It has given me a sense of belonging within a Delegation that feels like a tribe. Coming together every Friday with 29 others, each with a different background and perspective on life, has left me with friendships I know will last for many years to come.
To future delegates I can only say: the experience of a lifetime awaits you.