I did not expect to participate in something like the WFUNA International Model United Nations (WIMUN) 2018 conference so soon. You see, WIMUN is the most accurate educational simulation of a United Nations Conference and is hosted annually in New York, The four-day conference mixes plenaries in the UN headquarters, with briefings from the UN specialists and debate between delegates about their assigned topics. This is an opportunity I only expected to encounter once I had completed my studies and was looking for employment. Even then, I imagined that it would be an opportunity I would apply for but not actually receive due to the tough competition that exists in the pool of graduates looking for employment.
But alas, there I was towards the end of my first year applying to be part of the United Nations Association of South Africa Stellenbosch Chapter’s delegation to the WIMUN conference. Initially I was hesitant but after some encouragement from my roommate, I realised I had nothing to lose and so I applied. Fast forward through emails, interviews, good news that I’d made the team and training to the 6th of February 2018. This was the day that we boarded the plane and set for the Big Apple.
We arrived in New York on the morning of the 7th, leaving the blazing hot and dry Western Cape for much colder conditions. We were greeted by some biting winds and snow as we made our way by foot from the subway to our accommodation. High rise buildings, coffee and bagel carts on every corner, yellow cabs, neon lights at Times Square, NY pizza slices and Starbucks stops for free WiFi are but some of the things that make New York, New York. I can’t concisely express the wonder that is New York. One thing that’s definitely worth mentioning though is how the place is reminiscent of Johannesburg. The iconic buildings and architecture, the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the culturally vibrant and eclectic atmosphere brewing in New York is of the same frequency as that which is brewing in Johannesburg. I thoroughly enjoyed basking in this atmosphere.
The conference itself was an intellectually stimulating experience. Being able to engage with peers from all over the world on pressing matters is an opportunity I am very grateful for. It was also surreal to attend sessions like the opening ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York. This was also a dream that I didn’t expect to materialise so soon #Blessed. It was a long but rewarding three days. We managed to sneak in some site-seeing during the conference breaks and, although they were rushed tours, we managed to see a few of the popular attractions like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Highline, Times Square, Broadway, the Whitney Museum and Central Park to name a few.
Overall, the main takeaway from this entire experience was that I should apply for any opportunity that peaks my interests. I have nothing to lose by applying and there’s no telling what the outcome will be. The outcome of the application process will always surpass the fear of failing. I’ve learnt to encourage people – myself included – to search for opportunities and to apply for them, we have nothing to lose and it’s a learning curve no matter what the outcome of the application is.
Masego Mafata – Class of 2016