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NGUYEN HUYNH NGOC KHANH and the Journey to the United Nations

With no other knowledge besides my own current environment, I always thought of myself as average and undervalued myself among peers and never strived to be much better as I diminished any expectations I had for myself. 

However, at the start of 2023, I wanted to make a change to that by proving myself that I was wrong. I decided that I’d be traveling abroad on my own to participate in one of the largest gatherings for scholars from all around the world. I wanted to change my surroundings, explore new environments and meet new people and really see for myself how different I would see the world. And there I was, by myself in a foreign country, for a month; here’s my story:

“America the land of dreams” or so that’s what I have always heard of from others who visited it before me. I had always thought of going to the United States of America for many reasons but never have it ever crossed my mind that it’d be to participate in one of the most diverse and inclusive events, the YMUN. It was a short week, but it left me a lifetime of remarkable memories that I’d be willing to relive again anytime.

I believe there were thousands of delegates gathering that day at the opening ceremony. To feel like a fish finally meeting its waters is the phrase I’d describe from the experience.  Delegates who attended the YMUN all originated from a different background, many traveled from the other half of the world like me to be there and that was what made the experience so special. I got to open myself up to new cultures and meet different people, it was a new level of diversity that I’d never be able to experience in my monoethnicity home country. 

The YMUN offered many activities for delegates to participate in. I was unfamiliar with the basis of a Model United Nation meeting and hence to my surprise had a lot of culture shocks in our first meeting session. I was the Delegate of the Republic of South Korea, set in the ECOSOCs committee. There were many open discussions and competent debates among the delegates; keep a reminder that these sessions were going 3 hours at a time and any use of electronics was strictly prohibited. I felt extremely underprepared and nervous on my first day, everybody seemed to understand what was going on except for me. The fear of messing up kept me from voicing my own points in debate, and rendered me to be a quiet person within those sessions. I strongly believed at the time that this amazing experience would all go to waste because of my social anxieties.
In the end, the reality was far different from my expectations. I was constantly trying to put myself outside of my comfort zone, in order to socialise and improve what I realised I lacked, confidence. To my surprise, as my confidence grew I also acquired new skills; I was stepping into debates with my fellow delegates, continuously growing, learning and adapting to the culture of MUN.  I made friends along the way, so many that I still can’t keep count of. That was the magic of YMUN. I would describe the experience as eye-opening, for the first time in my life I was able to see a world outside of what I’ve always known; it made me realise how small I am compared to it, yet how special I could be.


Training Program at UN Headquarters.

If the YMUN experience were to be first in building confidence, I could only describe the training program as second to none in learning. It was with pleasure that I got to meet so many great figures who are contributing to shaping our current world. I felt much respect and appreciation for the UN representatives who took their time to share a piece of what our current world status is like to us youth. My peers and I had our fair share of questions and they were just as glad to answer them.
When I first stepped inside the Headquarters in the city of New York, I felt like a little child all over again. Exploring in the gallery of the world’s history, getting to witness live meetings inside the world’s conference room and most of all, learning from the representing faces of the United Nations. 
Our schedule was intensive throughout the 5 days we were there; being busy from dawn to sunset, we were burying ourselves in work. During that time in the Headquarters, I got to learn from my peers and picked up a lot of habits that kept me going by being productive.
What really stood out to me was the presentation given by Miss Angelica Shamerina, an environmental specialist at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She had shared much to us of her insights on the topic of Climate Change. She was straightforward in her answers and that was what kept it so engaging. A simple and common expression we heard in our daily life was to protect the Earth, but little did we truly understand the damage we’d have caused to our universal home. Her speech opened my views and motivated me to be a more active individual, I strive to participate in more campaigns in the future to raise awareness toward the goal of preventing climate change.
I was getting homesick by the time I reached this point of the journey. It was a strange feeling because I never thought I’d miss my home country so dearly. When you’re in such a diverse place, it’s less likely you’ll meet your representative. But it made the UN experience so special to me for that reason; as the only Vietnamese within the room, I felt proud to be there. I still remember the moments I’d be asked to introduce myself, and always in those moments, my go to line would be “I am a student of Vietnam Finland International School, I am from Vietnam”.