Every year when school starts back up, a new herd of freshmen files into every Model UN club. During their first simulation, these seemingly terrified kids take their seats and watch from the back row as debate starts up. As the debate intensifies, they become more and more confused by the usage of Model UN jargon and political rhetoric. The classic beginning of a delegate’s Model UN career is rocky and ripe with misinformation; however, while this initial confusion is in many ways inevitable, there are certainly some ways to ease your new members into Model UN.
1.) Remember Your Manners
On a club level, it is important to make your new members feel welcome and accepted in your club, as they are the future of it. The minute they walk in, have you club leaders introduce themselves and explain–in brief, simplistic terms–what Model UN is all about. This will make newcomers feel a lot less nervous. Make sure you know their name. Make eye contact. Spend some time chatting with them about their interests in Model UN and any questions they may have. Small, polite gestures will strengthen your bond with newer delegates and put them at ease.
2.) Quantity over Quality
Start your first substantive meeting or practice simulation with an easy topic that everyone–even those who aren’t up to date with international current events–has at least a basic set of opinions on. This will avoid the need for them to research and make it easier for them to jump in. While running your simulation, encourage them to speak, even if they don’t fill the whole allotted speaking time or use artful language. Often times getting just one new member to give a speech is enough to get the ball rolling for the rest; it is truly a domino effect. While a new member is speaking, feel free to stop the timer and give them the time they need. A time limit will stress them out and will not make them feel comfortable.
The point is not that the content of the speech is good, nor that they strategically fit their time constraint: the point is simply that they stand up and say something.
3.) Create a Team Dynamic
Outside of the classroom, your club can include newer members in many ways. Start with adding them into your club group chats and hang-outs. Remember that everybody wants to feel a part of something; something as minuscule as a group chat can go a long way when it comes to getting newer members to stick around. If you have team merchandise like sweaters or stickers, make a point of mentioning it to new members. The more they start looking like members of your team, the more they will begin to show it, too.
4.) Make Yourself Approachable
There are also ways that individual members of your club can help out new members. Make sure that all of the new members know that there’s someone in the club they can reach out to for advice or to answer questions they may have. For example, club leadership can assign your new members a “MUN Mentor”, an experienced delegate who can help them through every step of the process leading up to their first conference. Having a designated person to text about research advice or solution ideas will help your new members see that they’re not alone along the way. Regardless of the degree of your experience or success in Model UN as an older member of the club, it is your responsibility to be a role model and a resource for newer members to feel welcome to reach out to in times of confusion or frustration. By allowing your new members to become acclimated to your club both in and out of the classroom, you can make sure that your team is united and strong. The more comfortable and supported everyone on your team is, the better off you all will be come conference season.