October 10, 2010: The first mention of the United Nations Association of Singapore Model United Nations Preparatory Conference (UNASMUN) in my inbox, when I described it as an introductory endeavour to “gather new [teachers] and students … [to help] expose them to the Model UN programme”. In the next 13 months which followed, we rushed to reach teachers, speakers, and sponsors, to get venues, and to craft documents from scratch. And because I was still serving my National Service in 2011 – the year of the first UNASMUN conference – my weekends were spent in meetings. My weeknights were spent on the computer terminal in my army camp, replying emails and typing out 62 pages of the delegate handbook. This was, after all, still the age of the Nokia mobile phone.
In 2011, we hosted 153 students from 19 schools at Catholic Junior College. Five years later in 2016, tomorrow morning, we will be hosting 670 students from over 55 schools at the Singapore Institute of Management.
So every year the conference has since grown in size and in stature, yet for me it is still the very first edition – us as ambitious greenhorns, scrambling to get a decent number of delegates, tending to last-minute tasks, and accumulating an endless list of areas for improvement – which remains the most memorable. And in fact, the student officers and administrative team from 2011 have been critical to both the conceptualisation and the organisation of future editions. Year after year, management of UNASMUN has been more professional, yet personally, ahead of the conference in 2015 last year, I lost some of the drive which propelled UNASMUN in the first few years.
Yohanes and his team, this year, rekindled some of my interest, but at the same time their contributions and performance thus far have also further affirmed my decision to finally let go. 10 years of involvement in Model UN – starting as a GA5 delegate of Poland in THIMUN-Singapore, in 2006 – is a long time, and for the better half of these 10 years, training and conference organisation have been my focuses. In these focuses, for too long, I had been accustomed to working on my own, and so averse to delegating responsibilities, that I have had to commit to learning again. Even with all the expertise and experience, the learning never stops.
The one thing I have always stressed, to the team at UNASMUN, is that the preparatory and learning elements of the conference apply not just to the student-delegates, but also to us, as the student officers and the administrative team. In the past six years, I have had my fair share of mistakes – for my obstinacy, for not listening, for saying the wrong things, at the wrong time – and this year has been no different. Somewhere down the road, I will look back upon these six years more lucidly, to properly chronicle what has been a defining phase of my life. Because these are the places and people who have made a difference to the conference, and to my life.
One of the proudest moments of my life happened on December 10, 2011 – exactly 14 months after the idea for the conference as mooted – when I delivered the closing address at UNASMUN 2011, signalling the end of the conference. It was also the last day of my National Service. I will feel the same pride tomorrow, when Yohanes takes the stage to deliver his welcoming address at the opening ceremony of UNASMUN 2016 and as his team goes about hosting the schools and students, as a new chapter is written.