Communication is an essential tool of the animal kingdom for the exchange of information. Humans have developed language as means of communication amongst themselves. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines language as “. . . A code made up of rules that include what words mean, how to make words, put them together, and what word combinations are best in what situations. Speech is the oral form of language.” While many people master oral communications with ease, I found it challenging to learn any language, including English, due to my medical condition. I found myself struggling in all aspects of life. Looking back, now I realize the wisdom behind the words of famous educational psychologist Jerome Bruner who stated: “Proficiency in oral language provides children with vital tools for thought. Without fluent and structured oral language, children will find it difficult to think”. I was spiraling down in my academic performance with no end in sight. This, in turn, adversely affected my self-esteem. When my grade five English language teacher told me that I would not be accepted in any university with the current low vocabulary score, I hit a nadir. This statement jolted me out of my complacent state, and I decided to turn a new leaf and overcome my handicap.
I took up reading earnestly when, in grade six, I experimented with different fictional genres before eventually settling down with criminal justice. I guess my helping and compassionate nature drew me towards the subject. Books about motivational stories and leaders like Mahatma Gandhi were my bedside companions. Inspirational movies like ‘My Left Foot’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ helped me in seeing things. I realized I had to live with what I have rather than looking at what others have. Furthermore, they taught me that hard work and perseverance are the secret recipe for success.
In grade eight, I signed up for Model United Nations (MUN). Model UN is an extracurricular activity for middle school and high school students. It is a simulation of UN organizations UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, UNICEF, and others. These simulations occur at Model UN conferences. Model UN conferences can be local, regional, national, or international. Each Model UN members is assigned at least one country and committee. They research the country and the relevant issues to prepare for the conference. The members must write a position paper that outlines their respective country’s position on the committee's topic. During the meeting, the member gives a speech outlining their county’s position on the issue and potential solutions. After all, delegates have completed their respective presentations; their viewpoints are discussed and debated and agreed on solutions, they develop a written resolution. Besides the committee members, the host organization must nominate personnel to provide the logistic and administrative support for the conference's smooth functioning.
Being a freshman at Model UN, I opted to join the logistics and administration team in my school while in grade eight. Around four hundred students were participating from various schools in the city. This helped me understand the conference's work and the different processes involved in developing a final written resolution. Speaking with observing the fellow participants, I learned about the various publications and sites; one must refer to prepare the country-specific position paper on the issue being discussed in the committee. I was also introduced to the correct language and phrases used to write the resolution. Observing the members read their position papers and the proposed solutions and subsequently giving clarifications to queries from fellow members of the committee, debating on the various solutions offered, reaching an agreement on a set of solutions, and eventually formatting them into a resolution helped me develop a clear understanding of the functioning of Model UN.
Six months later, I was selected as a delegate in a committee to represent the participating nations. After the initial exuberance and excitement, I got down to prepare the position paper. In the beginning, I found it challenging to draft the document using the correct phrases and terminology. But after several attempts, I achieved the desired format. Having overcome the first hurdle, I started preparing myself for the conference. I read out my resolution in front of the mirror for several days before the meeting to overcome stage fright. I practiced voice modulation to highlight the critical issues in the paper and invoke audience interest. Also, I researched the stand of the other participating countries on the internet to prepare myself for the debate. Fortunately, all my preparation and efforts paid off, and the conference went off without a hitch. The following year, I was selected as one of the delegates from my school for the national level conference. Subsequently, I attended several meetings both at local and national levels. One of my most memorable experiences is when I was selected as an advocate in the International Court of Justice for one country. Not only because it was a fascinating experience to be in a packed courtroom addressing the judge, but it was also the fulfillment of my childhood dream of being a lawyer.
When in grade eleven, I transferred to a different school and took a break from Model UN to focus on my studies and prepare for college applications' various tests. When in grade twelve, I observed that the school did not have any Model UN-related activities. After getting the clearances, I contacted the national Model UN directors from the headteacher and established a Model UN chapter in the school. The entire application process, establishing the system, laying out the procedures, and training the students as delegates were challenging and fulfilling.
Thanks to Model UN, I am a confident individual. Participating in Model UN has helped me have a better understanding of the world we live in, improved my English skills, overcome the fear of public speaking, built my confidence, develop leadership skills, interact with peoples of different socio-cultural backgrounds and discuss and debate and reach an amicable understanding on any subject.
Besides this, I volunteered in the Poona School for Blind Girls during the summer of 2015. There were girls from the age of six to eighteen from an economically challenging background. I was tasked with teaching the girls with near blindness to develop vocational skills like weaving, making ornaments from beads, knitting bags, etc. Their zest and passion for life much inspired me despite a significant handicap. It was a life-changing experience. Before this stint, I used to wallow in self-pity and had a pessimistic outlook on life despite having a privileged upbringing and all the comforts in life. After observing those girls, I decided to change my perspective. I started to view life as a gift and each day as a new opportunity. I no longer felt that I had a handicap due to my medical condition and that I was as capable as the next person in all respects.
Thanks to these incredible experiences, I am a completely different individual today. Gone is the nervous, timid, hesitant, and unsure individual. In place is a self-confident, optimistic person with an inherent self-belief ready to find her home under the sun and tackle any life challenges.