The Netherlands is known for liberal drug laws and a low drinking age of 16. Mix together 2,000 high school students, remove from parents, add a sprinkle of teachers, and put them in hotels for a week. What do you get? No, not the spring break of a lifetime, but an academic school trip. The Hague, Netherlands is the site for the international Model United Nations (MUN) conference, where students from around the world meet. As our train pulled in, signs welcomed MUNers to the local clubs, proclaiming, "Free Shots for MUN! Just Show Badge." I realized that this was not only much different than the home I had just left; this was a different world.
Being part of the MUN team selected to represent Bitburg American High School, Germany, I was nervous yet excited. We had worked countless hours to create resolutions to merge and pass, resolutions that hopefully would be presented to the United Nations. As 17 pairs of eyes looked at sign after sign, our teacher informed us that this would be a lot like college. It would be nearly impossible for him to watch over all of us. If we drank, smoked, or stayed out late it was our choice, and we would have to deal with the consequences. We were responsible for getting ourselves to and from committee meetings; he would not be keeping tabs. He reminded us of the form we had signed stating we would uphold the integrity of the school and more importantly, that we were representatives of the United States.
Of course, after we arrived and checked in, there were a number of people who went straight to the clubs. I was too apprehensive about the next day to join in. The days were full of meeting, negotiating, debating, and merging ideas. It took concentration, attention, and debate to blend the resolutions together. The evenings, howeve,r were full of parties and clubs. The work of the day changed to the social of the night.
Yes, I admit, I went to the clubs. I wanted to see what they were like. They were loud and packed with fellow MUNers. I danced, met people, and had a lot of fun, sans drinking, smoking, or staying out late. I kept an eye on my friends, and I was happy with myself in that I could be responsible without direct supervision. I also was glad to prove that peer pressure doesn't influence everyone.
By the end of the conference, my focus on life had changed. I successfully merged and passed my resolution and met a variety of people with different perspectives on issues. As the train pulled out of the station, the gray sky reminded me that few things are black and white. The true test is looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing you did your best. I was pleased with the decisions I made and took away much more because of them. It was an incredible experience.