Stepping into the vast halls of the Qatar National Convention Center that lay strewn with blonde, black, brown, ginger and ombre dyed-haired teenagers bubbling with excitement, I felt as though I had just stepped into something much more than a mere conference. Closely connected islands of youth filled the atmosphere with passionate banter about aspirations, goals or even just frenzy about not being able to choose which workshop to single out among the wide variety of opportunities available! Yet in the midst of all this, as much as I wanted to photobomb a selfie of Taiwanese students and begin a discussion with the vividly beaming people around me, I had an objective to first achieve, one that I had waited three years for.
I had spent the entire morning getting over the shock of physically meeting my OMUN colleague and friend, Alia, after months of working together on OMUN workshop startup strategies and press releases, just through social media! Actually seeing her smile and hearing her voice face-to-face were surreal, although this may sound exaggerated to someone who has never dived into OMUN’s global online community before, but I can assure you, this actually is an understatement. Although meeting Alia still hadn’t sunken in as yet, I wanted more — to meet OMUN’s inspirational leaders and friends, laugh at our OMUN comedies over lunch, create a flashmob of our theme song, take a horde of pictures for memories to last forever…. Soon enough, I came across each member of what we call the OMUN family, one a time, until we eventually met for dinner, which was when the truth behind OMUN suddenly became alive to me.
Around the long dining table sat a mini representation of the world of Online Model UN. My Middle-Eastern friends laughed at the confused expressions on our Dutch(“ish”) friend’s face at eating uniquely flavored Arabic food. I sat across a Taiwanese-American struggling to eat Hummus (chickpea dip), while a North-Indian who sat by my side, chatted about the similarities in both of our Indian cultures. A South-African on the other end of the table reminisced about the variety of Indian foods available in his hometown while two Afghani youngsters, the founders of HELA, loaded up on their selfie roll, painstakingly tagging the 20-odd of us on Facebook. A global network, a single community. What had developed over the years through social media chats and Skype calls had turned into something so much more meaningful, adding life and purpose to my identity at OMUN. No longer was I just a member of the Executive team; I was integrated into the wider community, turning the abstract into physical connections, turning OMUN aspirations into attainable goals.
When I chat with my OMUN peers now, memories of our time together in our stride to become leaders today, flash before me; OMUN has taken on a whole new form in my eyes — the birth of something beautiful, something new that I eagerly look forward to discovering here in this global community.