February 2, 2014

Travelling Opens Your Eyes (Or Why I Went To Italy)

Naples, January 2014

I was asked while I was in Italy what was the purpose of my trip. Although I did go to overstuff myself with pasta and pizza, the official reason for my Italian adventures was that I was participating as a Director in the Italian Model UN Conference.

What is Model UN?

For those of you who don't know what that means, I'll try to explain it as simply as I can. It's a conference where people (delegates) pretend to be diplomats at the UN and change the world. More formally, I would say it's an experience of education though simulation, in which students –in this case high school students– represent a nation in a specific UN committee, and discuss solutions to real-life current issues, such as human trafficking, environmental refugees, and women's empowerment.

But the educational experience is not just for the delegates. As a director, I was meant to guide the delegates through the debate process, and act as a moderator. But I learned from them in the process. And I reunited with my old self, which was the most important part.

My love for helping others

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was meant to help people around the world. My mum still tells me how I always tried to defend children who were being bullied during elementary school. Then came Social Service in High School, when I refused to stay at the library and clean books, and wanted to always go out and have some real contact with people. Kindergarten visits were probably my favourite part of Social Services. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to work as a riding instructor in a Summer Camp, where I was in charge––among other things––of doing special horse rides for people with disabilities. This was a life-changing experience, and I will certainly never forget it!

However, with all the economic models and crises I've been studying in the past couple of years, I must confess I had forgotten what all of this was about. To me, people had been reduced to the rational individual you find in any economics textbook.

But going to Italy made me get back in touch with my old self, the helper. Seeing the joy in the eyes of the delegates when their good performance as negotiators and peace keepers was recognised, the happiness of those who were given scholarships to attend other Model UN Conferences, and the ideas––sometimes a little out of the box––they came up with reminded me of how much I can do for the world.

Then came Jen's story. Even if I probably won't be able to change the world by myself, it does count if I do my best.

If I hadn't gone to Italy, I might have never found myself again. Or maybe I would have, but it would have been too late. Or maybe not. Who knows.

The truth is that I'm absolutely grateful because I was chosen to go to Italy. This experience changed me, and shaped the person I am now. It would probably be too extreme to say there was a pre-Italy Laura and a post-Italy one, but I am certainly different, in a way. And hopefully it will take me on a path where I can help the people around the world, especially those who really need a hand.


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio