By Ashley Rainey Donahey
When Beth Milton was first introduced to Model UN at age 13, her expectations were not high. She joined her middle school’s Model UN club because her best friend said it might be fun. She never dreamed that her new after-school activity could change her life.
“Going into Model UN, I knew the big countries in the world,” Milton said, “but I learned that there are so many more countries out there, each with their own perspectives and governments.”
Milton continued doing Model UN throughout secondary school and into college. By the time she finished her university studies, the career path she would pursue was clear: She would work in international affairs.
Milton, 28, is now a U.S. Foreign Service officer working in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“Model UN directly led to my interest in foreign affairs,” Milton said, “which led to me eventually joining the U.S. Foreign Service and becoming a diplomat.”
Real World Skills
Fortunately the skills Milton developed in Model UN proved as useful in her professional life as they did in the conference room. Working together with delegates from around the world made her a more effective negotiator, she says. Participating in Model UN gave her “a much more global perspective on things,” she says. “It taught me how to collaborate in negotiations with people from different countries and different objectives.”
Serving as a Model UN delegate also improved Milton’s public speaking ability, a useful skill in any profession.
“A large part of Model UN is you just need to get up there and talk,” she explained. “That’s something that I’ve carried with me throughout school and my career: being able to get in front of a bunch of people with no notes and start going.”
Model UN not only impacted Milton’s professional choices, but her social life too. As her interest in international affairs grew, so did her circle of friends. “We would hang out at Model UN Club, then at lunch and after school. It’s a very good way to make friends,” she said.
Traveling for multiple Model UN conferences in her home state of Virginia as well as one in Canada only deepened those friendships. In fact, she remains in touch with those friends despite the distance imposed by her diplomatic position.
“We really bonded,” she said. “I made really, really good friends. [Model UN] became my social circle.”
A Tool for Peace
Milton hopes more young people will get involved with Model UN. For her, Model UN is much more than a great way to make friends. In the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv where she works, Milton sees Model UN as a tool for peace.
“We use it in Israel,” she explains. “We’ll have Palestinian kids pretend they are Israeli and the Israeli kids pretend they are Palestinian, and suddenly they understand the other side’s points and arguments.”
“If you can understand — even if you don’t accept — what another country’s policies are, you can understand where they are coming from.”