I used to have horrible stage fright: I would be so deathly terrified of walking up to a stage and opening my mouth that I would go to great lengths to avoid it. I turned down all my teachers’ suggestions that I participate in story-telling competitions and poem recitals in primary school, and singing and dancing on stage was just out of the question.
It wasn’t until late in secondary school that I realized sometimes, I would get this sudden urge to say things – that I actually had things that I wanted to express. The written word was my weapon, so I delved into this world of literature and writing, and I discovered the pen can sometimes be mightier than the mouth. I used to think by writing my thoughts down (or more frequently, clickety-clack on the keyboard), I was being forced to consider and reconsider them properly and thus engage in a more coherent and correct form of expression.
Sure, I could have all the clarity and accuracy I wanted in black and white on a piece of paper, but these 4 months at KYUEM has shown me how much I enjoy the chaotic world of speech. There’s a certain beauty in the spontaneity of speaking, the wit and humor in retorts and responses, the occasional slip of the tongue, and most importantly, the fast-paced two-dimensional exchange of ideas. In writing, we spend days writing 800-word essays and publish them, and by the time a reply gets back to us, the urgency of debate is lost. Speaking puts you on the spot and forces you to listen, interpret, analyze and articulate your response all in the frame of a few seconds, which is what I experienced and strangely…got into it.
Last month, I joined the first (of many more) debating workshops. where some of my debating friends had invited a seasoned debater to come and coach us after classes on Thursday and Friday. On my first day I apologetically told him that I was completely new to debating and that I had no prior experience, and for the rest of the night I tried to listen and understand what he was saying. I didn’t get much, really, and I felt quite out of place in the entire setting. I returned reluctantly for the second session on Friday. “OK, we’re gonna do what I call ‘speech therapy': you come out, give a speech, and I’ll tell you what you should work on.” Well, shit.
I worked on my topic for ten minutes and came up with a short speech about voting rights. I started to speak, and because it was so short, I ran out of words a minute later. “…and that’s all I have,” I said apologetically. Then he told me that it was actually pretty good. Encouraged, I returned for the subsequent workshops and found myself actually debating about strange topics like self-immolation. It was a whole new experience, and despite the discomfort, I grew to like it more and more.
This weekend I traveled up to Kuala Lumpur for the annual Taylor’s Model United Nations Conference (TAYMUN 2014). I represented China in the Disarmament and International Security Council (DISEC), where the topic of discussion was about foreign military intervention and the leakage of classified information. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time China has ever been so quiet about such topics, but I was again, nervous about speaking out even though I had done quite a bit of research into the debate. I gave a short speech and raised a few points of information, but I wish I had spoke out more and ignored this silly apprehension of mine.
If I could say one thing about my first semester, I’d say I’m grateful to have opportunities like these to push me out of my comfort zone, and good friends to share the experience with. Here’s to more debates and more diplomacy at model UN!