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Letter to the Editor: Oh, Christmas Tree! I miss thee.

Christmas Tree at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, the venue for the AMUN Conference when there isn't a global pandemic.

As you enter into the main lobby of Gatherly, you may see to the right a Christmas tree and wonder why AMUN would have one there.  Well, it all started 17 years ago, in the wintery season of AMUN 2004 –which, by the way, nearly closed down the airports due to the two feet of snow Chicago got that Thanksgiving’s eve.  AMUN 2004 was our first conference at the Sheraton, and with the exception of two years sometime in the early 2010s, we’ve consistently had the Sheraton as AMUN’s home.  

Christmas decorations usually pop up in retail stores the first week of November, and it turns out hotels like to get the Christmas cheer roaring just before Thanksgiving.  I vaguely recall the Hyatt having a cold-blue wintery theme in 2003 when I was a representative at AMUN, but I was amazed at the Sheraton’s warm silver- and gold-tone decorations as they went up during the conference.  In the center of the Sheraton main lobby is a large open circle, which perfectly fits a fat 15-foot tree.  As representatives check-in to the hotel on Friday or Saturday morning, the hotel looks like it does the rest of the year, but by the time we have finished opening ceremonies, the center lobby tree is up and glittering and the entire hotel has flourishes and garlands in warm white lights. The tree adds an element of congeniality, of hope and of comfort to a place the Secretariat considers home for about a week a year.  It also signals to us that, once we’ve accomplished our mission and held yet another successful conference, it’s time for us to go home, reflect on all that is good and well with our families and friends, and celebrate the holiday season. For many on staff, we leave conference on the day before Thanksgiving, proceed to sleep until Thanksgiving dinner, and sleep again, and before you know it we are ready for Black Friday shopping and holiday carols.

But it’s 2020, and that means nothing is the same.  We’re holding a virtual conference in October instead of November, and we have yet to start Halloween, let alone feel that natural transition to December.  I, for one, still took Paid Time Off (PTO) from my job the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving as I scheduled it right after AMUN 2019, and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do with that time off.  That being said, I’ve already put in my request for PTO for the two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2021.

I will miss seeing representatives in person, watching as you debate and caucus around resolutions and reports, and I will miss how excited people get over public policy, economics and world affairs. I miss being able to use my political science skills and knowledge base, and I am sure I’m not the only one who feels brilliantly super-smart after attending an AMUN conference, and I’ll miss that feeling too.

I will miss being with my fellow secretariat, many of whom are my closest friends and take seriously our motto of “the family we choose.”

The AMUN secretariat has talked to you about joining our team, made announcements to complete staff applications and attend interviews.  But I want to share with you the reason I joined and the reason I stayed.  I joined because as a representative at AMUN, I realized that it might be one of the ways to continue to Model UN after I left graduate school, and it wasn’t dependent on being in school, or even at a school that attended AMUN; my undergraduate institution did not. Many of our new staff join as they are still working to graduate, find their first jobs, and settle into actual adult life, while some continue on to graduate, medical and law school.  The lure of joining staff is the hope for continuing Model UN’ning, networking, and the skills you gain as participants and staff.  As you remain on staff in the following years, the reasons for staying change.  We become invested in each other’s lives, form strong friendships that will last a lifetime. We travel across the nation and nearly always have a staffer who will meet for a meal. We attend weddings and text and facetime on birthdays.  And each year, we make it to the Sheraton and congregate. We work hard, and then we relax, and enjoy each other’s company.  We share pictures of our pets and eventual AMUN spawn, and it’s always fascinating when we bring our families along and they meet other AMUN’ers for the first time.  Over time life takes over and we may have to retire from AMUN life, but those connections don’t die out.  You’re stuck with us for life, and we’ll be liking your facebook pictures on your fiftieth wedding anniversary and sending out holiday cards and still welcoming in new first-year staffers to our family.

And darn it, I’m going to miss the Sheraton Christmas Tree.

If you’re interested in joining the AMUN Staff, fill out our application form online.

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