What I Learned From a Week in Toronto

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Toronto to compete in the Southern Ontario Model United Nations Assembly (SOMA)! I was among 20 excited students on our Model UN team who departed for Toronto on Tuesday morning and tiredly returned to Calgary on Saturday evening. I wasn’t expecting to learn much from the trip, as I expected it to be just like any other MUN conference I had attended in Calgary, but boy was I wrong. Going into a big, bustling city with all my friends (and no parent supervision) allowed me to have many unique experiences. Here are a couple things I learned from them.

1. Your friends bring you more joy than any other people in your life

As someone who has always stuck by the rhetoric of “family first” for all of my life, I personally am surprised that I now believe your friends are the ones who bring you the most joy in life and the ones that you will cherish the most. There were lots of instances when we had a ton of fun together, as friends. We mimicked the poses of terracotta statues and became obsessed with oddly shaped windows at the Royal Ontario Museum. We played some metal drums terribly and recorded our “fire mixtape” in the Ontario Science Centre. We may or may not have broken a table hockey machine at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Me getting stuck in one of the windows at the Royal Ontario Museum

My entire friend group had meals together before, during, and after the conference. We joked, laughed, and were disruptive to the other restaurant customers in general, but we were happy and we felt like a mini-family together. My experience in Toronto made me realize how much joy friendship has brought me, as well as just how valuable all of my friendships are.

2. You can be agreeable with everyone, even if they hold the polar opposite of your values

After the final day of the SOMA conference, all of us students, wearing our formal business attire, were heading back to the Chelsea Hotel to take a break and get ready for the closing ceremonies in the evening. Along the way, we happened to pass by an elderly woman standing on the sidewalk. For no apparent reason, she began to yell and scream at our group about how “young people shouldn’t pretend to be adults” and many other bold statements that didn’t seem to make much sense. At the time, our group held back our laughter and we all silently agreed that we didn’t want to cross her path again. But being the forgetful youth I am, after going to my hotel room briefly to drop off my backpack, I decided I wanted some food from Thai Express. I went downstairs and headed back along that same street that the elderly woman had yelled at us on. Sure enough, she was still there. Oh boy, I thought. Here comes another one. But before she saw me walking by, she dropped her cane. Something inside me clicked, and despite knowing that this elderly lady had scolded me less than 20 minutes ago, I bent down, picked up her cane, and handed it back to her. What happened next surprised me, to say the least. She beamed at me and said, “thank you,” with no mention of the previous incident. As I continued along my way to Thai Express, I thought about the preceding incidents a bit more, and I realized that although the elderly woman clearly disagreed with some values I hold, we were still able to be cordial with each other, through a random act of kindness. Some good food for thought…

Sometimes a helping hand is all it takes to change someone’s perspective on you

3. It’s tough to make some of the simplest decisions in life by yourself

Speaking about food, I ended up spending almost half an hour at Thai Express, and it wasn’t because the service was slow. It was because I could not decide between the options I had. Did I want the classic Thai soup? Or the crispy Imperial Rolls? How about the new “Spicy Thairacha Chicken” combo? Of all the things I could have trouble deciding upon, it was what I would get for a snack that bothered me the most. Usually at home or with others, I just tell somebody to order something for me, and I would pay them back. This minor detail was thrust into the limelight when I had to all of a sudden make my own choice for what food I wanted to eat. After careful deliberation, I decided to take a chicken Pad Thai meal. I made a terrible mistake however – I asked for it extra spicy. My face was red while I drank a couple litres of water while wolfing down the overly spicy noodles. I guess I’m going to need a bit more experience doing the little things, like ordering for myself at the food court!

I’m sure you can see why it took me so long to choose! So many good options…

These are just a couple neat things I learned about myself and others on the trip! Once again, I’m super grateful that I was able to go on the SOMA trip for all that I was able to experience. I’d encourage anybody who was offered a similar chance to have an experience like this to take the opportunity immediately – I’m sure you will learn a lot too!

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