When the QUT Business School offered me the chance to visit one of the world’s most famous cities and hang out with student leaders from all over the world, I thought to myself: “God I have a hard life.”
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
The 6th University Scholars Leadership Symposium – run by Humanitarian Affairs – is seeing some 876 students from 57 countries converge on sunny (and ridiculously hot) Hong Kong. Naturally, in the spirit of thorough preparation, I decided it was prudent of me to arrive a few days early, to get a chance to really connect with Hong Kong’s intrinsic energy.
Arriving at USLS
After several long, torturous days spent lying on beaches, cruising around Victoria Harbour and eating my body weight in dumplings from Tim Ho Wan, I finally made my way out to Sha Tin where the symposium delegates are being hosted by the fantastic Regal Riverside Hotel. I was immediately blown away by the sheer scale of the USLS program, with the hotel lobby packed to the brim with young people of all sorts of nationalities. Humanitarian Affairs really go out of their way to provide a global experience, integrating a massive amount of different cultures, insightful activities and fabulous guest speakers into a week that is sure to challenge and reform the very way in which we see the world. Part of this experience involves sharing a room with two other delegates from distinctly different ethnic backgrounds – my roommates are from Nigeria and Syria (via England)!
Oh, and the accommodation is alright I guess…
Day 1 of the symposium program saw us dive straight into the action – a hotel staffer kindly woke us at 6:30am, allowing us to quickly eat before boarding a bus bound for Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). For the morning’s opening ceremony, delegates were encouraged to wear their country’s traditional cultural garb, and it was incredible to witness the conference centre full of vibrant colours and complex, mesmerising outfits.
Of course as always, some people understood the instructions better than others…
Following the hypnotic and enthralling opening ceremony performances by students from PolyU, Regional Director of Humanitarian Affairs Janice Leong gave her opening address, officially opening the 6th University Scholars Leadership Symposium. Over the course of the next couple of hours, we were delighted to hear from a variety of speakers including Professor Angelina Yuen (Acting President of PolyU), Tony Simpson MP (WA Minister for Youth and Local Government) and The Honourable Matthew Cheung-Kin-Chung (Hong Kong Secretary for Labour and Welfare) who each detailed their personal perspectives on humanitarian affairs issues affecting our global society.
Key note addresses
However, the day’s star event was waiting for us after lunch, in the form of two fabulous keynote addresses by Mr. Haoliang Xu (Assistant Secretary General of the UN) and Dr. Rosanna Wong (Executive Director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups).
Firstly, Mr. Xiu walked us through some of the sobering statistics relating to the current state of global humanitarian affairs:
- UN data suggests that there are roughly 60 million refugees worldwide
- 82.5 million people worldwide are in need of some form of humanitarian support
- Due to the conflict in Syria, Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest proportion of refugees
- The Syrian conflict has itself created over 4 million new political refugees
- 560 million people live below $1.25US per day (categorised as extreme poverty), whilst 1.44 billion people live below $2US
- Over 200 million people are unemployed across the globe
Now holding our attention in the palm of his hand, Mr. Xiu detailed the UN’s plan to deal with these massive societal issues, the “Sustainable Development Goals.” Around this point I found my eyes wandering around the room, taking in the overwhelming sense of emotion that was emanating throughout this group of future world leaders.
Thankfully, the day’s events ended with Dr. Wong giving us a truly inspiring pep talk about how we as individuals can make a difference. It is an incredibly moving experience to gain insights from someone who has achieved so much in the area of social change and her top tips for success are applicable across all levels of leadership:
- Living a purposeful life has nothing to do with how big or small an impact you actually make – the effort is the important factor
- No matter your position, others will always look to challenge your views and ideas – do not let yourself be swayed by discouragement or temptation
- Your purpose needs to be sustainable in order to achieve meaningful results – it won’t come easy and quickly, but if you commit yourself fully to a cause, there is nothing that can stop you
As I sit here in my ridiculous hotel room contemplating the overload of information I have received today, I am immensely excited about the rest of the activities to come throughout this week-long conference. The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and events such as the University Scholars Leadership Symposium are incredibly valuable in empowering young leaders to go out and begin shaping our world.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Stay tuned here and/or follow me on twitter (@ThomasDavies27) more insights from USLS 2015! I promise I will try and tweet occasionally…