Kate recently received the HASS Globetrotters Grant to attend the ninth Annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium at the United Nations in Bangkok. Here is what she had to say!

From 1st August to 6th August, 1057 delegates from 87 countries congregated at the United Nations building in Bangkok with the same vision of “Inspiring Confidence, Inspire Change”, the theme for the ninth Annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium. Run by Humanitarian Affairs Asia, the Symposium connects like-minded change-makers, and provides a forum for these students to meet and discuss the most important issues affecting the world’s future development.  

The United Nations Symposium in Bangkok!
The United Nations Leadership Symposium in Bangkok!
USLS Delegate 2018
USLS Delegate 2018

While at first I was a little nervous of the prospect of sitting among some of the brightest students from across the globe (and some students who had already started their own not-for profits!), I was soon comforted by the familiar voices of the other 200 Australian students who were also attending the Symposium. To further quell the nerves, I was particularly motivated by the challenge set at the beginning of the Symposium to properly meet seven people throughout the week. One thing I’ll never forget from the week is the feeling of sitting at our lunch table one day, not knowing anyone, and by the end nearly having formed a company utilising the combined skills of my table-companions from Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Hong Kong! After my week at the USLS, I now understand the value in truly connecting with people, and how important it is to take a risk and move beyond the “how are you, what do you do” in order to create a meaningful connection when networking. 

The particular schedule for the Symposium featured sessions and panels from various internationally recognised speakers in global affairs, humanitarianism and motivation, along with breakout sessions about the various agencies at the United Nations and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and various networking lunches and tea-breaks. In these sessions, we learnt about the importance of cooperation and teamwork at both a local and global level in order to face some of the challenges facing the world today and tomorrow. Moreover, we were also exposed to multiple sessions focusing on leadership and confidence that allowed us to question our own strengths, our own “professional DNA” and to consider how we can best use that to help others. Words cannot describe, however, the particular effect of some of the sessions, such as hearing from the indomitable Geraldine Cox explain her work in Cambodia with Sunrise Cambodia, or watching in awe of the presentation by David Begbie on behalf of the Crossroads Foundation. These sessions left all of us with an understanding of what it means to serve others and to create a positive change in the world, and inspired us to find our passion, whatever it is, and chase it. 


Experiencing Thai Culture
Experiencing Thai Culture

We also had a break from the formal setting of the Symposium with a Service Learning Day, in which we were able to engage with and give back to the local community in Bangkok. The Wat Bangplad Elementary School opened their doors (on a Sunday!) to 80 delegates, and shared with us various aspects of Thai culture; we learnt Thai dancing and writing, and partook in Thai cooking and tasted delicious local treats cooked onsite. 

Each of us was also paired with a student as a buddy for the day. The day certainly tested our cross-cultural communication skills, particularly in the beginning of the day when we were asked to partake in English conversation classes with our buddies, without being fully aware of our buddy’s level of English. In my case, our conversation was limited to counting and naming colours, and so some improvisation was needed in order to complete the class. With the help of pictures around the classroom, some coloured blocks, and a lot of high-fives, we managed to make progress in the limited time allocated for the class. Throughout the rest of the day, while Mong and I did not have a common language, we still managed to share our time through the common languages of soccer and trying to out-paint each other, literally. 

My 'buddy' Mong and I
My 'buddy' and I

Overall, attending the elementary school was a very unique opportunity to connect with people from an entirely different background, and to force us to put that aside for one day and instead focus on helping others.  

On reflection after leaving Bangkok, I am more inspired than ever to try and make a positive change in the world once I graduate at the end of the year. While I’m still not sure the exact path I want to take, after spending the week at the USLS, I am confident that whatever direction I set off on that I have the passion and the drive to make a difference. 

Kate Cincotta

B Arts/B Laws (Honours) student

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


6 September 2018

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