26 May 2017

HPAIR Changed My Life. Now Let It Change Yours.

Wanting to add an international experience to your degree but not sure if you have the time or money? International conferences can be a valuable addition to your resume with wide ranging benefits including access to world renowned speakers, thought-provoking presentations, global networking opportunities, and an amazing travel experience.

The first international conference I went to was the 2015 Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Asia Conference held in Manila. It was nothing short of life changing, and provided me with many valuable lessons, renewed ambitions and many great friends from around the world who I still keep in touch with today. Here are some of my top reasons for why you should consider attending conferences and the value they deliver:

I returned from HPAIR with a renewed sense of purpose in life. I was motivated to initiate my own projects, volunteer in my community and take a more active role in extra-curricular activities. I felt I learnt just as much from other delegates as I did from speakers. Being surrounded by such talented and ambitious individuals really motivates you to go out there and pursue your dreams. The value of being immersed in such an environment should not be understated.

Global Talent
During my time in Manila, I came face-to-face with political leaders, Fortune 500 Company CEOs, startup entrepreneurs and highly regarded academics. While USYD provides an enriching learning experience, being exposed to such diverse, international talent in one room was truly special and not something you often get to experience. 

Attendance to a HPAIR Conference is via competitive selection process. Every year, thousands of applications are received and each person is individually screened and interviewed. With so many intelligent and enthusiastic individuals in one room, you're bound to strike up a conversation with someone who has similar interests to you. When I introduced myself to people, I was blown away by the breadth of experiences of fellow delegates. "I've just come back from New York where I was interning at the UN"; "I'm working on a startup at the moment that connects students with their dream employers"; "I work in the Prime Minister's Office"; "I started a school in India that gives quality education to Mumbai's poorest children". These were common phrases I would hear when meeting new delegates. I came to question how I was even accepted to attend given my status of "student who works part-time in retail". But that's one of the great things about attending a HPAIR conference. Everyone is so diverse, comes from different backgrounds and has such interesting stories to tell. Only be immersing yourself in unfamiliar environments and connecting with people from different backgrounds, can you truly open your mind to new perspectives and appreciate new ways of thinking. HPAIR provided me with a fantastic opportunity to meet with some pretty amazing people - as well as ordinary students who were doing extraordinary things - who I otherwise would not have had the privilege to meet.

One of the highlights of any event - making friends from around the world who you will keep in touch with for years to come. It's crazy to think you can forge such deep connections with people after just five days. I see people in my classes every week for an entire semester and still not remember their names. Yet, someone I've known for less than a week is suddenly a close friend of mine. I can't quite explain why. But that's just what happens. 

One of the great things about HPAIR is the diversity of the conference program. With keynotes, panel discussions, impact challenge competition and diverse social events, you definitely don't get bored!

So why attend a conference? Quite simply, an opportunity. You don't know who you're going to meet. You might hear from a really inspiring speaker that motivates you to pursue different avenues in life. You could chat with another delegate who has interests similar to your own that you end up collaborating with and work on the next big thing together. 

I found my time at HPAIR to be a very valuable addition to the traditional coursework I am exposed to at USYD and it provided me with thought-provoking ideas, newfound inspiration, great friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Mitchell Hunter is the Executive Director of the 2017 HPAIR Asia Conference, which will be held in Sydney from 17-21 August. Applications to attend are open until June 3. Find out more at www.hpair.org.

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