Swadeekha! In March last year, I attended the 11th Annual Education and Development conference in Bangkok. I came across this opportunity while I was scrolling down my HeySuccess Wall. It was the first time I used HeySuccess and—ta-da! I found something relevant to my field of studies.I am an adventurous soul whose idea of relaxing is traveling and exploring what’s out there! Based on my passion for traveling, I applied to the conference. Soon I got an acceptance letter and I flew to Bangkok—my first ever solo trip.
Now, the perception of the majority of students, and even parents, is that it’s just a conference and not an exchange program or something cooler. Therefore, they ask, “Why spend money on it?” When I told my father that I wanted to attend this conference in Bangkok, he responded, “You’re not even presenting a paper.” Yes, I was just a participant, but I felt like this was a step that I needed to take if I wanted to work for a reputable educational or development organisation.
So, why apply to these conferences? What is the benefit?
I’m going to tell you upfront: I’m really shy when it comes to networking. I’ve had so many opportunities at my university to network with intellectuals, but I just couldn’t. In Bangkok, I knew I had to network because, otherwise, what was the whole point of coming? I had to force myself to come out of my comfort zone and build relationships with others. Thankfully, I got to know some amazing young individuals and professors with whom I am still in contact. For instance, I interacted with a professor from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, and he has been helping me out with my graduate school applications and funding for opportunities, and keeping me updated about different programs that I can look into. Networking is handy for building lifelong contacts.
Going to conferences or events that are related to your field of study or your passion can really enhance your CV. If I am applying for a job in social development, and I attended a conference about education and development, the conference stands out. This is because it shows a potential employer how passionate you are about the field that you are pursuing. Attending a conference also acts as experience in the field because you will learn so much about what’s happening in the profession and what other people think about the issues.
When you travel abroad, you learn so much about the other country’s culture, values, and markets. This exposure not only broadens your horizons, but it also allows you to build up sensitivity and necessary skills to operate in an international landscape, along with a greater understanding of the complexities and developments in international economies. With a global perspective, you will be able to place yourself, your activities, and your education in a global context.
Okay, so I experienced what it is like to be independent in Bangkok, because it was my first ever solo trip to a country where English is not that common. In Bangkok, I learnt the importance of carrying a power bank and Google maps. I got lost twice in Bangkok. Those situations only made me strong and more aware of my surroundings, and taught me how to stay calm in difficult situations and communicate with people who don’t share the same language as me.
That was my Bangkok experience. I hope my thoughts motivate you to at least apply for similar conferences, even if they are non-funded opportunities. Take baby steps to reach your goals. The sky is the limit!
Shaheera Pesnani is currently one of the interns of the HeySuccess Internship Challenge season V. She comes from Karachi, Pakistan. She is currently pursuing her BSc (Hons) in Social Development and Policy from Habib University, with Ecological Justice and Social Movements being her thematic concentration. Shaheera aspires to be a humanitarian lawyer in the near future.