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Highlights from the Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

THE inaugural Melbourne International Student Conference was a weekend of inspiration, learning, personal and professional development, networking and encouraging entrepreneurship to plug gaps in the community for the 100 delegates in attendance. Faridah Wu brings you the highlights. 

MISC 2014

The Melbourne International Student Conference was held on the September 27 and 28 at Arrow on Swanston in Carlton. Jointly hosted by the City of Melbourne and Meld Magazine, the theme of the event was ‘Leaders in the Making‘.

The first day began bright and early at 9.30am with the opening keynote address by former international student and now world renown Malaysian artist-architect Red Hong Yi, who shared her unexpected road to fame.

She gave delegates a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of the art projects she had embarked on, such as a portrait of Jackie Chan made using 64,000 disposable chopsticks hung vertically from a steel rack.

Red Hong Yi, Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

Red Hong Yi shares how she finds inspiration to create in everyday objects. Photo: Johnson Xu

It wasn’t all fun and games, as Hong Yi revealed the numerous trials and errors she had to make before she felt her completed projects could be displayed. Her portrait of Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi made entirely out of white carnations and red dye took months and required the help of her family.

The ratio of red dye to water had to be tested to ensure the flowers absorbed the right shade of red. The final piece took a nerve-wrecking 40 hours before each of the 2000 carnations absorbed the red dye to produce the correct shade of red.

“Thank god her face appeared, otherwise my face would have disappeared!” she joked.

Red Hong Yi, Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

Red Hong Yi mingles with the delegates. Photo: Johnson Xu

As a former international student, she inspired delegates to have the courage to chase their dreams. She revealed to several delegates after her keynote about how her parents were initially nervous about her future, and wanted her to secure a stable job.

Speakers Senaya Krishnan, Jensen Ma and Teigan Margetts took the stage afterwards for The Job-Hunting 101 Series.

Telstra’s graduate program manager Senaya Krishnan gave invaluable tips to delegates on how they could secure their first job, giving them insight to the recruitment process.

Immigration law specialist Jensen Ma guided delegates through the options they could consider after graduation, including working in Australia.

Jensen Ma, Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

Immigration law specialist Jensen Ma. Photo: Johnson Xu

Teigan Margetts, a graduate program manager from Ericsson, shared how international students’ cultural background could be an asset to local companies, and how they could learn to turn their perceived disadvantages into advantages.

After lunch, delegates took part in TAG (Teach Anything Good) sessions, a series of half-hour classes and activities covering everything from How to Start a Business through making No-Bake Cheesecake to getting into the Capoeira groove.

Meanwhile, those who required help for their IELTS tests benefited from the knowledge of experts from IDP. Participants who brought along a copy of their resume also had the opportunity to receive feedback from career advisers at the resume checking stations.

Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

Delegates were given insight on building a better resume at the resume-checking session. Photo: Johnson Xu

The second day of the conference was a corporate affair with delegates given situations to test their problem-solving skills as well as the opportunity to showcase their business acumen.

Mayibuye Cambodia founder Zoe Condliffe delivered her keynote on social entrepreneurship. She also shared her personal story of spending her early years in Cambodia, leading to the desire to give back to her community. As the winner of Anthill Magazine’s 30under30 competition for young entrepreneurs, she spoke about how to infuse businesses with social good. 

At the Turning Ideas into Reality session, delegates broke up into teams and were given a challenge to come up with solutions to improve local-international students engagement, drawing on insights from their own cultures and communities.

They were given time to refine their ideas before pitching them to a judging panel, which consisted of Hayley Bolding, Program Lead for Young People Without Borders, Diana Crvenkovic, Manager at the Department of State, Business and Innovation, Wesa Chau, Director of Cultural Intelligence, and Douglas Tsoi, General Manager of S-Trend Sportswear.

Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

Delegates had two minutes to pitch at the Turning Ideas Into Reality session. Photo: Johnson Xu

Finally, the Starting Your Own Business discussion boasted a panel of entrepreneurs comprising of the following: Susanna Bevilacqua, founder of Moral Fairground; Jason Widjaja, Managing Consultant of Litmus Group; Viviam Lam, founder of the recently-opened Five Plus Smoothie; and Jieh-Yung Lo, co-founder of The House of Media. They shared their experience and insights, as well as challenges that aspiring entrepreneurs needed to be prepared to face.

Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

The Judging Panel for the Young Upstarts business pitch competition. Photo: Johnson Xu

The judging panel then turned their attentions to the Young Upstarts business pitch competition hosted by IELTS, where five teams shortlisted from a pool of entries pitched their business idea to win a $500 cash prize and bring their ideas a step closer to reality.

After a rigorous round of pitching their business case and fielding questions from the panel, NoteRally, a team of four Malaysian students studying at the University of Melbourne, emerged as the victor.

Note Rally, Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

NoteRally, the winner of Young Upstarts. Photo: Johnson Xu

The night ended off with a Professional Networking Night, where delegates mingled with professionals from various industries such as IT, health, arts and engineering.

Melbourne International Student Conference 2014

Delegates mingle with industry guests at the Professional Networking Night. Photo: Johnson Xu

The most outstanding delegates received the opportunity to network with special guests one-on-one over lunch and learn from their expertise.

Overall, it was an event-filled weekend with delegates learning more about unleashing their potential. One of them, Abdul Habib Ahmadi from La Trobe University, realised the importance of sharing his ideas.

“As Red was saying in her speech, do not fear what people might think about you, or what they might say. This is probably one of the difficulties that I have, I feel like people might be judging you,” he said.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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