More than earning a degree: How attending one conference changed my attitude towards student life

It’s nearly two years since I caught my first plane to the city of Melbourne: an excited yet terrified international student, looking to seek education and build a career far away from my homeland. I remember my first impressions well – being surprised by the topsy-turvy weather and the sheer warmth and hospitality showcased by Melbourne’s people. Walking down its streets, unintentionally making eye contact with strangers and having them smile back at me. It’s the oddest feeling: like they knew I was setting foot in a new home for the first time and they wanted to welcome me right in.

But welcoming or no; moving to a new place to establish a new life is always challenging. And while adjusting to a new environment is always a massive undertaking, it’s infinitely easier to become familiar with a place than to let it become familiar with you. It’s infinitely harder toto fit in – to find the right place for yourself in the jigsaw puzzle of Melbourne’s bustling streets.

It was somewhere between that first speech, and nabbing a coffee with an industry professional impressed with my spiel, that I realised that I could do something more in these five years of residing in Melbourne than just earning a degree.

Photo: Meghalee Bose

The first few months of living in Melbourne – I was happy, but rootless. Studying, but without a drive, without a direction. I volunteered in my spare time with an international student association at university, from where I was offered the chance to attend the 2016 edition of the Melbourne International Student Conference. I didn’t think too much: an opportunity to learn and socialise, to understand the beat of the city, that’s all I thought it was. So I grabbed it with both hands.

The first day of the conference dawned bright and clear, beginning with the keynote speaker, Ivan Lim, Brosa founder and entrepreneur extraordinaire. I can trace the beginnings of the change in my attitude today, to the beginnings of that speech. As he spoke and waved his arms expansively – about how automation was changing the work industry, how the Australian workplace was in constant flux, how the jobs we’d be applying for in ten years time didn’t even exist today – I could feel the blood start to pump faster in my veins. It’s an exhilarating feeling, sitting among hundreds of sharp young minds, listening to visions of the world tomorrow, listening to how we can contribute and take our own place in it.

And so the conference progressed: from STREAT founder Rebecca Scott‘s speech that brought tears to my eyes, to Teach Anything Good classes where I learned about postgraduate visas and financial literacy, to a fantastic morning of pitching business solutions to relevant issues followed by a night of socialising with industry professionals.

It was somewhere between that first speech, and nabbing a coffee with an industry professional impressed with my spiel, that I realised that I could do something more in these five years of residing in Melbourne than just earning a degree. That’s the path I’ve caught a glimpse of with the aid of the wonderful people that I met at MISC. I’ve been following the path for a while: it’s led me here, today, to a spot on the organising committee of the very conference that inspired me a year ago.

Find something that inspires you, something that challenges you, something that makes you think differently about the world that you live in and your contribution to it. Maybe – like me – you might even find your place in the puzzle, and some roots.

This is as a part of the Melbourne International Student Leadership Program – a brilliant venture organised by Meld Community in association with the City of Melbourne, to assist international students with the development of skills and acquisition of experience they need to get to where they really want to in life. From project management to polishing up one’s marketing abilities, the program touches all corners in the hopes of shaping multicultural leaders who can create waves in their future workplaces.

So if you’re a little aimless, a little afraid of the working world that university is going to toss you into… I’d ask you to set aside a couple of days, come along to this year’s edition of the Melbourne International Student Conference. Find something that inspires you, something that challenges you, something that makes you think differently about the world that you live in and your contribution to it. Maybe – like me – you might even find your place in the puzzle, and some roots.

The Melbourne International Student Conference 2017 is taking place this May 5 and 6 at the City Convention Centre, Victoria University. Student concession tickets are available at $85 for the two days, thanks to support from the City of Melbourne. Visit the conference website now to register or to find out more.

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