Melbourne International Student Conference 2017 – Day 2: The power of community

Tears were shed and communities were strengthened as day two of the 2017 Melbourne International Student Conference showed what true teamwork and collaboration was capable of achieving. Wing Kuang has more.

Koky Saly’s heartbreaking speech moved MISC 2017 delegates to tears. | Photo: Aron Lee

The second day of the Melbourne International Student Conference (MISC) continued to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders and creators with its motivational presentations, fascinating workshops and its Young Upstarts Business Pitch Competition.

Koky Saly, founder of BeeKeeper Parade, moved delegates to tears on Saturday morning at his keynote address where the Cambodian-born Saly revealed to attendees the emotional story behind his social enterprise. From the hardship and suffering experienced by Saly and his family during Cambodia’s civil war to the tragic passing of his beloved sister, Sophia, Saly spoke about the importance of time, keeping promises and staying positive.

“If you are scared of chasing your dream, get over it, in the most humble way,” he said in his address to delegates.

He also encouraged delegates to recognise their own capacity to create a positive change in the world and to understand who the most loyal and important people are in their lives.

Cindy Wang, an RMIT University student, said she was touched by Saly’s speech and felt it echoed one of the many lessons she learnt from the conference.

“[His speech] reminded me of what the panellists [on day one] said – you need to find what you really want to do rather than do what people ask,” she said.

Following Saly’s inspiring keynote speech, the conference’s Teaching Anything Good sessions (TAG) took place — delegates could choose to attend workshops and discussions around various topics including living in Australia, cultural communication, employability, and social entrepreneurship conducted by professionals in those those industries.

Gerard Holland, co-founder of Outcome.Life, facilitated a workshop on startup businesses and discussed ways in which international students can begin their own businesses in Australia.

“We had an open discussion, [and] we had students giving their ideas for their businesses. We also had discussions on how to improve their ideas [and] how they start it, so it was a very collaborative discussion,” Mr Holland said.

The Whisktakers, a Melbourne-based catering business, talk about entrepreneurship at their Teach Anything Good workshop. | Photo: Michelle Leong

The second day of the conference came to a head with its exciting Young Upstarts Business Pitch Competition. The event was emceed by lawyer and CEO of The FRANK Team, Natasha Munasinghe and required participating delegates to collaborate in teams and pitch business solutions that addressed either the environment, mental health or discrimination. Pitches were judged by a panel including Councillor Philip Le Liu (Councillor, City of Melbourne), Gerard Holland (co-founder of Outcome.Life) and Sue McGill (Regional Manger, The Huddle at North Melbourne Football Club).

After four hours of discussions, presentations and deliberation, one team emerged victorious. Calling themselves ‘Friends of the Earth’ the team pitched a solution to wastefulness which included an integrated application that would help improve recycling and environmental protection.

Although a team effort, student delegate Jack Jia Jie Oung’s entertaining pitch helped push the team through into the finish line.

“We [wanted] to change something that we [faced] every day, so that’s why we put ourselves in their [students] shoes, and [tried] to solve their problem from there,” Jack said.

During the ideation process, Jack and his team had many models and concepts and tried to combine them all into a meaningful solution to recycling. On whether or not the team will continue to work on this idea following their successful pitch, Jack said the group may after the response and feedback they received from judges and peers.

Following the competition, Karen Poh, founder of Meld Community, closed out the conference by thanking guest speakers, delegates and the hard-working MISC committee and volunteers and spoke about the opportunities Meld had in store for students later on in the year, including future industry talks and tours.

The Young Upstarts Business Pitch Competition brought out the best in this team at MISC 2017. | Photo: Aron Lee

As the two-day MISC came to a close, students left the conference feeling excited for the future, invigorated by the possibilities that await them.

Ka Chun Ma, an IT student from Victoria University, said he was ready for his next journey.

“I learned many things from the workshops and conferences. We learned how to network, how to go out our comfort zone and try to meet new people,” he said.

After connecting with IT professionals at the conference, he says he wants to “concentrate on [his own technical work]” and wants to continue developing his fundamentals in IT.

Laura Blackmore, a Monash University student and founder of Multilinguals of Melbourne who also spoke on a panel at the conference, said MISC gave her the opportunity to get a glimpse of the future.

“It was an amazing weekend full of so much diversity, so much learning and so much engagement,” she said.

“Everyone [was] so welcoming, every single person has welcomed me with a smile. That’s an amazing feeling; coming to a group of people you don’t even know, [not knowing] what’s gonna happen and you’re just like wow — [that’s] the power of community.”

For more on the Melbourne International Student Conference, visit its official website and follow the conference on its Facebook official page

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