It’s an often overwhelming and slightly scary task to think about your future and what you ultimately want to achieve in life but on Friday, May 11, more than 150 student delegates did just that when they attended the Melbourne International Student Conference (MISC).
Despite the heavy rain and strong winds that morning, this year’s venue for the conference – RMIT Storey Hall – was packed with excitement and energy. Motivated by this year’s theme of ‘Purpose, Change, Impact’, students and working professionals were ready to partake in an action-packed day of workshops, speeches and seminars.
Following opening remarks by City of Melbourne Councillor Philip Le Liu and MISC Project Coordinator Anne-Louise Thorbecke, MISC MC’s Ritika Saxena and Frederikke Muff introduced keynote speaker Dr Kaushik Sridhar, former corporate citizenship manager of KPMG and now Head of Sustainability at Regis Healthcare.
‘A Pragmatic Passion’
His presentation, ‘A Pragmatic Passion’, left attendees in laughter and moved them to tears. Dr Sridhar recounted his stories growing up with traditional parents in India and reminisced over his journey to find his purpose and the impact he seeks to make today.
“Having purpose helps improve your wellbeing,” Dr Sridhar said. “Identify your purpose and act on it. Your purpose is your brand, and ultimately your purpose is what makes you unique.”
From being a young boy in India trying to pursue his passion for tennis to the leader he is today, Dr Sridhar reminded the audience that their pathway is not always straight and to let time take one on the journey of finding their ultimate purpose.
“Have faith on the path that life is taking you. It may not seem like it, but things will always begin to fall into place,” Dr Sridhar reminded MISC attendees.
The world of social enterprise
Following a quick break, attendees were then treated to MISC’s breakout sessions – seminars that encompassed a variety of topics ranging from sustainability in business to the realities of working in social entrepreneurship. These sessions allowed attendees to listen and learn from individuals currently making an impact in the world of social enterprise and included speakers such as Kristian Martinow founder of The Timekeeper, Julian O’Shea, founder of Unbound and SCR Group representatives Alexis Todorovski and Michelle Kleinert.
In her breakout session, Gayertree Subramaniam, community coordinator at B Lab Australia and New Zealand, spoke about what it takes to run a business as a force for good and change in the world.
“Purpose is sustained with profit. They are as equally important as each other. If you don’t make profits, you will not be able to sustain the business that creates the impact you are seeking to make,” she said.
As the breakout sessions gradually led into lunch, attendees continued to meet and network with each other, discussing what they had learnt and the key lessons they were taking away from the conference so far. The break also allowed attendees to learn more about the business that helped to make the event possible; the businesses working towards improving experiences for international students.
“The conference is a valuable opportunity to meet passionate social entrepreneurs and for Dibs to learn how we can be a positive impact on international students coming to Australia,” said Hao Teo, the business developer for Dibs, a service that provides international students with support before and during their time in Australia and one of MISC’s sponsors.
Improving the international student experience
After lunch, attendees participated in a co-design workshop with a focus on the international student experience in Australia and how to better it. Delegates broke up into different groups and were asked to devise potential solutions to issues pertient to the international student community – problems ranging from networking in Australia to their own identity.
On the topic of identity, Bernadette Atkinson from Koorie Heritage Trust encouraged students to tap into who they really were to help solve problems for tomorrow’s international students.
“Identity is to be encouraged, and we want to embrace our and each other’s identities. However, offering new factors and experiences are important in helping enhance those identities,” Ms Atkinson before delegates commenced their workshops.
Armed with the information and motivation they had gathered from the earlier hours of the conference, attendees visually brainstormed realistic solutions to current problems that international students may face. Solutions ranged as far and wide as leadership events to create further opportunities and even live music festivals.
The experience allowed attendees to understand further how important it is to start small and not be overwhelmed by large ideas, encouraged reflection on what they had learnt and what they could achieve as changemakers.
Liz Lor took to the stage after workshops to guide students on what to expect in the world of networking, especially in a culturally diverse environment. She acknowledged that many of the student delegates in the room may eventually find themselves in an Australian workplace and advised delegates on the best ways to adapt in these situations.
Networking with purpose
Using the wisdom and knowledge imparted on them by Ms Lor, student delegates were prepared for the final feature of MISC; its popular Professional Networking Night at the Melbourne Town Hall.
As night drew, excited student delegates rushed from RMIT to Melbourne Town Hall both to put what they had just learned into practice and to avoid any rainfall.
Students mingled with each other and with professionals from all kinds of industries – arts, finance and government, just to name a few. Councilor Le Liu and the Tertiary Scholarship Fund’s Vivian Lam took to the podium to remind students of the incredible opportunities that were store for them that night and encouraged students to give it their all. For student delegates who made an impression on professionals in the room, they were invited out for a future coffee.
Other students meanwhile used the night – and by large, the entire conference – to expand their network, making new friends and meeting peers aligned in their industry and to their purpose. And as the conference came to a close, these new networks and learning opportunities inspired hope, leaving student delegates with renewed optimism for their future.
“With graduation just right around the corner, there’s probably no better time than now to get out there and be reminded of our purpose in this journey and translating it to make an impact,” said Yoke Yee, a student delegate from Monash University.
For more on the Melbourne International Student Conference, visit its official website and follow the conference on its Facebook official page.