Free trip to Thailand? Yes please!
To be honest, when I was submitting my application to the inaugural International Diplomacy Forum for Young Leaders in Bangkok, Thailand, I was sceptical of the event’s offerings and relevance to me, a mere pre-medical student. However, the initially jarring exposure to multidisciplinary university students from all over the world allowed me to break out of my Medical Science-cocoon and appreciate the varied and fascinating perspectives of others on contemporary global issues. It was unexpectedly invigorating.
This short sojourn into Thailand was fully sponsored by the Griffith Honours College – I cannot express my gratitude enough for the opportunity.
The inception of the forum, held from 10 to 12 July, was born from a partnership between Humanitarian Affairs Asia and the United Nations, both organisations demonstrating a sustained interest in educating the next generation of world leaders. Distinguished and highly respected speakers such as former President of the UN Security Council, Kishore Mahbubani; Communications Officer for the Department of Global Communications at the UN Headquarters in New York, Felipe Quiepo; Director of Distinguished Etiquette & Protocol Consultancy, Jan Jaap van Weering; and Secretary-General of Humanitarian Affairs Asia, Kim Solomon, all made appearances at the venue in the United Nations Conference Centre.
After unceremoniously arriving at the hotel at about 10.30 pm local time and an unsatisfying slumber, I mustered all my energy to get out of the bed. That morning, I developed a mantra that invaded my thoughts every morning since then: ‘I didn’t come all the way here for nothing’. Steeling myself for the day looming ahead, I set out for the United Nations Conference Centre with optimistic vigour.
Replete with comprehensive educational opportunities and inspiring calls-to-action, the conference yielded so much more to me than I could have anticipated. I learnt that diplomacy is not just isolated to career diplomats who serve ambiguously to smooth ties between nations; rather, it is a fundamentally critical aspect in a global effort to better the world. Whether it be representing your mother nation on an international stage or directing the occasional happy-go-lucky backpacker to the nearest restroom facility in your hometown – we are all diplomats in one way or another. As a future global health professional, it’s easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal and become engrossed in the copious study required by my degree. However, listening to the renowned speakers and engaging with like-minded fellow university students hailing from all over the world has cemented my ambitions to make a significant contribution in breaking the current health and wellbeing status quo in both developing and developed countries.
Following an ebullient night in the Shanghai Mansion for a bittersweet farewell in the heart of Chinatown in Bangkok, it was time to fulfil our tourist duties. The day after featured an ultra-condensed programme to experience and soak up as much of the unique Thai culture as I could. After an awe-inspiring visit to the Grand Palace, a brief stop by the temple Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), a tarriance by the wondrously enormous Wat Phra Chetuphon (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and a thorough comb through the numerous river markets and street markets, I was petered out and ready to return home.
Armed with an expanded network of highly motivated and erudite life-long friends, fresh sentimental memories, a collection of dubiously bargained-for souvenirs, and an all-encompassing heavy blanket of lethargy, I headed to Don Mueang International Airport for a midnight flight back to Brisbane. After four days of early starts, continuous learning in a new environment, and late nights, sleep was a welcome friend.
I could never have anticipated how rich and eye-opening this incredibly short sojourn to Thailand proved to be. For anyone considering any sort of experience abroad, or even those not considering – do it! Endeavour to build yourself and expose yourself to as much as you can, especially while you’re young. Push yourself beyond self-confinement, beyond your boundaries, and explore the world you live in.
You can reach me via email ([email protected]) for any questions.