By : Richard William
Under the theme ‘Forward Thinking’, the Asia Pacific Week 2016 was successfully held from June 23 until July 1 at the Australian National University in Canberra. Entering its sixth year, the student-run conference brought together 80 international students from many countries to spend a tightly scheduled series of event where every delegate had the chance to build deep understanding on major and complex issues that Asia and the Pacific region faces with the leading scholars, policy makers, diplomats and the experts of the region, learn and engage with other delegates and the organizing committee members, and most importantly get to experience the freezing winter of Canberra.
MITRA as a student-based association has consistently sent its representatives to join the conference for 3 years in a row since 2014. Luckily, Ellysabeth Surat Lelan (Ellys) from MITRA Universitas Cendrawasih Jayapura, Nurhildayati (Nur) and I from MITRA Universitas Nusa Cendana Kupang were selected to attend the conference this year along with other 77 international students from countries in Asia, America, Australia, Europe and the Pacific Islands.
The Conference Sessions
Forward Thinking: Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future.
Throughout the week, the conference was filled with different sessions consisting of panel presentations and discussions, 3 Minute Thesis Competition, War Games, The Pitch and also Great Debate which brought the delegates to think beyond and deeper related to the topics and issues discussed during each of the sessions.
In each panel session, different topics were discussed such as Challenging Growth, Cyber and Media, Reconciliation, Democracy Counterfactuals, Gender, Sexuality and Social Change, Security, Climate Change, and Asia’s Great Powers. Among all of these topics, my favorite topic was Challenging Growth session as it was the very first session we had at the conference. As the first topic, this topic also covered the general idea of other topics discussed within the week.
From the 3 Minute Thesis Competition, I learnt the importance of employing communication skills when delivering a presentation. This session really challenge those who participated to give a presentation in such a concise, creative, and engaging manner with only 3 minutes to present. In this session, our fellow delegates who had done writing their theses or were currently writing their theses were given the chance to deliver their presentations in front of the 3 judges. One of the 3MT competition participants was MITRA’s international advisor, Nick Metherall who talked about his research on the effectiveness of Wide-Scale Community-Driven Development Programs in Indonesian peripheral province of East Nusa Tenggara in comparison to the core province of West Java.
This year the War Games returned to the APW again under the conflict of South China Sea. This special session challenged us to stand as representatives of a country, international organization, or UN body and work together in a real-life conflict simulation exercise. I was in China PLA-G (People’s Liberation Army- the Ground Forces) group and we stood for defending China in South China Sea dispute together with all PLA forces and the Chinese Government and Chinese Communist Party.
The Pitch was also a special session where we’re divided into groups and stood to convince the judges on an idea/ proposal which is based on ‘The Gruen Transfer’ television show and its segment’ The Pitch’. I was in group 7 who proposed the idea that Chinese/Lunar New Year should be a holiday in all countries and luckily our group won.
The Great Debate as one of the conference’s agendas brought 2 teams facing against each other using Oxford-Style debate on the topic ‘Learning Asian Language should be compulsory in every nation’s education system.’ In this debate, 3 of the delegates were chosen to form a opposition team against ANU’s academics. They were Amanda Gilbride, Brian Bulat Nurmukhanov, and Shumi Ruan. At the end of the debate, we got to decide which team should be the winner and most of the delegates chose APW delegates team.
Make the most of it!
Beside panel sessions, all delegates also had other activities such as Canberra City Tour on the first day to visit Australian National Museum and Australian Parliament House. The delegates also had Pizza Night, Feast of Strangers, and Split Dinner.
When we visited Australian National Museum we were split in different groups where we were introduced to the history and stories of aboriginal people there. During the Pizza Night, we had Feast of Strangers where we had to talk to other delegates whom we hadn’t talked to before. We were given a list of questions on different topics that should be used in the conversation. In the split dinner every group headed to different nearby restaurants. My group went to Indian restaurant and we had Indian curry food there.
Dialogue & Networking Opportunities
Mingling, Making Friends, and Sharing Knowledge
The conference didn’t only offer international learning atmosphere to its delegates as in Democracy Counterfactuals, we went to different classroom to have the ANU-style lecturing experience. More than that, we were given the chance to freely engage in conversation with other delegates as well as the key-note speakers and the committee members before and after the sessions. During the breakfast, lunch and dinner we could easily mingled with others and just suddenly jumped in to the conversation which ranged in various random topics. This opportunity was very helpful and beneficial for MITRA students to introduce MITRA, talk about current issues in the Eastern region of Indonesia, and most importantly practice and improve our English with other delegates. By doing this, we were able to exchange our perspectives and ideas and share our knowledge since the delegates come from different social, cultural, and educational background which made the conversations even more interesting.
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One of the delegates who really astounded me was Menuka Menu from Nepal. She is a woman activist who struggles to break the cultural system in Nepal that only benefits the men and puts the women as subordinates of men. She inspires me with her story on how she tries to pursue her dreams by studying abroad and coming back to Nepal to dedicate herself for the fate of women in Nepal.
We really enjoyed our time spent during the week. One thing we’re really grateful for is the acknowledgement from the organizing committee given to MITRA. Besides making us super happy, it also helped us to introduce MITRA to other delegates who were so curious about MITRA as well.
During the conference we also had the chance to met his Excellency the Indonesian Ambassador of Indonesia for Australia and Vanuatu, Mr Nadjib Riphat Koesoema, who was one of the panelists of the Ambassadors’ Panel for our 13th session. We got the opportunity to discuss with him and introduced MITRA to him.
Lastly, we hope that our stories from the APW 2016 can inspire more MITRA students to continue chasing their dreams and get the same opportunity to attend international scale events.