Going Global

I was recently given the opportunity to represent Quest University in a Global Issues Network (GIN) conference. By the end of January, I was sitting in a conference room in Abu Dhabi with about 50 other conference delegates from around the world. We were split into “Global Villages” each containing about 6 students and two facilitators. Each global village was given a theme to work with. My group was Energy. Other groups were working with themes such as Healthcare, Poverty, Education, Peacekeeping, and Global Warming. Because these themes were so broad, the groups were faced with the task of specializing each theme to a topic or guiding question. This process reminded me of the Question block process that each Quest student must experience around the end of their second year.

I had just completed my Question Block in December, so I was confident during the process and loved to play devil’s advocate with my group members. We all did really. My group was amazing. And, we were truly global. Representing Canada (me), the USA, Korea, Turkey, Armenia, and the United Arab Emirates, we had a diverse flow of ideas and contradictions. In only three days, I was very proud of my group and our work together.

The first day of the conference was mostly introductions and brainstorming. Our serious discussions were of course, broken up a bit by the game called “NINJA.” This helped us regain focus after the discussions became overwhelming. It was a good tactic!   And great bonding too.

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In addition to creating innovative ideas, I voiced one of my other goals for the three day conference. “I want to experience the culture!” It’s very unlikely that I will ever find myself in Abu Dhabi again and I wanted to learn about the area and the people that lived there. Although the time frame I had was less than ideal, I still had to see and experience some new things while I was in the UAE. The entire group was taken out for a desert safari in the evening! I rode a camel and watched the sun set atop a sand dune. What an experience!

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I came to understand that the fun stuff was just as important as the work periods. I have the same problem remembering this while studying at Quest, sometimes. I find the classes to be so interesting that I forget how many awesome co-cirricular things there are to do in Squamish. Hiking, Biking, Dancing, Knitting, and all of my hobbies can sometimes fall to the wayside. Like my studies, this conference was a balancing act that I had to get used to and outings like the one to the safari reminded me of the importance of balance.

The second day was writing day. We had a proposal, referred to as a Sustainable Action Plan, due for the final day and my whole group agreed that’d we rather write today and edit tomorrow. We had refined our topic to an idea: we wanted to implement energy saving, clean water producing technology at the Dubai Expo 2020.

The United Arab Emirates is one of many countries around the world that are running out of water, and consuming a lot of energy to produce potable water for it’s citizens. Abu Dhabi depends almost entirely on desalinated water, an energy intense option. Our idea was to use dehumidifiers instead, drawing moisture out of the air to create potable water for the duration of the 2020 Expo event. With research and some number crunching, we came up with a proposal. That evening, each group was scheduled to attend a group dinner at a restaurant. More of the balance I mentioned earlier. Well, we were very dedicated so instead, we ordered in pizza and kept working through the evening. Our hard work paid off.

On the third day, each group had to finalize their proposal and then develop a presentation and a poster. The afternoon was to be used as a time to present to the other groups as well as students and the general public. It wasn’t a huge audience, but it was a real audience. People were there to hear our ideas. There was a panel of judges and even a few possible investors. I had every right to be a little nervous.

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But, in reality I had no right to be nervous at all because our idea was very well received. We even went home with an award for the “Most Innovative Sustainable Action Plan!”

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(Missing two group members in the second photo).

This GIN conference had a very different set up than what I was used it. Quest University hosts a GIN conference every year, in May ( this year it’s on the long weekend! Check it out here: http://www.questu.ca/news_and_events/gin_conference.php ).

We had a keynote speaker each day; they talked on various topics. It was nice to either start or end the day with fresh ideas. The thing I loved most about the structure of this conference is that each one of us left with something tangible. A plan, that was carefully designed, researched, and refined. My group members and I are still in touch, and we may even have a potential investor.

To me, that’s pretty cool. I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend this GIN conference on the other side of the world and I’m excited to see what comes next.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about Quest’s GIN conference in May, please send me an email at aisha.balint@questu.ca and I’ll do my best to answer them!

-A

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