From Saturday 10th Sep to Friday 16th Sep in 2016
I participated in UK - JP Students Conference 2016 as a delegate. It was a conference completely organised and run by students. There about 10 university students from the UK and another 10 from Japan discussed "poverty in developed countries (especially, UK and Japan)" through different activities in London for 5 days. Thanks to this conference, I expanded my knowledge and understanding about the poverty in those two countries, which inspired me to think about what I want to achieve in the future and how I can contribute to society. I also met smart, intelligent and lovely people and found a new community to which I can continue to belong furthermore. I'm so happy, fortunate and honoured to have been a delegate and had an invaluable learning experience with such amazing people.
As this is not a Facebook post, firstly I'd like to describe what I have done at the conference, but I'll try to write briefly.
First of all, Japanese delegates worked on prior learning in July and August to gain basic knowledge about poverty in both UK and Japan, such as what poverty means, the current circumstances, social policy, and what other sectors have done to address poverty. Not only our research and analyses but also our exchange of ideas at a skype meeting were conducted four times.
Then we came to London and spend the first two days for exploring London city. (We went to the Tower of London, for example.)
On Monday 12th Sep, we met UK delegates and the conference officially began. Following opening remarks and ice breaking, each Japanese and British delegates had presentations on their own country's poverty. Subsequently, we had a fieldwork in groups at each allocated area, namely, Islington, Tower Hamlet, Stratford, and Newham. There we explored the region and sometimes interviewed the local citizens in order to research issues around poverty in those areas.
On Tuesday 13th Sep, we started with a presentation on the relation between poverty and positionality by a British delegate, and on each country's homeless people by me and two British delegates. Then we had a seminar by Dr Kilburn from UCL about London housing crisis. Finally, we did map exercise, analysing poverty geographically with a wide range of maps.
On Wednesday 14th Sep, workshops by an international charity organisation, Oxfam took place followed by a seminar delivered by Dr Lee from LSE on inclusive growth. We had a karaoke night with UK delegates too.
On Thursday 15th Sep, "Idea Contest" was held and we prepared for the final presentation happening following day. At "Idea Contest" the delegates created a new project to tackle the poverty issue in the areas where we had a fieldwork previous Monday and had a poster presentation showing the idea. My team's project was street cleaning and decorating with plants in Islington & Tower Hamlet and we won the contest with this idea. Afterwards, we started discussing what we would present in the final presentation. Between the "Idea Contest" and preparation for the final presentation, we had a Japanese cultural session, having Japanese drinks & snacks and enjoying Japanese culture such as outdoor game activities (e.g.だるまさんがころんだ) origami and calligraphy together.
On Friday 16th Sep, four mixed groups had presentations on what we can learn from each country's status of poverty. Each group presented very different unique ideas. We had Dr Kariya from the University of Oxford as a judge and gave us a comment on our presentations.
I feel it was a quite intensive week and learnt literally a wide variety of perspectives towards poverty. It is difficult to organise and state what I want to say about the conference and why I am still excited although two days have already passed since the final day. Just I miss the days so much.
What was interesting about this conference is not just a discussion or a seminar in a room. From the fieldwork through "map exercise" to the idea contest, we had many practical opportunities to learn about the poverty. Of course, presentations, many small discussions, seminars and workshops were so useful as well as practical activities. Additionally, I was personally very happy to have Ms Carla from Oxfam there because I was able to talk with her about my dream about working in the social sector.
What I found regarding myself at the conference was a lot.
One of them is a lack of my creativity. At the idea contest, one of my team members suggested a wonderful idea later supplemented by another member's lovely idea, which basically led to our victory. I asked myself: "What have I done in creating the project?" I just made a poster and presented it. Maybe I suggested some ideas for the plausible positive effects of the project... However, I strongly feel my contribution wasn't enough.
Another is a lack of logical presentation of my ideas in discussion. I'm very bad at speaking logically and I've been aware of this issue. For sure I'm quite good at presentation and I can present the content logically. That is because I have time to order the content in a logical way. It's the same in writing an essay. Anyway, I still need to work out for logical thinking and presenting.
Moreover, I realised that my (or my family's) personal experience was really helpful in discussing poverty. For example, my volunteering experience at elementary school tells me what the government (or local authorities) has done to tackle child poverty -allocating school councillors and volunteers to support children's different problems - and why it doesn't work very well. Another example is my neighbour's experience of poverty. My mother's experience also played a role as the evidence supporting the alternative solution I suggested to child poverty and single parenthood.
Phew, I wrote quite a lot! If I look back at each activity in more depth, this article would be even longer. I haven't organised my thoughts yet though :P
These are my basic thoughts about this conference. Now I'd like to participate in more students-led conferences or any other interesting programmes where I can increase social connections with different people and we can dedicate ourselves to something together.
Finally, I'd like to say a massive thank you to the organisers, my fellow participants, guests for the workshops and seminars; Dr Kilburn, Dr Lee and Ms Calra, Dr Kariya and all of those who helped us.
I shall continue to learn and make social connections I made there more sustainable.
For those interested in this conference, there will be UK - JP conference 2017 in JAPAN!
Keep your eye on the FB page !
I might see you next year :) (I want to contribute to the next one, but not sure in what ways yet)