26 Sep Round Square International Conference 2018
This autumn, the Round Square International Conference was held in three different schools from Canada: Ashbury College, Appleby College and Lower Canada College, between the 22nd and the 26th of September. A delegation of 6 students from our school consisting of Ana Botea (Year 10), Sarah Kocsis (Year 11), Vivien Dozsa (Year 11), Dorotheea Vacar (Year 12), Geogiana Mois (Year 12) and Lorena Sangeorzan (Year 12) together with Miss Iulia Bratfalean attended the one organised in the latter which is located in Montreal, Quebec. The theme this year was “Bring Your Difference”, the conference lasted for five days and included various activities both in the city and at a camp nearby, in Jouvence.
We were also excited to participate along with Transylvania College’s founder, Simona Baciu, who recently became the Vice-Chairperson in the Round Square Board.
Afterwards, they went on a post-conference tour for four days which included visiting Toronto, the Niagara Falls and a sugar shack to name a few. In order to gain more insight into this amazing experience, three of the students will tell us about some of its highlights in the following paragraphs.
During the first three days of the conference, we had the great opportunity to listen to some astonishing keynote speakers, who each had an interesting approach to the theme of bringing one’s difference. On the first day, Wade Davis who is an anthropologist, author and photographer talked about various indigenous cultures from all over the globe and how important it is that their traditions and languages are preserved in order to have a diverse global community and a more complete identity of the human soul. Because he travelled and spent time with each of the group of people he presented, his speech was full of life and authenticity therefore it made me feel as if I was there when he told us how he met Dhammananda, Thailand’s first female monk in modern times, or when he was in Haiti learning about vodoun. The following day, Dr. Amal Elsana Alh’Jooj, an Arab – Israeli Women’s Rights activist, shared with us her life story which I found truly inspiring as she fought for the rights of the women in her community as well as her own since a very young age and in a quite harsh environment. At only 17 she established the first Bedouin women’s organization and later in 2005 she was even nominated as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her work. I believe so many of her thoughts and ideas have travelled with me back home especially because I felt a connection to her during the talk as if she was telling everything to a close friend. Finally, on the third day, Lisa Dazols who is a film director known for the movie Out & Around, talked about the rights of the LGBTQ+ Community nowadays in different parts of the world. She and her wife travelled for a year to find and discuss with the international leaders of the Gay’s Rights Movement in 15 countries and I was so shocked to see the various way this community is treated. After each keynote speaker finished their presentation, we had a short break and then Baraza Meetings made up from roughly 12 students, each one from a different country. During these, we discussed the main ideas from the speeches and how our countries and cultures view them. I enjoyed a lot being part of this group as I was surprised to hear so many different opinions and perspectives but also find so many things in common with people from all over the world.
During the conference, I had the chance to take part in so many leadership activities which deeply improved my teambuilding skills where I learned that together we can achieve everything. All the activities were based on team coordination and it was kind of impossible to perform the task without everyone being involved. Also, volunteering at the food bank and the dinner at LCC made me realise again that I have to be more careful and responsible towards the waste of food, considering that one person dies of hunger every single second. They took us to the bank food where we volunteered and everyone had something different to do. For example, I have unpacked boxes full of meat that have not been sold in supermarkets and separated them by categories, meat which was then delivered to poor families. Being in a conference on another continent made us curious about Canada so the coordinators prepared for us an activity in the city – a Discovery Dash. We went to Old Town by school buses and we were dropped off in front of Basilica Notre-Dame where we started our city tour. While visiting the city we had to answer a set of questions about the attractions in front of us in order to win points for our team. By doing this, we learnt interesting things about the history of Montreal while also being able to admire its beauty. When the activity ended, we went and had some traditional food – poutine and beaver tail which were both delicious.
Considering the conference, we had the opportunity to be hosted by students from Lower Canada College. During our free time, we stayed with our hosts either at home, getting to know each other better, go out for a meal or go out for a walk in town. At first, I was really excited considering I was going to be at a family that I didn’t even know before, and this gave me an even greater desire to get to know them.
We found out so many common and also different things about each other, and the most amazing part was that we get along very well despite the things that made us different from each other. We have promised to keep in touch and to meet again at least once later in our lives. I had an unforgettable experience that will never be replaced.
During our stay at LCC, we learned a great lot of new stuff and took part in some amazing activities I never thought I would’ve even thought of.
We went to one of the biggest food banks in Canada, where we were assigned some responsibilities for two hours. For example, we had to stick labels on bean cans and then make piles of them so the bank knew what they were. On other days, people had what they called ‘Discovery Dash’, which was a great activity that helped you get to know the city better, making you find attraction spots and learn more about them, while you had a time limit and a quiz to make it more fun.
On one of the last days, LCC prepared a really interesting activity for us, called ‘Disparity Dinner’, where we each were assigned to an income: high, middle or low. All of us got the food provided for the income we had; some of us getting pizza, others getting rice and beans or a fancy ‘pullet’ dinner. That made us realise how lucky we are and how much we should appreciate our life.
After the actual conference, we had a post one prepared.
What the post-conference meant was that we discovered more of Canada, having special activities prepared for us and sleeping in a different place and city every night.
We got to meet new people and make new friends while we had fun discovering Canada’s wonders – like how and where maple syrup is made and also visiting a farm, where we got to pick and eat our own apples.
In one of the days, we went to a hotel which had an aqua park, where we had a lot of fun and ate some of the best desserts we’ve ever had.
We visited the spectacular CN Tower in Toronto, from where we got to see the greatness of that city once more, but from above, where the high buildings looked like little blocks of cardboard at our feet.
Great food was provided all along, and we made friendships that we won’t forget.
For each one of them, this experience was unique in a different way and they accumulated both similar and different views of the world. Vivien says that she arrived back home with a lot of new friends, great experiences regarding the perspective of solving issues of life, she learned that asking for help is not a shame and working in a team can make everything possible.
For Dorothea, a little motto underlines the essence of the conference:
to embrace cultural diversity and find similarities in our differences as in the end we are all the same – human beings walking through life, looking for our purpose, hoping that we live the best life we can.
Finally, Ana believes that being surrounded by so many new people and having to take part in so many amazing activities, The 2018 Round Square international conference has made her more aware of how she views our world, and how important being involved and active regarding community service (and not only) is.
You can find more pictures here.