Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  Contact Us
Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 136 | September 13 , 2009|


   News Room
   Photo Feature
   Oink Oink!
   Sounds & Rhythm
   Career Pro

   Star Campus     Home


The IUB-HPAIR Encounter

Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

AS the sun rose on the eastern Seoul horizons, the Shilla alarm beeped an early 6am. In a few hours, the HPAIR Academic Conference 2009 was about to commence its Opening Ceremony, and not one of the 400 delegate bearing nationalities from across the globe wanted to be late on this particular day. The Ceremony would bear witness to the offset of an exciting week for these young, enthusiastic visionaries of tomorrow and follow into a lasting friendship that each participant would cherish for a lifetime.

The Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) is a partnership between the students and faculty at Harvard University offering a sustained academic program and a forum of exchange to facilitate discussion on the most important economic, social and political issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region. Over the years, HPAIR's international conferences have emerged as the largest annual student conference in the Asia-Pacific region, attracting a variety of distinguished speakers and bright, young leaders. The discussions are aimed at finding common ground in Asian-Pacific social and economic agendas through a dynamic and innovative process. This year, the HPAIR Academic Conference set its mark in Seoul, the heart of South Korea; while the Business Conference scooped accolade in Tokyo. As an IUBian, it was a privilege for me to represent my country at a global platform such as the HPAIR Academic Conference; and boy, was it an experience of a lifetime!

The Opening Ceremony on the morning of 14th August was buzzing with the chatters of delegates. Many have already been ushered into an acquaintance as a result of the pre-conference tour around the city on the day before where delegates were divided into groups and split inside a castle in a quest to take 'funny pictures'. Between running and laughing, they have bonded and the following morning only brought memories on the floor. The Shilla Hotel staff meanwhile, was busy arranging a morning breakfast buffet for the early birds, and conversations were beginning to flow. At the end of the lengthy registration at the lobby, the ceremony began with welcome speech from the President and Executive Director of HPAIR, Jennifer Ding and Sam Rosenberg respectively. Followed shortly were speeches from the Host Country Organizing Committee, DASAN International Network at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) and the Minister of Education of the Republic of Korea. The warmth of Korean hospitality was already on air and every delegate present at the Banquet Hall felt an integral part of a wonderful process. A short coffee break ushered the delegates to the main segment of the conference, a series of workshops on five focus areas leadership, global health, international political economy, security and education.

The next few days were crucial. Workshop hours began from eight o'clock every morning with each session lasting for two hours. My chosen workshop Leadership brought dynamism to the floor with dialogues ranging from the elements of an ideal leader to the evolution of the modern protagonist. Lectures from speakers like Tu Weiming, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy and Confucian Studies, and Director of Harvard-Yenching Institute inspired each participant to relearn the process of leadership and lifestyle to combat the current trends of the global market, whereas Jiangang Zhu, a specialist on urban and rural community organizations introduced the concept of grassroots level leadership. With young students coming from a diverse range of backgrounds, the workshops were an intimate experience where they got to know about each other's leadership experiences in a local context, as well as critically compare leadership styles of the East to that of the West. The most interesting was meeting a North Korean defector at a plenary session who shared heart breaking and shocking memoirs with the audience, thus giving a more insightful account of what is happening at one end of the world.

Meanwhile, conversations struck outside the sessions simultaneously. While I shared our cultural experiences with Ali from Afghanistan, my friend Yasu was elaborating how Japan's economy contrasted China's visions to Chris from New Zealand. It is this very blend of different cultures and experiences that made every workshop session an addition to each delegate's learning curves.

However, the HPAIR experience had much more to offer besides the intensive lectures. As our host university, SKKU prepared a special day for its international visitors. A multitude of students dressed up in traditional Korean attires was found trumpeting on their campus on the 3rd day, welcoming delegates for a typical Korean experience. While sipping green tea and sweet delicacies at the coffee room, delegates learnt about Korean culture, food, tradition and population. Lunch introduced an iconic range of Korean dishes with large screens bearing instructions on how delegates should prepare and consume the extravagant meal. The International Night on the same day showcased performances from different countries, resulting in an embarrassing yet amazing series of dances and laughs. SKKU also offered delegates field trips around the city on the last day and it was while walking along the narrow alleys of Seoul that one encountered the breathtaking folk art and instruments of traditional Korea.

The conference closed with the Gala Dinner and Cocktail Party. The memorable week was ending and the same banquet hall where it all began now flooded with people exchanging contact details. Amongst the black ties and evening gowns, my saree created quite a rouse as I found myself between flocks of people trying to record as much of the Bangladeshi tradition as possible! Photos clicked at the every direction with hugs and promises to come back next year, and of course to always stay in touch through Facebook.

In a nutshell, the HPAIR week in Seoul this year was a cracker. It not only balanced discussions on the crisis of the modern world and the youth involvement in it; but also provided a cultural forum. Ideas flew from Beijing to Puerto Rico, from Moscow to Dhaka and from Zimbabwe to Sydney. As my friend Shihoko so perfectly summed it, “If you've been to HPAIR once, you'll keep coming back… and I can't wait to come back next year!”

The writer is a student at the Department of Media & Communication at Independent University, Bangladesh.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2009