This Spring, I had the honor of representing Syracuse University at Diversity Abroad’s 3rd Annual Global Student Leadership Summit. The Summit seeks to empower students to be world leaders through networking, professional development, and personal empowerment workshops.
I was initially a bit nervous about going to the Summit. I was the only student representing my school and as an introvert, I was a little uneasy about the networking part of the events. However, as a senior, I know that this is a skill that I need to hone – so I was more than excited to be able to practice and receive instruction. When I got there, I was not disappointed. Not only did I get to meet a great group of truly inspiring students, but I also got to meet a vast number of professionals that work across many fields in the international sphere.
Upon arriving at the alumni center my first night, I was immediately greeted by someone that instantly recognized my name. This would foreshadow how incredibly accessible the professionals I would meet there would be. The first night was simply meant for us students to get to know each other. However, we did not do an ice breaker, we were giving room to let the conversations and introductions flow naturally. During my first night alone, I met students who lived and study all over the world – from South America to the Middle East. Naturally we spent the night laughing and sharing travel stories.
The real work began the next day. The Summit was in fact intensive, but it did not feel that way since we were consistently meeting so many interesting people. We were constantly meeting people that would open our eyes to our self-worth as ‘global leaders.’, who inspired us with their own stories, and who would introduce us to countless opportunities in the global sphere. This included Diversity Abroad’s CEO, Andrew Gordon, a young man who basically decided to drop everything and create a program to get more underrepresented students abroad - and has been widely successful. As well as our first guest speaker, the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global, Latanya Mapp Frett. This is a woman who has an exceptional record; having worked in at least 5 different countries with at least 4 different agencies including Peace Corps and USAID. More than anything, Latanya made us feel understood as she recounted how she’d always been discouraged from thinking globally by her friends and families; something that we, as first generation college/American/lower income/ immigrant/ minority students, knew all too well. Lastly, during the career reception, I spoke with an extremely honest State Department agent and a very enthusiastic Peace Corps representative. It was extremely refreshing to see that all of these individuals were more than eager to speak with us, to get to know us, and to honestly and openly answer all of our questions.
We also attended professional workshops where we received great insight into how to market our study abroad experience to employers. Our speakers offered us resume, interview and self-branding advice. More importantly though, they taught us how to connect our experiences abroad to the skills that employers are looking for.
The last component of the Summit that made it really meaningful was the students themselves. Every night we would find a way to hang out at the end of each day and just share our ideas with each other. I found that I could easily have an hour-long conversation with many of the students about anything such as politics, leadership to global education, despite meeting them for the first time. I know my fellow GSLS attendees are going to go out into the world and continue to do amazing things. A lot of the learning from the Summit came from just listening to each other.
For example: one of the Summit sessions allowed us to unpack our experience abroad and how it affected our identities. Then during the student panel at the welcome luncheon, I recall a student retelling the story of how she went to South America to try to find a place where she felt at home, and how difficult it had been to try to “live the hyphen” here in America. However, she realized that in her enjoying being part of the majority abroad, she’d “unintentionally become complicit in the marginalization of some of her friends”. It was a great lesson on how we try to find our place in our societies and what we choose to do with the privilege we all have as global leaders. I must say that I was more than sad to leave at the end. It’d only been four days, but we really did build a community.
It has been weeks and I am still in contact with everyone I met at the GSLS. This includes the hosts, the speakers that work in the fields I’m interested in, and the students. They have continued to present me with insight and guidance. They continue to make me feel like the possibilities are endless. I am more than excited and grateful for all the opportunities Diversity Abroad brought me. I truly feel that I left the Summit with level of confidence, self-awareness and professional proficiency that I did not have before attending. The Global Student Leadership Summit was truly an unique experience, and I almost wish I wasn’t a Senior so I could continue to attend and be involved.