Bishop Druitt College Ambassadors developing International Understanding

Thursday, 10 Nov 2022

Mingling with 1500 students from 35 countries, listening to inspirational speakers and participating in service projects in the United Kingdom. This is how seven Bishop Druitt College student ambassadors have been learning about international understanding and what it entails at the Round Square International Conference 2022. The week-long conference was hosted at Oxford University and AKS Lytham, St Annes in the UK.

Our contingent was lucky enough to be staying in the picturesque Pembroke College situated in the heart of old Oxford. For our students from rural Coffs Harbour, the sense of history and beauty of the city was quite overwhelming. It was almost incomprehensible to think that when we walked through Christ Church Cathedral, that we were standing in the same space where Henry the 8th had stood; Oxford Cathedral, also the final resting place of Catherine of Aragon and the Great Hall in Christ Church College, famous more recently thanks to Harry Potter!

After their first eve in Oxford, our school group had already made friends with students from Peru, the US, England, India and South Africa. 

During the conference, our student ambassadors were treated to a variety of speakers who are making positive changes in their respective domains. The theme of the conference was Take Less Be More and all speakers wove the Round Square Ideals of International Understanding, Democracy, Environmental Action, Adventurous Spirit, Leadership and Service into their speeches. The speakers included: 

Sebastien F.W. Brack - Red Cross International, Kofi Annan Foundation and the European Institute of Peace,

Stephanie Williams - world wakeboard champion and creative director for top international brands,

Ollie Thorn - wheelchair bound leader in diversity, equity and inclusive recruitment,

Lesego Serelong - Raise the Children Foundation founder, One Million Beehives Campaign for Africa founder,

Jack Harrison - The Henry Smith Charity,

Josceline Cluff - All Hands natural disaster responses and Better Cotton (for a sustainable future),

Rev Elliot Berry - the Noah Institute,

And the amazing Sarah Brook - CEO and founder of The Sparkle Foundation and Sparkle Malawi.

To consolidate ideas, after the speech sessions students gathered in “Baraza '' or discussion groups composed of students from all the different countries and shared their thoughts.

Our students have been totally inspired by these discussions and speakers. Heather said, “I now have so many ideas and I am really motivated to bring service activities into our daily tutor groups so that we can make a difference. As a school captain, I am going to do my best to make this happen.”

While serious topics are essential, so is joy, fun and laughter and our ambassadors enjoyed bonding with others at the social dance evenings and the Cultural Performance Evening. The cultural performances all had their own flare and the different spirits of each country could be seen shining through. A Japanese fish-hauling dance, Indian Bollywood style male dancing and a South African gumboot dance used by slaves to communicate with each other, were just a few of the memorable acts. What a joyful way to start understanding other cultures.

Our last day in Oxford was spent listening to adventurer Ben Fogle and then participating in a discovery dash (amazing race around the city). Ben Fogle shared some wise words relating to exams, school, stress and life purpose:

“We are more than a single grade.”

“There is always a way.”

“Is life the journey or the destination?”

“Add life to my days not days to my life”

“Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

“Go and climb your Everest”.

After leaving Oxford our international ambassadors arrived after many bus hours at St Anne’s (south of Blackpool). We received a warm and friendly welcome from AKS Lytham who put on a delicious “30 mile menu” of locally sourced food for our dinner; a great way to think about caring for the environment. This was followed by a lively band where the students from all over the world danced together for the next two and a half hours. 

For the remainder of the conference, students were immersed in a rotation of service activities from community singing, to bird house construction, beach clean up and dune care. 

On our last full conference day the students had adventures in the Lakes District; they paddled kayaks, drove motorboats, visited Wray Castle (childhood holiday “home” of Beatrix Potter), and explored the historic village of Ambleside. 

The conference has been a life changing experience. Alex said, “I have made more good friends at this conference than at any other time in my life. I believe this conference is the best thing I have ever done.”

We are deeply grateful to the UK Round Square schools, especially AKS Lytham, for hosting the Bishop Druitt College delegation at the International Conference 2022. We made many heartfelt connections and lifelong friends. Our students are keen to begin International Exchanges from 2023. We will be starting with the wonderful connections made at the conference and we are already planning to participate in the next international conference in Nairobi Kenya in 2023. This year’s conference has been tremendous and has rekindled the spirit of Internationalism in our college while our seven student ambassadors are now well on their way to becoming World Prepared global citizens.