Round Square International Conference 2022 Report

Wednesday, 02 Nov 2022

We were off to England for the Round Square International Conference - On the 17th of September, our group of 7 students accompanied by Mrs Rothacker and Mr Johnstone and parent Jodie Russell, set off on the trip of a lifetime. 

After a very short flight from Coffs Harbour to Sydney we found our way to our next plane… This was the long haul. The flight lasted pretty much 24 hours; some slept the whole flight while others went mental after about the 5th hour on the plane. However, this flight did allow us to make friends with another Australian delegation from Radford College in Canberra who were also making their way to the conference. Finally after 24hrs, we landed on UK soil, checked into our hotel and got on the train to explore the city of London. 

Making our way around London we saw some of the must see monuments such as Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. We arrived in England at a rather interesting and historical point of history, we were exploring London the day before Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. London was packed. We saw the queue to see the Queen which was about 15 km long. We were able to witness something very unique; 10s of thousands of people flowing into Green Park to pay their respects and lay flowers. It was a once in a lifetime scene. After our big day of exploring the beautiful, historic city of London we went back to our hotel exhausted and ready for bed.

The next morning, we caught a bright red double decker bus to the airport, met our lovely barazza leaders and piled onto a bus to Oxford. Once in Oxford we explored the beautiful old town and entered the stunning Pembroke College where we settled in for the next 3 nights. That day we met lots of people from different countries such as South Africa, England, Peru, Canada, Columbia, Switzerland, India and the United States of America. 

The 19th of September, the first full day of the Conference. We started the day with the Opening Ceremony and headed back to the college for some icebreakers in our barazza groups where we really started to get to know one another. After lunch we headed back to the theatre to hear from some Round Square Alumni speakers, some who had created their own charities.

To finish off the day we had a night of traditional Scottish Ceilidh line dancing. I am the sort of person where anything involving dancing is my worst nightmare. However this night of chaos, clapping, cheering, stumbling over other people's feet and dancing with people I had never met before from different countries was one of my highlights of the conference, despite the heat.

The 20th of September… In the morning we heard from more amazing keynote speakers; we learnt about climate change with a professor at Oxford Uni. We learnt about the threat of microplastics and their impact on the environment from ocean advocate Emily Penn and learnt about the importance of adventure and challenges from Ben Fogel. After lunch we had an Alice in Wonderland themed scavenger hunt around Oxford; we learnt of the city's rich history and along the way found places that inspired/featured in books and movies such as Narnia and Harry Potter. The event for the evening was cultural performances from around the world; from India, Japan, Switzerland, Colombia, Australia, England, Canada and more. It was an amazing experience. 

After three action packed days in Oxford, it was time to say goodbye as we made the journey up north to the beautiful seaside town of Lytham St. Annes. We explored the “beach” which was just sand. As we arrived, one of the South Africans was making comments such as,

 “Why is there so much sand? Where is the water? This is not a beach, this is a desert.” 

At AKS Lytham, they have professional caterers so that night we were treated to a food festival of fish tacos, Mediterranean chicken skewers, strawberry sponge cake, oysters, mocktails and more. After dinner we danced to an amazing local band with students who we had met only a few days ago who felt like lifelong friends. They had taught us some of their cultural dances, for example the delegation from Mayo College in India taught the Kala Chasma while we taught others the Nutbush. 

Our second day in Lytham began with listening to another keynote speaker, Sarah Brook. Sarah founded the Sparkle Foundation that does humanitarian aid in Malawi. We then took part in a rotation of service activities such as birdhouse painting, beach restoration and beach cleanup. Along the way we had a choir session where we learnt the Swahili song Si Si Ni Moja which is about unity and togetherness. 

Later that night we would sing with the school choir at the formal dinner dressed in our nicest clothes and feasting on what the professional catering team had created. We then danced some more on the lawns of AKS Lytham and made our way to bed in preparation for the big day ahead. 

Our third and final day in Lytham. We were up bright and early to catch a bus north to the beautiful Lake Windemere in the Lake District area. Some of us drove a motorboat on the lake while others kayaked. We then hopped on a Lake cruise ferry that took us to the old holiday home of Beatrix Potter who wrote Peter Rabbit. After exploring the beautiful green hills and rocky lake shores our last activity for the day was visiting the most beautiful town called Ambleside; it was filled with old stone buildings that were covered in flowers and vines. A little later it hit us that this was our final night with all of the friends that we had made over the week. We started our teary goodbyes; sharing our favourite part of the week, getting final photos and getting and receiving a lot of hugs. 

On the final morning we were up before the crack of dawn, suitcases packed and after a few more teary goodbyes we piled onto the bus that would take us back to Heathrow Airport and the long trip back home to Australia. 

This conference was the most amazing experience, we were inspired by keynote speakers and learnt how we can shape and change the world, we saw the most amazing scenery and most importantly we made lifelong friends with people from all different countries around the world. 

We urge you all to go on at least one Round Square event whether that be a conference, service trip or exchange because it truly is life changing.  We also just wanted to thank Mrs Rothacker, Mr Johnstone and Jodie Russell who accompanied us on the plane home.

By Lily Atkin