By Michael Aaron Gomez

Christopher Ross Yap, a first-year student from the Ateneo de Davao University School of Business and Governance (AdDU – SBG), represented the University at the AFS Global Conference held last 9-12 October 2019 in Montreal, Canada. Mr. Yap joined groups of other students and youth leaders from around the globe at the conference, which “provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.” Hosted by the AFS Intercultural Programs Organization, the conference proceeded with agenda to “explore winning strategies to bring global competence into classrooms and youth programs;” “define how global competence helps all stakeholders better connect resources and communities to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals;” and to “showcase how cutting-edge study abroad programs provide real-world learning opportunities and global skills that employers need,” among others. The conference also focused on “Active Global Citizenship—and How to Educate for It,” building on the “networking and idea-sharing activities” of its 2018 iteration, which gathered together “more than 450 leaders at the intersection of education, business, and policy.” Participants included “experts and advocates in intercultural learning, global competence, and peace education that prepare young people for a world where globalism is under attack and nationalism and extreme violence is on the rise.”

At the conference, Mr. Yap, along with other invited students and youth leaders, gathered to celebrate the Young Active Global Citizens Day, and then participated in workshops and discussions addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). They were tasked to choose one of the development goals, and to identify possible root causes of specific issues pertaining to their chosen goal. Among their other tasks—including attending series of workshops, plenary sessions, panel discussion, and poster presentations—was to propose a project where the participants present a sustainable and realistic pitch for a project designed to resolve their identified issues. The participants were also invited to visit the Live Center at Concordia University, where they were shown some of the projects already implemented at the school as a means of showing the participants the different ways in which they could also start sustainable projects on their own, at their home universities. One half of the visiting group were also invited to the office of the “New Cities” organization to “discover new ideas in building sustainable cities.” The conference closed with the 2019 AFS Global Awards Ceremony, recognizing and celebrating the most innovative practices in global competence education.

Upon his return to the Philippines, Mr. Yap reflected on his experiences at the conference. “It was a huge honor to be part of this life-changing experience [where I got] to discover new techniques and learn different approaches in pitching an idea for a project,” he said in his reflection for the AdDU Office of Student Affairs (OSA). “Being able to work with some optimistic, innovative, dedicated and brilliant people gave me the inspiration to try and bring out the best in every single one of us to collaborate and work together as a cohesive unit in facing the challenges of the world, one project at a time.” When asked about the invitation, Mr. Yap said that he felt excited and nervous, because “not everyone gets the chance to be selected to participate…lots of students and youth leaders around the globe look forward to being part of it.” In the end, Mr. Yap expressed gratitude for the opportunity given to him. “Being one of the few students who was chosen made me think [of] how lucky and blessed I am to represent my country and gather with other aspiring individuals to start planning action in making the world a better place for everyone.”

The AFS Intercultural Programs Organization (or AFS, originally the American Field Service) convened the Global Conference to “stimulate collaboration and cooperation among leaders in education, NGOs, business and government committed to make this learning available to young people and empowering them to become active changemakers in their community and the world.” The conference itself also discussed “the tough challenges, opportunities and resources required to bring global competence education into the classrooms, youth leadership and study abroad programs.”