Think Globally, Act Locally
Bauer Students Experience Global Service During United Nations Symposium
As Jesus Juarez, Victor Yau, Hina Uddin, Maria Fernanda Guerrero and Hannah Ajrami boarded a flight this summer from Houston to Bangkok, they knew a few things — the travel would be long, the food would be different and the language barrier would be significant.
The student group from the C. T. Bauer College at the University of Houston were traveling to Thailand for a week, chosen to represent the college during the 9th University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS) at the United Nations Conference Centre. For many, this was the first time traveling outside the United States, and none of the students could have envisioned the lifechanging experience a week abroad could bring. Together, they networked with student leaders from across the globe, participated in sustainable development projects and led volunteers on humanitarian initiatives in the area, and sharpened their perspectives as global citizens.
This was the first time for a Bauer student group to attend the symposium, where they were part of a select group of emerging young leaders focusing on the theme, “Inspiring Confidence, Inspire Change.” During their time in Bangkok, the students heard from world leaders and put those lessons into practice through service, mentoring and teaching English to Thai schoolchildren and clearing debris from local rivers to allow transport boats to bring food and supplies to villagers.
Here, each student reflects on the experience, sharing insights from the travel, symposium and service.
(Written on the last day of the symposium)
Today was one of the most fulfilling days of my life. The whole conference has been encouraging us to get out into our communities and enact lasting change, and it created an energy that was permeating and consuming, but didn’t really have anywhere to go until now during Service Day. It felt really good to let that energy out in a way that was exhausting but incredibly cathartic.
We kayaked out onto a river that flowed through a rural community in pairs to clear out the water hyacinth plants that were choking the water to the point that fishing was difficult and transport boats carrying necessary food and supplies could not get into the village. The idea was that we would shove as much of it as possible into a trash bag and take it to the banks of the river, where it would be taken to be repurposed into fertilizer. Quickly, we realized it was faster to simply haul the plants into our laps and suffer the water and crabs running down our legs until we got to the dropoff point. Some boats even started having one person drag large interconnected plants behind the boat while the other person paddled, to add to the load that sat in the kayak.
Afterwards, arm muscles burning, soaking wet, and covered in mud, we learned that in the two hours we had worked we had pulled 40 tons of water hyacinth from that river.
It felt amazing to make that much of a change in such a small amount of time, and I feel that I was the best I could be that day because of Bauer. Through college, I have had so many experiences being part of a team both as a leader and a follower, I have learned to follow through on projects that I undertake, and I have developed curiosity and drive so that I could learn from this experience and use it to make my own community better.
Management & Finance Senior
One hundred international college students and I had just completed a full morning of painting, cooking, and teaching at the Duang Prateep Foundation in the heart of the Klong Toey slum.
As our massive group settled into the spacious lobby to rest and play with the hundreds of Thai schoolchildren, I saw my chance. I pulled out my speakers, played "Feel Good Inc." by Cookin' on 3 Burners, and launched into a breakdance routine.
Hundreds of heads across the room turned to the loud music and dynamic performance. As I hopped gracefully onto both feet, folded my arms into the classic B-boy stance, and threw two fingers into the air, the familiar sounds of applause, screams, and whoops filled the building. My part was done. It was now time for the hundreds of young, excited rivals I had just created to respond to my challenge.
Within seconds, a third grader threw himself back - first onto the ground directly in front of me. Pedaling with his feet, he spun his body in circles, as if to imitate my windmills. As the room erupted in cheers, I locked eyes with my opponent, re-entered our newly designated battlefield and danced another routine.
Immediately afterwards, a first grader ran out of the crowd of people that had circled around us. While pointing at me, he hopped on one foot and waved his free arm wildly in the air, to the roaring satisfaction of the on-looking schoolchildren, teachers and student delegates.
The dance battle continued for the next 20 minutes and concluded with my dozens of new friends clamoring to take pictures with me and expressing gratitude for visiting their community to share my Texan-American culture. I am proud to have facilitated this international cross-cultural exchange as a representative of Bauer, and I look forward to more to come.
MARIA FERNANDA GUERRERO
Supply Chain Management & Finance Senior
(Written in the Bangkok Airport)
After 26 hours of travel to Bangkok and more than 150 new LinkedIn and Facebook connections, I am sitting in the Dubai airport waiting for our flight back home. As I look back at these past eight days, I cannot believe it’s over.
The Land of Smiles and Its Temples
Bangkok is a busy city and it can be overwhelming at first. One day, we spent two hours sitting in traffic for a 10-mile trip. But, Thai people make it a magical place to visit. Two local students attending the symposium showed us around Bangkok and bargained with locals. We visited beautiful architecture of maze-like temples that left me amazed, especially the hand painted walls and the 150-foot-long Buddha.
Bangkok was the perfect city for me — it is all about food. The perfect combination of sweet with salty in one dessert, Mango Sticky rice. Mango and Rice together? YES! Best dessert EVER! That’s how Thai food is as rich in flavors and colors as the culture.
Thailand and the United Nations
The best part of this trip was immersing myself into the UN experience. During the symposium, we debated about different global issues with students from 82 countries. This opened my mind to understand how my daily actions contribute, and challenged me to wonder how I can make a change. The peak of the week was the Service Day. My team and I traveled to a Thai elementary school to help them practice their English. When we arrived, we got a huge surprise. The kids received us by dancing typical Thai dances, and they taught us how to dance, cook and write in Thai. It was a fun day! The kids didn’t want us to leave, and we didn't want to leave either.
The flight to Houston just got called for boarding, and it's time to go back to reality. I cannot wait to get back home and spread this global mission in my community… and sleep in my bed.
I can’t believe that it has already been a week since we first arrived to Thailand. I don’t know what I expected from this conference, but I definitely didn’t expect to meet this many amazing people from all over the world.
From the student delegates from South Africa, Australia and Germany each completing community service projects in their communities, to the human rights workers stationed in Thailand and Cambodia working to impact underserved people, I have been consistently inspired this week. I have always wanted to work in the international community, but I wasn’t very sure what those opportunities would look like until I went to this conference.
Communicating with people who are currently working abroad as aid workers, directors and analysts abroad has allowed me to be myself in those capacities. I hope that I can share my experiences with other Bauer students and communicate that we have such an incredible opportunity as university students to give back.
When I boarded the airplane back to Houston, I boarded as a new person. This experience has changed my perspective in life and my self-mission. From experiencing the thriving, exhilarating and humbling culture of Thailand, to meeting young leaders from 88 countries, I felt that this conference not only expanded my network, but my perspective on global issues, innovation and collaboration.
For the first three days of the conference, I was able to hear about issues going around the world and how United Nations committees and other organizations were tackling them. Most importantly, I heard stories from non-profit leaders and fellow student delegates who have faced issues such as lack of education, security, food shortage, and forced migration from their homelands. We had discussions over matters that should be a part of a global agenda. To see the passion that burns within my fellow delegates to change the world gave me hope for future generations to reach the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Additionally, I was able to apply everything that I have learned at Bauer about leadership, management and sustainable models, when discussing ideas about global projects with my fellow delegates.
The day that made the biggest impact for me was Service Day. I was assigned to take a group of children from a local orphanage to Dreamworld (an amusement park) to forget their worries for the day. These children taught me about kindness, compassion and love. Even with the little they had, they would share their food and toys with me to “thank me” for coming. It blew my mind how much I learned from their character and overall perspective on life.
Now I come back to Houston with new ideas, new goals, and most importantly, a passion to serve others. One of the speakers of the conference challenged all delegates to “think globally, act locally.” Thankfully, Bauer is committed to making an impact in global matters by empowering students, as myself, to collaborate with others in order to create innovative solutions.