I didn’t make it to quite as many sessions as I would have liked today, as I was on IELTS booth duty. However, this was great fun as I got to speak with many delegates I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise.
This morning’s plenary session was surprisingly touching as well as extremely inspiring.
His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AO, the Governor of South Australia, gave a very moving account of his life story, peppered with plenty of humour, starting with his journey as a refugee from Vietnam on the first boats fleeing the war. He went on to recount the warm welcome he received when he reached Australia and his own experiences as an international student. He finished by sharing his belief that embracing this global interconnected world in which we live today will create a sustainable, inclusive and fairer global community in the future. Something which I think many would echo.
We received a double dose of compelling and inspirational presentations this morning. Dr Kirsty Sword-Gusmao followed, speaking about her experiences in Timor-Leste through her work as Goodwill Ambassador for Education and Founder of Alola, an NGO improving the lives of women and children. She really is a passionate advocator for education being the key factor in a better, richer, healthier and more dignified country.
I also enjoyed the panel session at the end of the day highlighting the hot topics in international education which had representatives from Brazil, Europe and the USA and showed how diverse the challenges are.
Marcus Laitinen from EAIE presented some interesting thoughts on the refugee crisis in Europe, concerned more with the long-term consequences and how education can help with their integration. There are many schemes in place across Europe offering educational places to refugees, and I was particularly struck by a new initiative called Science for Refugees which aims to match refugee scholars to universities through a web portal.
Vitor Amoral from the Brazilian Association for International Education presented his perspective on Brazil. Education (as we all know) is important for the development of a country, and we are seeing an encouraging movement in Brazil where discourse is being translated to action and, international education is very slowly moving up the political agenda (Science Without Borders aside).
From the USA, we heard that the big giant isn’t sleeping any more – as Brett Blacker from IEAA put it. Dr Fanta Aw from NAFSA spoke about the US having finally realised that recruiting overseas is a great idea, especially since the changing demographics of the US mean that as numbers of high school children drop, universities will increasingly look towards international students to make up their numbers.
This evening I am jetting off to the conference dinner. I must dash now – I have a plane to catch! Now where did I put my boarding pass…