Mabuhay! That is the equivalent of Tagalog (one of the Philippines’ major languages) to Hawaii’s “Aloha!”, for some of you language nerds out there. I learned this phrase and had to repeat it a lot during my trip to Manila, the capital of the beautiful archipelagic country of the Philippines, in early July this year. “What for?”, some of you may inquire. Well, it may sound rather anticlimactic but it was for a student’s conference, particularly relating to the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA) and their regional chapter of Asia-Pacific. APRM (Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting) as we call it, is an opportunity for students from member organizations of the IFMSA to gather, learn and exchange ideas as well as each other’s unique cultures. I was fortunate enough to become part of the Vietnamese delegation to this event and even the Pre-APRM activities, a training camp of sorts for all sorts of essential skills for a healthcare student such as yours truly.
Though, let’s be honest with each other for a bit here. I really did not come into this event expecting much. My impression with conferences and formal events at that point was mostly limited to a tense atmosphere and boredom listening to a boring speech or two given in a pretty brief and superficial manner. Do not get me wrong, however, I still like those events to some extent, but I wish they had done things in a more engaging way for attendees. As such, I hope you understand where I am coming from when I say APRM for me initially seemed like a novelty opportunity to travel to another country. Yet, I was pleasantly proven wrong. On the very first day of the Pre-APRM training seminars, the organizers - who are medical students around my age themselves - were both very professional and charismatic in their own way. To cut a long story short (I do not want to bog you down with details of every seminar I attended), they managed to break the “curse of lectures” by delivering their content through relatable metaphors and using games in-between to foster a bond between attendees. Not only that, everyone - including my fellow participants - was also extremely friendly and active. They were not afraid to speak their own mind, to share more about their experience, and to give constructive feedback. I believe this was the true recipe for the success of their seminars. By the end, I felt close to everyone there and I even learned something new along the way. In addition, I realize what was missing in my own organization’s bonding activities and seminars that what I learned here could be implemented later on. Hopefully, that will inspire more to do good the same as it did for me.
Moving away from the training seminars (which lasted 3 days), the other delegates and I finally entered the main event. For the next few days (another 3 to be exact), we were once again given presentations but this time, they were about relevant health topics in the region divided by individual Standing Committees (SCs). I was part of the SC of Public Health so I got to learn more about addictions, mental health and access to clean water. The presentations were not even the most impressive of the main APRM. What truly blew me away were the Fairs, in-between events for students from each country to exhibit their culture and their own initiatives to advocate for medical education and healthcare in general. As a cynical leader, I did not think student-led activities could amount to much, just some minor events at best. Yet, my peers proved me wrong yet again. One of the best examples I can give is the Hackathon for Innovative Health Solutions by IFMSA-Thailand. Essentially, they made hackathons more relevant to healthcare students and challenged them with actual real community problems. The finalists even have the chance to present their ideas to local leaders and policymakers to be assessed and potentially realized. This is a brilliant idea, in my opinion, both as a test of innovation and a chance to make a real difference. It might even be something that I can bring back to VinUni and Vietnam as a local initiative. The students at the event showed me that students could still be capable of many great things as long as you are willing to learn from others. And that was exactly what I did, learn. All of which were new to me and flew past my head when I began my work as an event organizer. Nevertheless, now that I was here, I finally saw how important and useful those seemingly tedious actions can be.
At this point, some of you may find it quite boring that I have gone on and on about seminar this and presentation that which, to be fair, do sound like a boring way to spend your summer after a semester of non-stop lectures. However, the point of this article was not about me bragging about my trip. Instead, I would like to express how a seemingly small extracurricular event has influenced me. Particularly, as a future leader, I was humbled by the lessons given from other peers about the way to give feedback constructively, to organize events efficiently and to assess your own work objectively. All of which were invaluable to me. And while these may seem irrelevant to you as an outsider viewer, I believe the message of this story stays the same: that for change to happen, one should be willing to take up every small chance they have. I once believed that nothing can change unless an event of massive scale occurs, but seeing how such a neat little event has made me a better leader, I must relent. I hope you - the readers - will also get a chance of your own like I did. Mabuhay!
Author’s Note: “Mabuhay” can be directly translated as “Long Live!” and can be used in the Philippines similarly to the term “Aloha!” which both mean “Hello!” and “Goodbye!” in Hawaii.
Sign in or become a Sincerely, VinUnians member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.