Let’s talk about “Being More”​

Posted: 10 October 2022

As the fairy dust settles on the Round Square International Conference 2022 it’s easy to forget the leap of faith that was needed to make it happen.

Tentatively starting out at the beginning of the year, we opened registration with four intrepid UK schools hoping to host 800 delegates, at four Oxford University Colleges for a few days before transferring to their home-turf for the remainder of the week. COVID protocols were still limiting activities in the UK and overseas, and a lingering nervousness about travel around the world had us wondering whether we would make 800… By May we had six schools hosting across seven Oxford University Colleges and 1,550 delegates registered.

At times, these past months, I have wondered whether it was the Conference theme that somehow conjured the unprecedented numbers. As if by asking our delegates to BE MORE we had somehow set down a challenge before they even arrived.

If an illustration were needed of what it means to BE MORE we need only look to our host schools AKS Lytham Independent SchoolBox Hill SchoolCobham Hall SchoolFelsted SchoolLatymer Upper School, and Ryde School with Upper Chine.

To begin with, four schools stepped up to host at a time when nobody knew how quickly we would emerge from the inertia of the pandemic, and took the risk that after all their fantastic planning and hard work, no one would come. Two more joined us at the 11th hour, to save the day, when there was honestly no time left to plan, and yet still they created a fantastic conference program for their delegates. At each extreme, six schools setting a fine example to their students of how to step up and BE MORE.

Over the course of the conference it was a privilege to watch the student baraza leaders from each host school grow in confidence and capability, from excited but slightly nervous party-planners arriving in Oxford, to charming, confident and competent speakers and conference hosts by the time they took their delegations back to their own schools.

We talk a lot in Round Square about the need for more courage and compassion, resilience and tenacity in our world, and we role-model, as best we can, the transformational power of digging deep, stepping up, taking and expecting less, and generally… well… being more.

In this spirit many of our delegates overcame the challenge of travel disruption, adapted to communal living in their Colleges, travelled long distances in pursuit of adventure, and camped and slept in bunkhouses, tepees, and bell tents, in almost every type of traditional British weather. They picked litter, cleared scrubland, undertook community gardening, fed and cleaned up after animals, acted as race marshals and worked on a rewilding project. They went into it with enthusiasm, an open-mind and a can-do attitude, and will have come out the other side forever changed – stronger, more resilient, and with greater confidence in their own capacity to live with less, and to BE MORE.

Of course it wasn’t all quite so challenging. We enjoyed the privilege of living and dining in the beautiful surroundings of Oxford University, with the camaraderie and kinship of a unique experience within the Oxford colleges that accommodated our Conference for the first half of the week. We heard from some amazing keynote speakers – Dieter HelmEmily Penn and Ben Fogle – and celebrated the amazing life stories of seven alumni of Round Square schools: Sébastien F.W. BrackLesego Serolong – HolzapfelJack HarrisonJosceline CluffOllie ThornStephanie Williams-Caller and Elliot Berry.

We brought students together for meaningful discussion and internationally mixed Baraza Groups. We Ceilidh-ed, explored Oxford and celebrated each other’s talents at our Cultural Performance Evening… building international understanding in a variety of ways.

Moving out to our Host Schools for the second half of the week, different groups enjoyed high ropes and watersports, visited the Lake District National Park, the Isle of Wight Needles, Osborne house, Marwell Zoo, Blenheim Palace and Leeds Castle. Some took in a West End show, some stopped off in Windsor for a picnic by the castle, others took a sightseeing trip through London on the Thames. They were entertained with International Food and Music Festivals, Gala Dinners, a Gilt Ball, traditional English Teas, Music Concerts, floating Discos and Treasure Hunts.

Congratulations and thank you to the students and staff from our six host schools, on staging a fantastic conference programme which, for the Round Square Community, has provided that longed-for reboot after lockdown inertia.

Thank you, also, to my team at Round Square, who made so much of the behind-the-scenes logistics happen and kept the many cogs turning beneath the surface.

The final, and perhaps biggest, thank you, has to go to our Conference Delegates and their schools, who also took that leap of faith into the unknown, in booking their flights to the UK and signing up to attend the Conference in the wake of the Pandemic. We hope that the sense of international community and camaraderie built over the week will stay with you for years to come and you carry forward our conference pledge to always strive to put back into the world more than we take – to TAKE LESS and to BE MORE.

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