Student reflects on RSIC2015

By Liam, Woodleigh School Student on 10/12/2015

In October 2015, UWCSEA hosted the 2015 International Round Square Conference with delegates from 128 schools in 36 countries attending. The theme was ‘Act today, Change tomorrow’ and students considered the complex issue of sustainability.

Below is an essay written by Liam, a student delegate from Woodleigh School in Australia. Liam reflects on his time not only at the conference but on his pre-conference trip to Cambodia.


“In early August my teacher Mr. Azz walked up to me with his casual swagger and asked me if I would be interested in doing Round Square. Now at that point I had no clue if Mr. Azz had gone crazy and made up some elaborate plan to fool me. He didn’t he offered me one of the best opportunities of my life.

On the 25th of September Millie, Abbey, Ashley, Ella as well as Ms. Boundy and Mr. Azz set off on an experience that changed all of our lives forever. Now I know nearly every person says that they’ve been or done something that has changed them forever and some of the time that’s true, but most of the time they just go back to their normal routine lives and forget about it. This was different. After stopping over in Singapore for a couple hours on the way to Cambodia it all became so real and if I’m being honest I really didn’t 100% know what I was suppose to do or how I was supposed to help. After settling in for the first day or two we met a bunch of guys from a school in Queensland called The Southport School and little did I know they’d all become life long friends. The first day of working with the kids was one I could never forget. While on the way to the school in our personal Tuk Tuk’s all these thoughts came into my head on what the school would look like or if the kids would like us, but sure enough after a 10 minute Tuk Tuk we arrived and boy, was there a lot of kids there.

Although in a street behind the main road, the school was amazing. The school had 6 classrooms with brick walls a tin roof and one even had a TV. After getting an amazing first ceremony including some tunes such as twinkle twinkle little star and the hokey pokey we split off into our classes with two of the Woodleigh girls going to both the prep classes and I was in with the grade 3’s. After settling in the teacher started to give us bigger and bigger jobs until eventually we taught classes by ourselves. While teaching and walking round the classroom to see if anyone needed help I realized that every kid I walked past either had a cheeky grin on their face or a massive smile and it shocked me that they were this happy to learn, because I definitely wasn’t as cheerful and happy going to school and learning.

On the 4th or 5th day was probably one of the hardest. We took food to underprivileged villages to help them out a bit in there day to day lives. Some of the stories they shared with us about how they grew up brought me to tears but what was even more emotional was the way the kids looked at us. They all had giant smiles on their faces and were jumping around and playing with us was one of the best parts of the whole trip, but also just realizing that most of these kids don’t have a chance to live a full and successful life because of the poverty situations they are in.

What I think we need to realize is that, yes Cambodia is a third world country, and yes we need to help the people, but we also need to learn from them too. The Cambodian people are some of the happiest and brightest people I’ve ever met in my life and they have barely anything. We need to help them by providing water and other basic needs until they can do it for themselves. It’s like taking out a loan at the bank if we help them out for however long until they can get back on their feet firmly on the ground and start contributing for their own people and eventually be a thriving country. Which will result in not only paying off the loan but help the whole world too. Because I truly think some of the brightest minds in Asia haven’t been discovered yet due to poverty or people not given a chance.

Overall Cambodia by far has been the best place I’ve ever travelled and will go back there for sure. Not only was it a life changing experience because I was able to help kids learn but also meeting some people with amazing story’s that make the lives we live seem small and the things we complain about even smaller.

Singapore on the other hand was a whole different experience, after saying our goodbyes to my fellow good mates at Southport we were picked up by the UWCSEA students who took us back to their campus where we pretty much lived for the next week. As you probably gathered we stayed with a host family. I stayed with the Kapoor’s, an amazing Indian family who had come over from India 2 years before. I also shared the host family with another round square student who was from India called Aditiya.

Due to the haze from Indonesia we weren’t able to do a number of activities the Round Square committee had planned for us. But luckily enough the haze cleared enough for the discover Singapore day where we went to Gardens by the Bay and the giant wheel as well as visiting countless shopping malls and if you can imagine 1000 students roaming through the streets of Singapore it was definitely a sight to see. Throughout the whole day I noticed two things. Almost everything in Singapore was either concrete or stainless steel or some other material. There were minimal trees. The second was the notable difference from the happiness of the people in Cambodia to the Happiness in Singapore. In Cambodia you would smile at someone and they’d give you a lovely smile back whereas in Singapore everyone was so busy on their phone, watching movies, or texting or going on Facebook that they wouldn’t even notice you if you were wearing a bright pink suit. That’s where I think Singapore needs to lift, because the sustainability doesn’t just rely on nature it relies on the people of earth to contribute and help the world spin, and that’s not going to happen when everyone’s so busy on their phones that it actually makes their lives miserable.

While at UWCSEA we had special guest speakers that had attended UWCSEA as a student. Their ideas and passions were all vastly different but they all had one similar goal, to make the world sustainable. It was amazing to listen to some of the worlds leading minds talk about an issue that is so authentic in the modern world. They were all so inspiring, the main point they all made was that you don’t have to be the hero to change the world, you just have to do a small amount and if everyone does a small amount we can save our world.

Id Like to say thank you to everyone involved in taking Millie, Ashley, Abbey, Ella and myself over to an experience I will never forget and always cherish. Thank you to Round Square and UWCSEA for setting up such an amazing trip as well as Mr. Azz, Ms. Boundy and Mr. Walter for always keeping us in line.”