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Exclusive experience of joining international conference by an APU student

5 min read

Last February, one of the most prestigious and challenging conferences, The Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR), was held to create a forum in which students and young professionals can discuss, exchange opinions, and learn about challenges in the aspects of the economy, politics, and society that face the Asia-Pacific region. One APU student, Shibani Melba from India, not only had an opportunity to participate in this conference in person at Harvard University, but she also received some scholarships from Japanese foundations to support her learning journey. SPA Team has had the chance to further explore this exclusive experience by interviewing Shibani Melba. Let’s take a look at her special journey!

1. Can you introduce yourself?

Shibani: My name is Shibani Melba. I am a fourth-year student majoring in International Relations and Peace Studies (IRPS). Currently, I am interning at the National Human Rights Commission of India. My hobbies are listening to music, watching series and cooking!

Photo: Shibani standing in front of the Massachusetts State house on her trip to Harvard University

2. How did you know about HPAIR? What motivated you to participate in such a selective and challenging conference?

Shibani: When I first enrolled in APU, one of my senpais talked about HPAIR as a challenging opportunity which can benefit an IRPS student in the aspect of knowledge, experience, and also network with people. From that moment, I started to do research and collect information about international conferences around the world, and HPAIR conference was one among them.

Personally, if I am interested in something I just apply for it. I think about everything else only after I receive the acceptance letter. That is what I did with HPAIR as well. Despite the pandemic and high participation fee, I insisted on applying for HPAIR as I saw that HPAIR is an exclusive chance for me to create networks with people studying and working in the IRPS field with the hope that I can find some learning and career opportunities in the IRPS field. Moreover, there were also numerous professional and highly reputable guest speakers from large companies such as Amazon, Kakao, and diplomats with whom I could meet, ask questions, and discuss the problems I was wondering about in person.

3. Can you share about the process that you applied for the scholarship and fund for this learning journey?

Shibani:Since I am already a scholarship recipient of the Rotary Yoneyama Foundation, I was able to support myself when it came to the admission fee, visa fee, and lodging expenses.At the application stage, I showed them my deep desire to attend international conferences to broaden my horizon in my major and also create networks with people in the IRPS field.

Moreover, I registered to attend HPAIR in person, which meant that I needed to fly to Boston where Harvard University is located. Therefore, I decided to send a request to Beppu Rotary Club's president to ask for financial support for the transportation fee. Fortunately, they decided to fund my round-trip from Tokyo to Boston and back!

What the scholarship foundations required are just my report and speech about what I have learned from the conferences and how I can integrate them into my recent studies and future career path. It was also my honor to give a speech at the Beppu Rotary Club’s monthly meeting as I could reflect on and share my experiences with everyone.

Photo: Shibani giving speech about her HPAIR experience at the Beppu Rotary Club

4. Can you tell us more about the flow of the conference?

Shibani: It was a four-day conference. The conference was arranged in a way where we could ask the speakers questions regarding their lives and the roles they play in their fields. The speakers were not giving a speech but were engaged in a dialogue with us. They shared the roles they play in their respective organizations and the future they these organizations are headed towards. Apart from the speakers' session we also had Boston city tour, Harvard campus tour, trivia night and iNight (International Night). The HPAIR committee took us on a Boston tour where we had a chance to walk along the freedom trail and learn Boston's history. The iNight was a night that was filled with international performances by the delegates showcasing their country's culture.

5. What was about the conference that left you with the deepest impression?

Shibani: I think that the special opportunity to meet and discuss with reputable guest speakers left me with the deepest impression. For example, I was able to raise a question and be involved in an interesting discussion with Paul Misener - Vice President of the Global Innovation Policy and Communication in Amazon, about Amazon workers’ unionization. That was such a wonderful experience! In addition, engaging with the diplomats gave me deep insights into how negotiations work across borders, how countries sign treaties with high stakes and the work that goes on to maintain global peace and security.

6. What was the most valuable experience you have obtained from participating in the conference?

Shibani: I would say it was the chance to see the highly motivated participants of the conferences who are making efforts to make changes not only in the international relations field but also in technological innovations, economy, and more. It was such an honor for me to meet and exchange with those excellent people from reputable universities all around the world about what they are studying at their university and what they can do for a job or internship. From this opportunity, I obtained a clearer perspective on what I can do to thrive in this area of study.

Photo: Shibani along with her fellow delegates standing in front of the John Harvard Statue during the first day of the conference at Harvard University.

7. Do you recommend other students to participate in this conference?

Shibani: I highly recommend students, especially those who are majoring in IRPS, to attend such international conferences. However, particularly for HPAIR, I saw it as both an exclusive and helpful experience, but you are required to pay a large expense, which seems to be overwhelming for university students.

However, you should not be discouraged as from my experience, you can get many scholarships or funding chances in Japan to support your desire to learn and thrive. Moreover, HPAIR is not the only great international conference as there are many others by international organizations which you can attend with a reasonable budget and conditions. Therefore, if you deeply want to learn, I bet you can find your chance!

I suggest my kohais to just apply for opportunities that will help them to gain more knowledge related to their respective fields. Getting accepted is secondary. However, the more you apply, the more experience you gain in writing concise SOP, motivation letters, how to request your professors for recommendation letters, modifying your CV etc. Applying for opportunities can be a learning experience in itself!

We – the SPA team, would like to express our special thanks to Shibani Melba for participating in our interview and sharing her exclusive and special experience with everyone. If you are interested in the HPAIR conference, you can find more information and be prepared for next year's event by the following link: https://www.hpair.org

We hope that the above interview provides you with necessary and valuable information about the international conference you can attend and also scholarships to support you in your learning journey. As our guest speaker shared, under any circumstances, if you deeply want to, you can find your way to grasp the opportunity and thrive yourself. Therefore, if you want to take a closer step to become a global citizen, move forward and earn your chance!

Anh Van NGUYEN
Anh Van NGUYEN

Hi! I’m Van Anh from Vietnam. My love of handwriting gave rise to my deep interest in writing. Being a member of SPA, I can finally make the best use of my writing skill to share with other students useful information. Feel free to ask me anything, I’ll try to answer the best I can!




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