Sixteen-year-old Xenia Lopes was the sole representative of Australia in the ten-day Global Young Leaders Conference in Europe this year.
Held from 28 June to 7 July, the conference explored what it takes to be a global leader and the issues faced by leaders in the 21st century.
The Year 11 student from Hornsby Girls High School had the opportunity to experience an out-of-classroom educational program where she learned how to develop confidence, independence and competiveness imperative for the role of future leaders.
Xenia was not nominated by anyone; instead, displaying true leadership qualities, she took the initiative and applied for a place in the program herself.
Knowing people who had attended the conference previously sparked her interest and compelled her to try.
“I applied online and in my application I listed my academic skills as well as things that I do outside of school to achieve a well-rounded and balanced educational outcome,” Xenia told Indian Link.
What ensued was an enlightening experience.
“Scholars selected from all around the world came together to collaborate and talk about what is needed to be a global leader,” Xenia explained. “We went to sites and listened to global leaders of today and discussed the challenges they face along with the issues we will be facing as global leaders in the future.”
Summing up her self-funded trip, Xenia recapped, “I flew to Europe by myself. We spent the first few days in Vienna, Austria. Here participants from 80 countries attended workshops on how to develop leadership skills. We visited different sites like the Austrian Parliament, museums and markets.”
The students also travelled to other countries like Czech Republic and Germany.
Some highlights of the tour included meeting keynote speakers and human rights activists, seeing the Berlin Wall and listening to an inspiring talk by the vice president of the European Parliament. The final keynote speaker left a lasting impression on Xenia. “Muhamed Mesic is a diplomat and an environmental lawyer. He grew up as an orphan, and really wanted to see change in the world. He speaks 80 different languages! I was really inspired by him.”
Elaborating on what she brought back from the conference, Xenia said, “I learned a lot about cross cultural communication, being able to see other people’s perspective and being able to work in a team. This experience has enriched me in many ways: it has made me more confident in expressing my views and to seek leadership opportunities in the community.”
It was a valuable exercise in acquiring problem solving skills and learning to make sure that everyone’s opinion is counted.
Xenia used the trip as a residential project for her gold Duke of Edinburgh program for which she wrote a report on her return from the Global Young Leader’s Conference.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is comprised of bronze, silver and gold levels. At each level the participants are expected to demonstrate competency in service, skills, physical recreation and adventure. The gold participants are also expected to complete a residential project.
Looking back, Xenia reminisced, “Our group had the most fun in Berlin as that’s where we got to know each other better and developed lasting friendships.”
Xenia is an all-rounder who loves to both work and play. She maintains an active involvement in her community. In addition to volunteering for St John Ambulance and the Red Cross she has also donated her time to Wahroonga Netball Club. She has been a member of the Australian Air Force Cadets and sings with the Hornsby Academy of Music for recreation.
She would love to attend the GYLC again next year, but given her HSC commitments, might not be able to. Even though she is unsure of her interest in politics at the moment, Xenia is sure she wants to study law at university.
Her message to other students aspiring to attend the conference: “I would recommend it strongly for all students as it is a great experience which allows you to talk to people from many different cultures and from parts of the world which you didn’t even know existed. You get to listen to their take on issues affecting the whole world, you develop your own leadership skills and the program challenges you to broaden your world view.”
GYLC was initiated in 1985 by Envision in the United States. The event aims to bring together and develop leadership qualities in motivated and accomplished students from countries around the world by organising various conferences. The students have a chance to apply for experiences in United States, China or Europe. While many Australian students participated in the American conference, this year Xenia was the only Australian selected for the European experience.