blog Harvard | 3min Read
Published on June 23, 2021
Trying Is Always Better Than Wondering
Everyone starts gearing up for their college applications from 9th grade at the latest. It’s common for students to sign up for co-curriculars they don’t really enjoy but rather commit to out of obligation. I never understood the point of that. I’ve always signed up for courses and entered competitions because I wanted to, not because I had to.
The same went for the Harvard Youth Lead The Change Conference that was held in January 2021. I learned of the workshop from my school, and it immediately piqued my interest. The workshop aimed to improve high schoolers’ leadership skills and teach them collaboration, public speaking, time management and self-knowledge. So, I submitted my application but, never in my wildest dreams did I expect to get in. But in the end, I was so glad that I applied because, as it came to be, I got in. I was amazed and ecstatic for the conference to begin as I had conducted thorough research beforehand. My expectations were high and, astoundingly enough, this programme exceeded every single one of them.
My Exemplary Experience
Right from the beginning, everyone was wonderfully supportive and an absolute pleasure to speak with. We started off by defining what it means to be a leader. Everyone had come in with their own ideas of what a leader does. So had I. I had thought of a leader as someone with a commanding and boss-like presence. But, through a few collaborative exercises and riveting discussions, most of us formulated new opinions. I personally learned that being a leader is more about collaboration and uniting a team rather than just ordering people around. This is just one of many examples of what the conference entailed. Learnings like these continued throughout the week. And I’m being completely candid when I say that this leadership development workshop was one of the most impactful ones I have ever attended.
I learned about many leadership, interpersonal, and public speaking skills through entertaining activities. The project groups we had been divided into were unquestionably one of the most effective undertakings of the entire conference. In these groups, we had to choose and understand a social issue we felt really passionate about and find solutions to address it. Our mentor was wonderfully supportive and I met incredible new people that I’m still in touch with. Initially, our group debated the global issue we were going to choose. Everyone presented amazing arguments and eventually we chose menstrual hygiene. Our project was named Project Abhya, and it involved providing individuals residing in rural areas with eco-friendly sanitary equipment. It’s our way of taking a stand and driving change, and it was provided to us by this workshop. Honestly, to even come with a viable solution for such an important issue was an honour and I was delighted to have worked on it.
The mentors conducted college panels, where we could gain clarity about college and applying for it by people who had already been through the anxiety-inducing process. It was definitely comforting and relieving to get answers. However, my favourite part of the conference was probably the introspective exercises that the mentors conducted. One time, we talked about our public and private narratives and how they may have changed during the pandemic. We were divided into breakout rooms with 1-2 other attendees and got to share our fears and thoughts. It was really interesting and comforting to see how the others felt and overall, it was an amazing exercise. On the last day, we even sent letters to our future selves talking about the personal and intellectual growth we had undergone.
The ending of the workshop was undoubtedly bittersweet, but the connections we all made and the things we learned are irreplaceable. The Harvard Youth Lead The Change Conference was outstandingly effective and enjoyable. I’m enormously grateful that I signed up for it as it was quite a touching and informative experience. I feel like attending the Harvard YLC conference really helped me grow as a leader and I have definitely been able to use the skills instilled in me by the conference in multiple real-world scenarios. So, in my opinion, if you can, you should definitely apply for this conference.