Student Conference 101: From Preparation to Presentation!

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International student conferences can be a great opportunity for students in Indonesia to get a taste of international experience. Not only that you could travel abroad, but you would also get the opportunity to connect and exchange thoughts with students from other countries, as well as enrich your knowledge and experience on the conference topic. Here, Indonesia Mengglobal Contributor Angel Jauhari shares her experience in applying to, preparing for, and participating in an international student conference in Tokyo, Japan.

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Have you ever wondered how you can participate in an international student conference? Here, I’m going to share some information about Japan International Student Conference (JAPAN ISC) and my journey on finding the opportunity, passing the selection process, getting funding for my flight, and also presenting at the conference!

I participated in JAPAN ISC in August-September 2019. As a student, I would say that my experience in ISC has helped me gain a deeper understanding about my study, while making me fall in love with Japan at the same time. 

About JAPAN ISC

JAPAN ISC is an annual event held by the International Student Association (ISA) in Japan, a youth organization which conducts several international programs (you can find more information about ISA here). The event took place in Tokyo and this year, it was held for the 65th time with “Embrace Diversity as Youth of Today and Driving Forces of Tomorrow” as its main theme. This theme was further divided into 6 different topics. The output of the conference is a final group proposal that was submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The presentation day, we call it the “Final Forum”, was held in the beginning of September with relevant stakeholders coming as the panelists.

Where I Started

  1. Finding the Information

Here are some tips for you to attain information about foreign conferences:

  • The International Office (IO) of your college: I think they are the first official body who you can ask. They usually provide the printed brochure of the schedule, along with the online one. Aside from that, the student association in your faculty would also help to forward the information coming from the IO. Relevant social media accounts might be helpful too! For example, Comm Student Info is an open-for-public official LINE account containing information about conferences, competitions, and internship opportunities especially for social studies students.
  • Foreign Embassies: I subscribe to the mailing lists, Instagram and Twitter accounts of foreign countries’ embassies. It’s also interesting to know that their ambassadors are implementing unique ways of digital diplomacy. They do not only share you some attractive opportunities, but also respond to your comments!
  • Related independently-run organizations, like Indonesia Mengglobal! I like this type of source the most, because they give me a more personal story rather than a general information only. These stories are advantageous to help you figure out what a foreign country feels like, and what tips you can do when you get there.

2. Selection Process

I found out about JAPAN ISC from Universitas Indonesia’s International Office. Coincidentally, there were some of my seniors who participated in JAPAN ISC as well. After asking them for some tips, I enrolled myself and promised to share the same tips someday (so here I am!).

There were 2 selection phases: written and spoken tests. The written one consisted of several questions that you should answer related to your chosen topic. The later one is an interview involving your Table Chief and Sub-Table Chief. The Table Chief is the Head of your topic, while Sub-Table Chief is the Vice Head. Here are some tips:

  • When it comes to substantive questions, try to elaborate concrete examples related to your chosen topic. For example, when I chose the topic of Freedom of Speech in this conference, I wrote about the harm of UU ITE in Indonesia with the specific case study of Baiq Nuril. I explained how articles can be misused by people to persecute others, especially women. Thus, the Freedom of Speech may be limited by that case. Elaborating a case study is fundamental since when you get to meet other fellow delegates, they will ask you a lot about what happens in your country.
  • When it’s about personal questions, be specific on what makes you passionate about the conference. Is it because you want to go abroad for the first time? Or you want to pursue a master’s degree that’s related to the conference topic? Write it all down! Be passionate, be on fire.

Find the Funding

In March 2019, I got an email that stated my successful application as an ISC official delegate! Now, what? Well, some conferences are fully-funded, but some are not. ISC just opened a partial scholarship this year. However, I was not one of the awardees. It’s okay! I found some alternatives, such as but not limited to:

  • Your University and/or Faculty: The amount of funding varies according to each university, but I was able to earn enough to pay for my flight to Japan. Usually, we are required to make a proposal on our event, and attach some official documents. Personally, it was not that hard to propose some funding to my university as long as the proposal is clear. Other tips: make it solid, simple, and selling. Spare some time to practice presenting your proposal summary too.
  • Corporate Sponsorship: As for the accommodation, the it costed me about ¥40.000 (around IDR 5,100,000) during my stay in Tokyo, including 3 meals per day. I applied for sponsorship to a multinational company in electronics, LG Indonesia. Tip: Apply around D-45 before the conference so that you have more time to prepare your presentation in front of the donors. Some companies might not consider your proposal if it’s submitted just one month before the conference starts. I suggest you to apply to airlines and travel company too as my conference colleagues got funded from there.  

Welcome to Tokyo, Japan!

From March to August 2019, we were assigned many, MANY, team assignments. As we lived in different countries, we prepared our conference materials far before the d-day by having online meetings and submitting our tasks through Google Classroom. One of our assignments was to compare the problems of the press between our home countries. It was intense, and I could not have waited any longer to come to Japan!

Lunch time in Ginza
Lunch time in Ginza

My team consisted of 8 participants from Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Indonesia, India, Japan, and the USA, with the Chiefs from Croatia and Japan. Thanks to those online assignments, we became close far before we met each other. When we arrived in Tokyo, we enjoyed shabu-shabu, shirokuma, and  unique drinks from the infamous Japanese vending machine together. We shared colloquial phrases from our own countries to each other, like “o-genki desu ka?” and “kako si?” to say “how are you?” in Japanese and Croatian. Oh, and did you know that Bulgarians nod when they say “no” and shake face side-to-side to say “yes”? It was so much fun!

How about the discussions? My first week in Tokyo was full of whole-day discussions. After several days, we had an interim presentation to convey the progress of our proposal. It was always possible to interview more people in Tokyo to enrich the data for the proposal. The proposal needed to include the problem identification, past actions, and our proposed solution. Here is another important stepping stone for me: I overcame my insecurities! I enjoyed the discussion and debates, but in the beginning, it was hard for me to imagine myself speaking in front of the crowd. However, I thought, I have come this far to learn more, gain more, and bring home a great memory. So I gathered all my courage to present the proposal of the team. I went beyond my insecurities.

Presenting my team’s proposal
Presenting my team’s proposal

If it was not because of JAPAN ISC, I would not know how it feels to ride the shinkansen, to experience the sentō communal bath house for the first time in forever, or to call everyone with “-chan” after their nickname to make the discussion feels more relaxed. All in all, I would not be able to redefine myself and be more confident if it’s not because of the courage that I experience since day 1 I got accepted as part of the conference.

My journey is not over yet. Instead, JAPAN ISC has opened a new path for me to explore. I hope for you too.

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Photos provided by the author.