Michelle Adams, Managing Editor
The first weekend in April brought several students to James Madison University for their annual International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC). Hosted with Eastern Mennonite University, the conference brought students from “65 countries and 23 institutions” together for a unique cultural experience.
“[The] International Student Leadership Conference is a two day event where all students from all places can come together and learn how to be leaders in their own professions,” said senior Jessica Rota. “We [had] dinners, sessions to choose from, and keynote speakers.”
“Also,” senior Rachel Stalker remembered, “lots of bonding between people from all over the world and discussing important global issues and how to be leaders to help these issues.”
The 2016 theme, “Accidental Leadership,” led the students through several lectures and activities that taught leadership and problem solving skills through interactions with international students with varying backgrounds and ideas.
“I learned about the importance of intercultural communication and dialogue, and the conference reinforced my understanding of what it means to have successful intercultural relationships,” Stalker said.
This year’s keynote speaker was Wajahat Ali, an esteemed writer, speaker, and voice for the Muslim-American community.
“[His address] really spoke to me,” said Stalker. “I have really been struggling with what I’m going to do after graduation, since I don’t have any solid plans yet… [Ali] talked about his life journey, and how at times he’s been homeless, pretty broke, and just that it gets better but you have to keep moving forward. He’s been successful, but also had a lot of struggles.
“You don’t have to have it all together to be a successful leader or person,” Stalker said she learned. “It’s hard to remember that sometimes.”
The conference concluded with a formal dinner and celebratory dance party.
The students who represented Shenandoah at ISLC felt that the experience was beneficial, both for their cultural knowledge and in their careers.
“The most important thing I got out of this conference was that in life there are certain things you are passionate about, but if it starts becoming a task instead of something fun, you will eventually burn out,” said sophomore Brenda Nieves. She hopes to find something that she loves, but won’t lose passion for.
Rota said that she learned from the conference “that we need to constantly challenge ourselves in order to discover what we want to do in life, and there are many different ways to accomplish our goals.
“Even though the ‘real world’ can be scary and hard sometimes, we are the ones in control of our personal futures, and with some work, creativity, and courage to make it happen, we can create something great for the world.”
Feature photo submitted by Tessa Climer