Preparing for IELC

In just a few days, Collegiate will welcome 41 international students from Spain, Mexico, Morocco, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, South Africa, China, Italy, and Lebanon to our campus, and the International Emerging Leaders Conference (IELC) will begin on Saturday, October 1.

In the meantime, however, preparations for the conference are in full swing.

According to Collegiate’s website, the Emerging Leaders Conference “focuses on cross-cultural communication, global awareness, using design-thinking to solve problems, and leadership development.” But this description tells the average student little about what actually happens during the two-week experience.

Senior Seminar teacher Rhiannon Boyd, a member of both the Collegiate faculty and IELC team, describes the experience as “more of an unconference.” She emphasizes that the Emerging Leaders program allows students to take abstract economic and environmental problems and make them personal by speaking openly with peers from all over the world.

“The conference is really a 10-day immersive experience in design thinking, cross-cultural skills, and the art of listening and gathering human insight,” she explains.

“This conference is less formal than most, which is part of why it’s great. Through high-profile thinking, working, and interacting, the students are able to get the best from each other and provide a different way of seeing the world. They learn to base innovation on curiosity, to be comfortable with uncertainty, and to work with others who are unlike them, ” Boyd says.

In order to facilitate these cross-cultural experiences, the IELC team works for weeks planning discussions, creating schedules, and studying the world around them to better understand where the international delegates are coming from. Every Thursday morning from 7:45 to 8:30, you can find the American senior ambassadors hard at work in the Academic Commons, rushing to complete the last-minute preparations for the conference.

Senior ambassadors play GeoGuessr, a game where students are placed in a random location and use clues from their environment to find out what country they are in.

For example, senior ambassador Lucy Diggs (‘17) is in charge of planning middle school visits. For a job that Boyd describes as “organized chaos,” Diggs has to work around multiple schedules and language barriers to usher international delegates around Collegiate.

“I’ve found that my job is extremely difficult because I don’t know the individual personalities of each international student,” Diggs says. “ I’ll have to make alterations as I get to know the international students, so my job will be a work in progress until the visits end.”

“Even though I’m on my own, I’ve found that reaching out to people has made my job much easier. I’m still stressed out of my mind, but my job has become much more manageable because many people are willing to help,” she explains.

Whether it’s planning class visits, managing social media, coordinating the Cultural Fair, or scheduling a group outing in Washington, D.C., the senior ambassadors are actively included in tying the conference together, a trait not usually found in other international conferences.

Senior ambassador Sonja Kapadia (‘17) values the fact that teenagers get to play such an active role in the conference.

The Emerging Leaders Conference “connects teenagers around the world who continue to have relationships long after the conference ends,” Kapadia says.

Boyd says her favorite part of the conference is how different Collegiate has become as a result of it. “The way that Collegiate thinks about itself as an institution is different because of the conference,” she says.

“The week of the conference, Collegiate is a different place. It has an international feel about it. Everyone has the opportunity to interact with our international visitors. The conference has both a temporary and transformative impact on the way our school sees itself,” Boyd explains.

“Our campus is no longer 103 N. Mooreland Road. Our campus is the world.”

Past senior ambassadors agree that the conference was crucial in fostering their interest in international education. Former Match staffer Ellie Fleming (‘16), writing in from her study abroad program in Madrid, says that the conference opened her eyes to global education.

“By participating in IELC, I discovered how much I love interacting with people from other countries and learning about other cultures,” she writes. “I think that cultural exposure in education is incredibly important. I learned more, challenged myself more, and changed more in that one week than I ever have in any classroom or on any test.” She goes on to say that the conference also influenced her area of study in college and introduced her to some careers she might want to pursue in the future.

This year’s ambassadors are also looking forward to the conference since it will be their first exposure to international education. Senior ambassador Ellie Casalino (‘17) believes programs like IELC “have the ability to open your mind and help you see that there is so much more to the world that we haven’t discovered yet.”

Senior ambassadors ate lunch at a local Indian restaurant to kick off conference preparations.

Senior ambassadors ate lunch at a local Indian restaurant to kick off conference preparations.

Collegiate’s junior ambassadors are excited for the conference as well. Junior ambassadors assist the senior ambassadors and perform behind-the-scenes tasks, such as carrying suitcases and ushering international delegates to and from events, that help the conference run smoothly. Junior ambassador Liza Miller (‘18) is looking forward to the conference because she loves “learning about other people’s cultures and [she] wants to hear about some of the issues they are facing in their respective countries so [she] can learn more about each country fully.”

In addition to its focus on global education, Boyd emphasized the conference’s role as a non-traditional educational tool.

“Most adults weren’t taught collaboration in school,” Boyd explains. “I know that I myself am a better person because I have to collaborate to make this conference a reality. It can be hard, but it wouldn’t be better doing it alone.”

All photos by Rhiannon Boyd.

About the author

Claire Andress is a senior at Collegiate.