Throughout the four years, I have been at the University of Asia & the Pacific, I have always been interested in attending the annual CivAsia conference ever since I have heard of it. Looking back, I guess what attracted me to the event was the impressive roster of speakers that they have each year. Unfortunately, I always failed to attend the conference each year since there were conflicts with my class schedules. Thankfully, in my senior year, our professors excused us from our classes for two whole days to encourage us to attend CivAsia 2017.

Now I had all the time I needed to attend CivAsia, so I decided to make the most out of it. I came in with my expectations and excitement for the speakers, and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. All the speakers delivered their empowering messages to the youth loud and clear. They spoke about their experiences as the youth of the past and as their hopes for the youth of the present with such conviction that at the end of every talk, I found myself thinking about what other things I can do in my life for myself, my family, my community, and my nation.

But what I did not expect to be my most memorable experience in CivAsia 2017 was meeting the high school student leaders assigned to my breakout group. As CivAsia mainly targets high school students, I was not that surprised that I was the sole college student in my group of 16-17-year-olds. I became anxious and timid when it came to talking and working with them at first. Despite our age gap being only 5 years, I already saw that there was a difference in our perspectives. But that does not mean that their opinions and ideas were in any way less valid or well-founded than mine. In fact, we had a lot of conducive and constructive discussions on the pain points that we see in our communities and on the creative ideas that we had to address them. The more that we discussed, the less anxious I became around them. I started to enjoy their company as we worked on creating the group’s final video output. I was amazed at all their brilliant visions, organized plans, and diverse skills. For a college business student like me who felt jaded with all the case studies, business plans, industry reports, and financial statements I encountered daily, it was truly a refreshing and encouraging change of pace.

Unfortunately, I could not stay with my group throughout the whole conference duration since I had to go back to reality and attend to my other responsibilities. But I left the group with full confidence that they can produce a highly inspiring and creative output. No matter how short the time we spent and what the outcome was, I feel blessed to be a part of a wonderful group of talented student visionaries. I am thankful to the CivAsia organizing team and to my professors for allowing me the opportunity to experience this wonderful conference filled with incredible people. As I enter my fifth and final year in the university, I hope that I can further apply everything I learned from being tagged in my CivAsia experience as I tag other people as well to be the change we want to be for our communities.

By: Miguel Jose Punsalan, University of Asia and the Pacific

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