The WUN Online Summer School hosted by the University of York was an enlightening experience. During the 12 days programme we discussed a variety of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), as well as participating in workshops and social activities. The first session was predominantly focused around meeting the other 7 students in my regional group, being introduced to the course facilitators, and discussing the Google Classroom platform we would be using. Part of the course required us to watch pre-recorded seminars (most around 1 hour) from global academics and make notes on the key points. The topics we discussed ranged from ‘Reducing Inequality’ and ‘Life on Land’ to ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Pharmaceutical Pollution’. Despite not having extensive pre-existing knowledge on some of these topics, I still found them very informative, engaging, and easy enough to understand.
Due to the time difference we had live sessions Monday – Friday from 7:30-8:30pm and 9:00-10:00pm NZST. During the first session we discussed in our regional group (from Uganda, Taiwan and New Zealand) some key points from the seminar using a JamBoard, before being put into smaller groups to pose questions for the other groups to answer. In the second session we would either take part in interactive workshops covering topics like Leadership and Influencing, or we would have social activities which included campus and York city tours or discussing English culture.
Alongside the live sessions, we were split into teams of three to prepare a 3-minute presentation to be shown in the final session. Hence, we had to meet with our group (assisted by a mentor) to discuss our approach for the presentation. Due to our mentors’ research predominantly around urban planning and cities, we decided to do our presentation on SDG11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.
This experience was great as we had to collaborate as a group from diverse countries and backgrounds to research and present on a topic. The key skills I learnt in both the regional group and project group were communication, critical thinking of unknown topics, and a wider appreciation for different perspectives and ideas. One example was for the 3-minute presentation, where we decided to highlight issues in each of our cities/countries. I had to: convey NZ’s key issues and listen to my teammates countries’ key issues, research and have a critical perspective on the topic, and I also learnt to appreciate the difficulties that other countries and people go through. Privilege was another topic discussed, so by engaging with some very intelligent students from across the globe I was able to realise the privilege that I have here in New Zealand.
In terms of challenges, some of the topics we discussed were very science-based and since I don’t have a science background I found some sections confusing. However, my problem-solving skills were developed by simplifying the information and making sure I could understand it easier. I am a night owl so the late sessions did not bother me, however the second week of the programme overlapped with the first week back at university, therefore I had to make sure I had good time management. I am in my final semester of university and I am very glad I took part in this programme due to the things I learnt, skills I developed, and people I got to share this experience with. I would highly recommend taking part in a virtual programme (or even exchanges – I did one in Canada and it was amazing) as you cover topics you might not be familiar with and work with a diverse group of people.