Chillin’ in Chile

Chilling in Chile
A student’s view of the U21 conference

The plane dipped down with the snow-tipped Andes on either side. A dramatic beginning to our trip to Santiago de Chile.

Arriving in the morning meant that we had the rest of the day to explore Cerro Santa Lucia, from the top of which was a spectacular vantage point; with the Andes as the backdrop to the sprawling city. Mountains, gothic architecture and modern skyscrapers come together to provide a UN-ique setting for this international U21 health sciences meeting.

Entering the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile we were greeted by highly impressive plazas and walkways, highly reminiscent of the Spanish colonial rule of the country.

On the first day, I gave an impromptu speech on the UN MDGs, projects that have been taking place in Birmingham and our roles in society. Highlighting that we should all recognise that we have a large responsibility to ensure that disparities in wealth are reduced and each of us can individually do our own part to contribute to global change. A key concept of the UNMDG projects: Think global, act local.

‘The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for good people to do nothing.’

The rest of the day was focused around implementation of the goals in our universities and how students can be engaged in greater depth and more widely as a cohort. There was also an emphasis on the development of the millennium development goals (MDGs) into sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Day two was based around the social media projects (SoMe) that have been taking place through Universitas 21. Helping us recognise the importance of SoME in our day to day lives and education. Jessica Huang (5th year) gave an interesting insight into how we have managed to implement this in Birmingham and how we can go forward in the future to make SoMe a more integral part of student education. Other students from the Universitas 21 network also presented their findings and how they believe integration of SoMe can occur.

Days three to five allowed staff from across the globe to present on various issues, such as public health. On day 5 Professor Walmsley gave an invigorating introductory speech for the next international conference which will take place at the University of Birmingham on 12-16th September 2016. In the afternoons of these days, we were able to explore the city and take in the culture.

Dinner was arranged as part of the ‘Santiago at night’ event through the University. This took place at a revolving restaurant, which allowed us to experience the breathtaking views over the city at night. On the fourth night, we were treated to some Chilean cultural entertainment along with dinner at an incredible baronial hall.

On the afternoon of day 5, we visited the city of Valparaiso, which can only be described as unique and will forever stay in one’s memory.

I would like to take this opportunity to firstly thank the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and U21 network for their great hospitality which made us all feel welcomed throughout our stay; Prof Walmsley and Prof White for allowing us to accompany them on this trip; and Shiraz Khan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the U21 UNMDG project.