Indian teenager Shagun Bose describes her experience at Foróige's international Youth Leadership Conference

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Foróige August 28, 2013

"Learning leadership is impossible!” That’s what I used to say but this conference proved me wrong. My name is Shagun Bose and I am from Mayo College Girls’ School in India. Every time I think of the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Conference, warm memories fill my heart. To describe such a life altering conference in words seems like an impossible task but it has readied me for such things and hopefully I will be able to do justice to this conference.

When we talk of leadership the truth is that it’s a part of all of us, instilled in us since the day we were born. The Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Conference helped me unlock my potential as a leader of today, it refined the qualities that have always been in me. It taught me that I just have to DREAM big, BELIEVE in myself and eventually I will LEAD. There have been things I have told myself I can’t do and so I never even tried but through this conference of workshops and activities and inspiration I managed to fight the fear and I actually did things that I never thought I could! Life is about ups and down and it’s a never-ending journey. The leadership conference did not show me the way, it did not give me a fancy car to make the journey smooth, it simply taught me how to drive and fix a puncture! We all have different road we want to take,  different roads have different destination, different people have different means of journeying on that road but the basic things that all us travelers  need is the confidence to go down those roads, the belief that we’ll make it and a heart which will learn, love, live and lead.

At the conference I learnt that I’m not alone, that there are so many others who felt the same nervousness as I did, who felt the same insecurity that I did and similar concerns too. It made my time there so much more comfortable. I made friends that I will never forget and bonds that even time will not be able to break. 

On my first day I had to make a speech in front of 300 people, I still remember shaking in my seat, I didn’t even eat lunch, no water, and my stomach felt like it had a void in it. I was so sure that I will make a fool out of myself, that everyone would laugh at me and I would probably die on stage. I remember how I climbed the steps to the stage ever so slowly and made my way to the podium. I remember the silence in the auditorium being broken by the loudest applause I’ve ever been given. For each and every person who dared to go on stage, they were given a standing ovation. They were the best audience ever, the most caring and understanding; they would not laugh at your failures but applauded your attempt. If it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t have lasted the week. We had been divided into workshop groups of 19 people thereafter and that’s when the real work began.

I remember this activity which really taught us the importance of planning and communication in our lives and our daily chores! And now that lesson has helped in so many challenges that I face as student today when I’ve to make things, do presentations or work on projects etc.

On the last day of the conference I was asked to make a closing speech. I don’t remember  shaking in my chair and I actually had a full meal, there was no void in my stomach, no nervousness in my mind. Instead there was a beautiful feeling of absolute confidence as I walked up those steps again, and this time there was no paper in hand there was no pre written speech,  these were sentences made from the heart, this was a testimony to a change that took place in the space of 5 days!  

And if there is one thing I would want in the world it is that everyone in the world have a chance to attend this incredible youth leadership conference. Because there were people from Palestine, USA, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea and Ireland but there was no racial discrimination, no bitter feelings or discord instead the one thing that we have inculcated in those few days of living and being together was that we are more than we are. We are one. One people. One family. One.

By Shagun Bose - Mayo College Girls’ School, Ajmer, India