Miami student Loy McGuire (top row center) meets other student leaders from around the world.
Miami student Loy McGuire (top row center) meets other student leaders from around the world. Photo: Loy McGuire

The world opens like an atlas for students at Bangkok humanitarian symposium

Sara Al-Zubi visits young children at a school while in Bangkok.

Miami student Sara Al-Zubi spent time working with young children in Bangkok. (Photo courtesy of Sara Al-Zubi)

By Kristin Magyari, assistant director for communications & marketing, Global Initiatives

For Miami University student Sara Al-Zubi, her time at a Humanitarian Affairs University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand was like walking into a world atlas.  

The junior, who is a double major in management and leadership and premedical studies, was among five Miami student leaders who traveled in early August to the symposium, the eighth of its kind, but the first for Miami students.  

Karla Guinigundo, director of global partnerships, led the group on this exploratory journey and helped them turn interest in global humanitarian issues into action.

“The symposium organizers promised a unique opportunity to network with like-minded peers from around the world and see development work in action,” said Guinigundo. “They did not disappoint.”  

Held at the UN Convention Center in Bangkok, the symposium included plenary sessions focused on issues of global humanitarian concern, interaction with United Nations officials and participation in a community service project alongside 900 other students from 78 countries. Global Initiatives sponsored the students’ registration for the symposium.  

"I was beyond impressed with the conference and even had the opportunity to speak to over 300 people at the gender equality forum about something that has long impacted my life as a Muslim-Arab American woman," Al-Zubi said. "This was always my dream since I was a young girl who could barely speak a few phrases of English," she added.

"It made me realize that with the project idea that I have for a non-profit for refugee women and kids, I can do it," Al-Zubi said. "There are young college students all around the world who are taking steps to create change."

Students touring Bangkok by bus.

Sara Al-Zubi rides with other symposium participants on their way for a humanitarian service day.

Loy McGuire, majoring in mechanical engineering and leadership, had a different role than the other delegates. He was one of the program leaders, having the opportunity to arrive two days early for training. 

He enjoyed meeting interesting people, all doing amazing things in their own countries. He noticed an increase in humanitarian engineering efforts within the College of Engineering and Computing.

“At the conference, I networked and talked with the people who are in charge of those types of initiatives, and I realized I wanted to focus my engineering knowledge and efforts on helping people learn more about the challenges that they face,” he said.  

Miami student leaders in Bangkok.

Miami student leaders take part in humanitarian symposium in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Although I’ve already studied abroad, this has been a fantastic opportunity to be a part of, and it has provided me with a new global viewpoint. I’d really like to see this program continue in the future so that other people can get the same experiences that I have had.”  

Other students in attendance included: Kelsey Forren, a double major in political science and environmental science; Hannah Kuethe, a double major in applied social research and integrative studies; and Madeline Spurlock, a double major in mechanical engineering and outdoor leadership.  

Do you have a passion for gaining a global perspective through programming such as the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok? Visit Global Initiatives' website to explore other opportunities for study and travel abroad.