Laidlaw Scholars Annual Conference 2023 (Dublin)

Nearly 29 hours in the air covering a 20795km round trip brought me to Ireland to attend the Annual Conference at Trinity College Dublin. I am glad to attend this fruitful and intellectual-engaging three-day conference in person that allowed me to reunite with some and meet other talented scholars!
Laidlaw Scholars Annual Conference 2023 (Dublin)

The Laidlaw Scholars Annual Conference 2023 was undoubtedly another highlight in the first year of my Laidlaw journey. I was fortunate to be one of two HKU Laidlaw Scholars attending the annual conference on-site at the European side, i.e. at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. Another fellow HKU scholar headed for the North America side (University of Toronto, UofT) and we managed to grab a picture before boarding our respective flights on the night of 18th.

Together at Hong Kong Airport with Zahra (BSc III) who is going to UofT and Ernest (MBBS II) who is also headed for TCD

Day 1 - 20th October 2023 (Friday)

Fast forward to the actual conference that started Friday evening (I was not able to do much sightseeing in the daytime, partly due to having to remotely join another hackathon that was happening parallely in Hong Kong and partly due to the heavy precipitation in Dublin), we had a great welcoming session at Trinity Business School and after a brief dinner and mingling time with other scholars, the majority headed to a join nearby pub quiz that's hosted by the Trinity Laidlaw Scholars. Although struggling to answer quite a few of the questions, particularly those about lyrics in songs that I seldom listen to and Trinity College's history, it was a great experience (my first time doing a pub quiz, or even going into a pub at all) and I had great time chatting with some other scholars from UCL and learnt more about their own research or LiA projects.

Day 2 - 21st October 2023 (Saturday)

The second day was packed with thought-provoking speeches and sharing. In the morning, we heard from TCD academics and leadership Provost Prof. Linda Doyle and Associate Vice-Provost (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) Prof. Lorraine Leeson about the need to converse with diverse communities (In hindsight, I realised I have never listened to a speech from my very own HKU's President/Vice-Chancellor in my two years of studies so far). We then splitted up to have some breakout discussions with other scholars, and my group shared honest views on the recent conflicts in the middle east, in particularly in Gaza. Partly due to receiving relatively less attention compared to the west, the discussion on such issues are rare back in Hong Kong. It is great that I get the opportunity to learn how different institutions (that the scholars in my group came from,) in e.g. the US, Switzerland and the UK approaches international relations and conflicts in general. As a global health and development major, socio-political crises may not be the sole topic of the studies (as undeniably health and related developmental issues is a core focus) but defintiely worth the attention given the world as an increasingly connected arena of different stakeholders. I appreciate the candid conversations and fruitful exchange of ideas throughout that short one-hour session.

With my poster about the research project, which is a pilot study on menstrual cycle phase and biomechanics in female footballers.

In the afternoon, we had a poster session about summer research and Leadership in Action (LiA) projects. I was glad to receive lots of interest from scholars around the world on my research about menstrual cycle phases and female footballers' biomechanics. Even though the full pilot study has not yet ended (ongoing work is underway at the ISEH and UCL), the validated implementation of novel AI-based algorithmic dynamics measurement tools were nice to share about. Feel free to have a closer look at my poster and research essay (aka "attachment report") – both of them are available on the Laidlaw Scholars network. It was definitely also a great platform for us scholars to hear more about emerging fields of research, and appreciate the hard work we all put in during the past summer break. After lunch, we connected via Zoom with the Toronto side and heard from the three minute thesis competition entries. All these sharings were well structured and gave us similarly a great overview of what they are doing for research and LiA. The latter particularly helped here as I have to self-initiate a LiA project in the next summer and their inspirations are much needed.

After that, we had a chance to speak with the Laidlaw Foundation's CEO Susanna Kempe, TCD's Provost Prof. Linda Doyle and also Lord Laidlaw. I was selected to raise a question in-person and chose to ask about the choice between "voicing out anyways potentially at the expense of harmony" or "maintaing peace but possibly losing say in a matter". Lord Laidlaw agreed that it is necessary to make our voices heard in many circumstances but also to remain polite and courteous. The second day's daytime activities wrapped up with a global keynote speech by Clover Hogan, founding executive director of her youth non-profit Force of Nature on climate anxiety and the role of youth action in these issues. At night, we all gathered at Trinity's fancy and historical dining hall for a gala dinner. It was unavoidably a long day, but in a good way – the mix of lecture/talks-like session and interactive breakout and discussion sessions throughout the schedule made us very much engaged and got the most out of the day.

Poster Session at Trinity Business School foyer on the second day of the conference
A delicious and filling lunch!

Day 3 - 22nd October 2023 (Sunday)

I woke up to breakfast at 6am and headed out for a brief walk around the Dublin city centre as the sun was about to rise. Although I wasn't able to do much sightseeing in the past few days, I got to see the beautiful scenery along River Liffey and took this lovely picture featuring the famous landmark, the Samuel Beckett Bridge. The last day was simple but impactful, as we heard from Anjali Sarker, Programme Manager, Oxford Character Project about their initiatives and the importance of character in effective and sustainable leadership. Before lunch, the conference was appropriately closed by Susanna, followed by a round of flowers and thank you for the staff and student helpers that made this conference so successful.

Watching the sunrise in Dublin at River Liffey with the Samuel Beckett Bridge in the background
Together with Susanna Kempe (Laidlaw Foundation CEO) and other UCL Laidlaw Scholars

Just before I went back to check out and head to the airport, I joined some fellow UCL scholars (having done my research attachment at their school in the summer, I am happy to report that they are willing to accept me as part of their group 😂) to have a short walking tour of Trinity College's campus, and briefly visit the Book of Kells (just in time before it closes for renovation soon). After a short hop across the St George's Channel and the English Channel, as well as above UK and France to Zurich, I headed on my final flight home. What a journey!

At the Book of Kells. Very lucky to have a chance to visit before it closes for renovation

Looking back at this trip: I had an extremely tight timeline, and was only able to confirm and book my flight schedule less than 2 weeks before depature. Luckily everything turned out smooth – no missed connections (even my tight one at Zurich on the way back home, excacerbated by landing from Dublin in a remote bus gate and also having to change terminals) or lost baggages. I am immensely grateful for the generous travel funding from Laidlaw and the opportunity by the University and the foundation. Allow me to extend my thanks to the foundation staff, student helpers, university administrators especialy Audrey from HKU, Joel from TCD and Chris from UCL who respectively made the Laidlaw programme in Hong Kong, this conference in Dublin and my summer research attachment in London possible. Meeting other scholars allowed me to learn about their research experience and, more importantly, exchange ideas about leadership and dialogue in a complex, globalized environment. Having heard about the exciting LiA project presentations, I am even more looking forward to the experiences in my second summer under the Laidlaw Scholarship scheme!

P.S. As an avid aviation enthusiast, I definitely appreciated the chance to fly to other places and explore the world. This tour to Dublin allowed me to fly on three new aircraft types, two new airlines and also transit through German and Swiss soil (at Frankfurt and Zurich respectively) for the first time). Even though the long-haul flights (with the longest leg having a scheduled block time of nearly 14 hours) is not the easiest thing to go through during international travel, I still think that everything and the time spent flying to and from Dublin was worth it for the experience at the conference :) To finish this unprofessional travel conference blog, allow me to share this photo of Hong Kong from the air (surrounded by the mountains is Shek Kong Airfield, our "third" aerodrome after the contemporary Hong Kong (Chek Lap Kok) International Airport and the decomissioned, now-cruise terminal Kai Tak Airport), taken on my flight back home after the short weekend stay in Dublin.

My quick trip to Dublin ends with a 11-hour leg back home via Zurich

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Go to the profile of Eleni Anayiotou
5 months ago

What a great post Adrian! Very glad to have met you — Hope your studies are going well!