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One week in Bangkok for BCS student Crystal Tawhai

21 August 2017

Management student Crystal Tawhai, chosen to speak at the closing of the International University Scholars Leadership Symposium.

Crystal Tawhai is one of seven Waikato Management School students who flew to Thailand earlier this month for an international University Scholars Leadership Symposium - along with about 900 uni students from 78 countries.

The annual USL symposium was held at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, and hosted by Humanitarian Affairs (Asia) and the UN Development Programme.

For the student delegates, the event is designed to help them gain confidence, goal-setting capabilities, self-reliance and independence, and sharpen their abilities to become 21st century global leaders.

Crystal received a Waikato University Te Pūtea Tautoko Scholarship to assist her travel to the symposium.

During their week in Bangkok the students listened to motivational speakers, heard from social entrepreneurs, worked in various Thai communities and had plenty of time for networking.

For Crystal, a Bachelor of Communication Studies student majoring in Leadership Communication and Public Policy, one of the most inspiring speakers at the event was Ryan Hrelijac. Hrelijac is the founder of Ryan's Well, a charity that provides safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

His idea came from a project he did at school as a six-year-old, and now his organisation has implemented sanitation projects throughout Africa and Haiti. For Crystal, he was inspiring.

“What I learned from Ryan was that you can start small, you can be an underdog, and that age and experience are not essential for success," she says. "He showed that from humble beginnings anything is possible.”

On the last day of the symposium, Crystal (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngai te Rangi, Ngāti Pukenga)  was one of eight students chosen to share about their symposium experience. She started with a mihi, gave an insight into Māori culture, and then reflected on her week.

A former student of Hillcrest High School, Crystal first attended Waikato University straight from school. But she decided she needed to explore the world a bit more, so for the next four years she worked and traveled, then returned to university in 2015.

Alongside her studies, Crystal is a member of the Waikato University Te Āhurutanga Māori leadership programme, and has done voluntary work mentoring primary school children n Nawton.

After graduation Crystal says she’d like to secure a job that supports Māori advancement; socially, culturally, economically and politically. “And eventually I’d like to be a policy maker,” she says.

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