In April, Park Scholars Ryan King ’15 and Taufik Raharjo ’16 represented NC State at the Academic Consortium (AC21) Student World Forum 2015 in Strasbourg, France and Freiburg, Germany. AC21 is an international network of 19 educational, research, and industrial organizations around the world that aims to promote cooperation in education and research between members. NC State is one of only two member institutions from North and South America.
The Student World Forum (SWF) is a biennial conference where students from member institutions are invited to exchange ideas on issues of international concern, encouraging a global mindset and strengthening the institutions’ partnership. This year’s weeklong forum was hosted by the University of Strasbourg in collaboration with the University of Freiburg. The theme focused on “The European Experience in Local and Regional Democracy” and included workshops, plenary sessions with high-level speakers, and visits and meetings with European institutions.
King and Raharjo participated in workshops wherein small groups of students from different countries discussed issues related to local and regional democracy, cross-border clusters and business cooperation, and sustainable urban planning.
“The most impactful part of the trip for me was being able to work with students from varying backgrounds all over the world,” said King, who recently completed a B.S. in mechanical engineering and will soon begin a master’s degree through NC State’s Institute for Advanced Analytics. “Some of the most complex problems our world faces can’t be solved by one person. We need teams of diverse thinkers to tackle these challenges, and I believe the Student World Forum was a testament to that.”
The forum also gave students the chance to learn about various approaches to sustainability, which entailed a trip to Freiburg, Germany – a short drive from Strasbourg. Freiburg is known as a green city for its emphasis on sustainable transportation, land use, and energy management.
Raharjo, a materials science and engineering major, said that one of his favorite parts of the conference was the day trip to Freiburg.
“Seeing the carbon dioxide emission counters, the 9,000+ biking spots, and the scavenger hunt in the newly founded, sustainable district of Rieselfeld was really awe-inspiring,” he said. “As someone who has a minor in sustainable energy, I was thrilled to see the progress that was being made and also to learn about how some of those urban solutions could be applicable here in the U.S.”
At the conclusion of the SWF conference, participants toured the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle in Alsace, France. While there, King and Raharjo presented a reflection on their experiences from the week to leaders from each of the AC21 member institutions. The pervading sentiment was a newfound understanding for the importance of thinking in an international context.
“I feel so fortunate to have been selected to represent NC State while meeting students from all over the world,” said King. “The friendships made throughout this experience are absolutely invaluable. I now have a network of incredibly bright and talented students from all over the world.”
“I’m really thankful to the Office of International Affairs for allowing me to partake in the SWF 2015,” Raharjo said. “This experience is one that made me realize how diverse and culturally unique each of the schools and countries represented really are.”
Story by Ryan King ’15