“We all play a part in achieving a more equal and just society by holding our decision-makers accountable”

Sammie Dhillon, a new graduate from the Faculty of Science who is now pursuing a graduate degree in political science, recently had the opportunity to attend the virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as a Canadian youth delegate selected by Global Vision.

Dhillon shares her experience and the importance of extracurricular activities.

What is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation?

APEC is comprised of 21 member states. Each year, a member of the cooperation hosts the APEC forum in their respective country. However, this year it was conducted virtually due to COVID-19. APEC’s main objective is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

How did you become involved and what did you do as part of the forum?

I had the opportunity to attend the APEC Voices of the Future Program through Global Vision. This organization selects a group of young, talented leaders across Canada to represent the nation at the international level. As a member of the Canadian delegation, I engaged in an important dialogue with youth from all 21 participating member states regarding the road to recovery after COVID-19.

It was great to hear insights from the accomplished panelists consisting of leaders and intellectuals including Alvin Tan (Minister of State, Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth in Singapore),  Noeleen Heyzer (Commission for Asia and the Pacific and Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation), and Ho Meng Kit (Chief Executive Officer Singapore Business Federation and APEC Business Advisory Council of Singapore).

I look forward to staying in touch with the other delegates via our social media group. Although I would have preferred the jetlag in Malaysia, waking up at 3 a.m. was most definitely worth it!

What were your takeaways and how are you applying your learning to your career and personal goals?

During the online conference, three key priorities were highlighted: Trade investment, innovation and digitization, and strong, inclusive growth.

The need for cooperation and multilateralism has never been more apparent during this uncertain time. In order to combat the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19, collective global action can help countries devise sound and tangible solutions. There is great strength in unity especially during a time of crisis given the virus does not discriminate based on geography, religion, socio-economic status, skin colour, sexual orientation and/or age.

Furthermore, an intergenerational dialogue is vital as millennials are highly vulnerable to the economic and social impact of COVID-19 since the aftermath of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come. COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges faced by marginalized individuals on a daily basis. The vulnerabilities and inequalities that exist in our communities have been further revealed these past few months and building back to the status quo will not suffice.

As such, we all must play a part in achieving a more equal and just society by holding our decision-makers accountable. I hope to use this experience in my career and personal goals by leveraging my connections and using the knowledge I gained to create a positive impact on the lives of those around me.

It has always been a dream to pursue a career that allows me to help people and this opportunity will be helpful in making that dream a reality.

Do you think it makes a difference attending events in person versus virtual–like what we’re experiencing now?

I do believe there is a difference between attending events in-person versus virtual. There is something special about a firm handshake when meeting someone for the first time and being able to feel the energy in a room full of people. That being said, I am still glad many events and programs have still been able to continue as many organizations and companies have opted for a virtual format.

What other activities or events in the future are you pursuing?

This upcoming year, I will be attending the Daughters of the Vote program organized by Equal Voice. A total of 338 delegates (women and gender-diverse youth) were selected to participate in this incredible opportunity. I am excited to represent my riding and take my virtual seat in the House of Commons for a few days.

For the first time ever, there are 100 women in Canada’s House of Commons – a historic milestone! However, there is still more work to be done and this program is a great way to address the persisting issue of underrepresentation of women in politics.

This experience will nicely complement my research interests as I am looking at constrained self-selection amongst women in comparison to their male counterparts when deciding to run for office. As a politico, I am thrilled to get this opportunity and cannot wait to virtually meet everyone!

Why do you think it’s important for students to seek extracurricular activities?

I personally believe extracurricular activities are an important aspect of the university experience. Although textbooks and lectures are a great resource to obtain useful information, hands-on experience is priceless. There are some skills that simply cannot be learned in the classroom.

To be a full-rounded candidate upon graduating and entering the workforce, you need to have some experience in developing these skills.

Extracurricular activities help you enhance your people, communication, and teamwork skills. The opportunities available are unparalleled, and you can explore your interests and passions to recognize if certain industries and fields are for you.

Ultimately, extracurricular activities help you grow as a person and serve as an avenue to expand your professional network. I highly encourage everyone to search and apply for activities related to their interests as all my personal extracurricular activities have had a major influence on the trajectory of my professional career thus far.

What would you say to students who feel like they may be too introverted for extracurriculars?

I would recommend starting out by joining clubs on campus with a friend. Having the support of a friend can help make you feel more comfortable in a group setting. Many clubs are still functioning online and attending ClubsFest is a great way to learn about the 300+ different clubs run under the McMaster Students Union (MSU). My biggest advice would be to get involved with a club that aligns with your personal interests. This will make it easier to contribute and engage as you will be well-versed in the topics being discussed. Overall, be confident in your abilities and embrace your unique qualities as groups always benefit from diversity.

What else do you want students to know about getting involved with extracurricular activities?

As a big advocate for involvement in extracurricular activities, I cannot stress the benefits of actively staying involved. Not only are these activities a great way to grow your network and meet new people, but they can make scholarly information learned in school more relevant. As such, you naturally gain an appreciation for the process of learning and realize how important it can be when applied in the context of the real world. I hope this interview inspires some of you to start searching for available opportunities and reap the many associated advantages of extracurricular activities.

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