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Overseas opportunity for CQUni student presenting to the United Nations

Published:16 August 2018

18-year-old Emily Smith recently returned home from an Unbound education trip to Vietnam, where she and her team presented a project idea around sustainable development to the UN.

Imagine being just 18 years old and having the opportunity to travel overseas and present to the United Nations? This dream recently became a reality for Bundaberg student Emily Smith, who has just returned from an Unbound education trip to Vietnam, where she and her team presented a project idea around sustainable development to the UN.

Studying a Bachelor of Business and Accounting, Emily said she went on a similar trip to Cambodia when she was at school and did a lot of work with schools and social enterprises. After returning home, she’s always wanted to hop back on a plane and discover another corner of the world.

“I also would love to work internationally when I finish my degree, so what better way to gain some travelling experience and cultural knowledge than to travel now. I am loving university so far, but actually being in a different country and engaging in a real project based on real issues was just so valuable to me,” she says.

“I am also a firm believer in doing things now because sometimes ‘later’ becomes ‘never.’ So, throughout my university degree I have decided to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way and this was one of them."

The 14-day trip was an immersive experience for students from universities across Australia, with a focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and on providing students with a first-hand knowledge of the goals in an emerging-economy context.

Emily explains that, as part of the Unbound program, the main task was to create a project that addressed a current issue throughout Vietnam, incorporating work towards one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals. Along with three other students, she worked on an environment-based project that addressed the issue of waste build-up and inappropriate disposal of rubbish, which are major issues, especially throughout urban Vietnam.

“In our project, we looked at the Sustainable Development Goals which were responsible for production and consumption, life below water and life on land, respectively. We identified that there is a large issue surrounding the lack of responsible rubbish disposal in the cities of Vietnam, with drainage systems also being clogged during the monsoon season.

“After many stages of design thinking and prototyping, we came up with our model that combined a sustainably-built drain shield, accompanied by a bin. This bin was no ordinary bin, as it featured infographics with staggering statistics that we hoped would not only inform the locals and tourists, but also appeal to their emotions.

“On the second last day of the trip, we presented a pitch about our project. Overall, our presentation went really well, and we received some very positive feedback from the United Nations representatives."

After returning home, Emily has been trying very hard to avoid using plastic bottles, bags and straws. After learning so much about the environment, she encourages others to do the same. She has also become more aware about the role of social responsibility for companies, which will serve as a guide when looking for a future employer.

“From choosing not to use a plastic straw at a restaurant, to sharing with my friends why I have made that choice, education is the most powerful tool we can use to create awareness and make a change in our world," Emily says.