At last the day has arrived. I travel to attend the London International Youth Science Forum for two weeks. I feel very excited and nervous but once I got to meet all the staff in London I feel more relaxed as they all are friendly and helpful. The residence hall is also cosy.
That evening I start making friends with other foreign students all of whom are smiley which is a good start! The forum's activities begin on the second day, kicking off with a simple and yet grand opening ceremony. I take part in the ceremony by volunteering to hold a flag for a country which does not have a representative. As for our Thai flag, the other Thai student takes responsibility for it. I meet other participants from the other residence hall and try to make friends with them, including those from India, China and Korea. Many of us become good friends.
The first lecture of the forum is "Managing the Warming World" which addresses the causes, impacts and solutions of climate change. There are several lecture demonstrations each day. Many of the topics may sound boring or difficult but the lectures are actually fun and interesting. Thanks to various science show techniques, what seems to be difficult science turns out to be understandable, easy and enjoyable.
I never imagined how much science is related to all aspects of our lives. The amazing lecture on "The Magic of Soap Bubbles", for example, talks about how the science of bubbles could contribute to road construction or building structural design. This is unthinkable - at least for me!
The forum not only offers lectures but also excursions to universities and museums, for example the Department of Materials at Imperial College London which showcases the study on biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine and bio-nanotechnology for nanostructures and creating nano-biomaterials. Their research on stem cells is especially impressive. The lab equipment is ultra modern and allows students to do new and challenging research at their full capacity. Also, it is a privilege to have an opportunity to visit Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, Cambridge University, where I see a lot of scientific equipment that I am used to seeing only in textbooks - a real cathode-anode tube, for example.
Later I have to choose whether to visit the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum. I go to the former, spend a five full hours and yet there are still so many things left to see. Luckily, I have enough time to see the special exhibition on Ice Station Antarctica. Last but not least, I visited Stonehenge which is about two hours from London. Our hand-held electronic guide gives full details of the history of the place. We should use the same equipment in the Thai tourism industry. I enjoy taking photos so much that I almost miss the bus back! Then we move on to Salisbury and the breathtaking Salisbury Cathedral. I'm used to seeing ancient cathedrals on television only. The real thing looks a million times more stunning!
Back in London, I take part in the Great Underground Train Race in which we have to race and look for answers in various places in London, travelling by tube. Each group of four must consist of students from different countries and only one English native speaker is allowed. Fortunately my close friends and I match the qualification so we do not have to bother forming a new team. The race starts at 8pm and finishes at almost midnight. We are exhausted but have a chance to visit many places and see London by night for the first time. In London at this time of the year, sunset is around 8.30pm and it gets dark around 9pm. This is such a fun day and I learn a lot.
Now, enough of fun trips and excursions and back to academic activities. Since the main topic of the forum this year is "Managing the Warming World", there are group discussions on various topics related to climate change, for example Coastal Management and Defence, Education and Social Change, Energy Production and Use, Water Management and Agriculture and Silviculture. I attend the session on Water Management and join the discussion group focused on agriculture, as I think these will be appropriate for Thailand. However, I learn that the agricultural system in Europe is quite different from that in Asia, not to mention the different weather patterns. The fact that students from Europe are more fluent in English and more confident in expressing their views means that most of the time they dominate the discussions. Even students from China find it difficult to argue with them.
In our free time the forum organises sports to help with mixing and team building. In the evenings, there are cultural performances from students from each country. My friend and I perform a contemporary Thai dance with the song "Oh I Say" by His Majesty the King. Many of the audience come up to us after the show and tell us that Thai students last year also sang a song about the King. I tell them Thai people love our King very much. The King is always in our hearts.
Finally, time flies and fourteen days in London are over. Nobody wants to leave after the Closing Ceremony. We have lived together, gone out together, got lost together and had fun trying to understand each other's English. It was a time of joy and a most wonderful memory. At the farewell party, we exchange e-mail addresses and souvenirs and accept that the party has come to an end. Most of us stay up all night to see our friends off. It is tough to say good bye. But we know that we will always remember each other and will meet again . . . somewhere, somehow.
By Piratha Hinjiranadana
First year student, Faculty of Engineering,
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
Note: Piratha is one of the two Young Thai Science Ambassador Award 2007 winners who attended the London International Youth Science Forum from July 25 to August 8. Now in its fourth year, the Young Thai Science Ambassador Award is a joint initiative between the British Council, the National Science Museum and The Science Society under the Patronage of His Majesty the King. It provides an opportunity for Thai students age 17-21 years old who are studying in fields related to science to showcase their understanding and communication of contemporary scientific issues. The two winners represented Thailand at the London International Youth Science Forum alongside 250 participants from over 60 countries.
The 5th Young Thai Science Ambassador Award will be launched in November 2007 and deadline for the submission of application forms is January 31, 2008. For more information, click on www.britishcouncil.or.th or tel (02) 652-5480-9 ext306.