ABTS 2020: Reflections from Student Ambassadors

During ABTS 2020, Student Ambassadors took a writing workshop and explored the basics of writing a blog post. As part of this learning session, they each wrote a blog post capturing their ABTS experiences. Read their blog posts below!

>Jamila Chaddad, BTE Limerick, Ireland
>Noor Khan, BTE High Wycombe, United Kingdom
>Andreea Balaescu, BTE Helsingborg, Sweden
>Aseel Mansour, BTE Athens, Georgia, USA
>Fincy Vassantlal, BTE Bracknell, United Kingdom
>Hailey Fitzgerald, BTE Limerick, Ireland
>Tanzina Choudhury, BTE High Wycombe, United Kingdom
>Namhla Chweba, BTE East London, South Africa
>Yasmin Al-Shabee, BTE Helsingborg, Sweden
>Hadiza Sarr, BTE Athens, Georgia, USA

 


 

Jamila Chaddad, BTE Limerick, Ireland

My Virtual Experience in a Global Pandemic

It was my first day at the ABTS conference. I’ve got to admit, it was really weird at first doing it through a screen, and I was insanely worried about meeting everyone!! Since it’s not really the same as seeing each other face-to-face.

The first day Chris Singleton gave us a motivational talk. He was one of the best people I’ve ever listened to. He said something that day that even now is still in my mind – it was when he said “10% of your life was chosen for you, 90% of your life is what you decide to do with it”. That was one of the main things I took from this whole ABTS experience. I found it to be so inspiring and I will always remember that quote.

Although I learned a lot from Chris’s talk, I also really learned a lot in the other two days as well. When I had to interview someone, not only did I learn how to interview someone, I also learned how to answer as if I was the person getting interviewed. I interviewed a person called Amy Peters from the UK. Even though my voice was shaking at the start and it took me a while to get my confidence going, she was so nice about it!! I was stressing out for nothing like I usually do!

I did realise after this whole virtual experience that I’m pretty rubbish at the technology!! I was so confused when trying to edit the interviews I did, I discovered me and technology really don’t get along!!But seriously, my whole ABTS experience was so much fun especially meeting everyone. I gained a lot of new friends from this, and even though ABTS is all over, we’re still staying in contact with each other. The laughs we had together – it was only for three days, but it was as if we’ve known each other for years. We all just instantly bounced off each other!!

All this feels kind of weird now, thinking back, I was so used to waking up in the mornings and getting straight on my laptop. I know everyone’s time zone was different and I was really tired some days but looking back I never once not wanted to do it. I was always so happy going on and clicking on Zoom links and Blackboard links, and it was all thanks to the people that were around me. That brought my energy right back up whenever I felt tired, so it feels weird not doing activities with everyone like editing videos, escape rooms (I was really rubbish at that!!), bingo and also going live and answering and asking questions.

Speaking of going on live that really built my confidence up a lot!! I remember the first time we went live, and I knew everyone could see me. I was a nervous wreck but after doing the first live, I started to notice I was getting a bit more confident in myself and I knew it was because of the lives.

Unfortunately, those three days flew and we all realised that it’s coming to the end of ABTS. Emotions were really high that day especially at the end. We all made the best out of that last day, and it was really sad seeing it coming to an end when we all finished showing our final edits. We knew then that this is nearly over. I really would’ve wished for it to be longer, but I will admit I did take a lot from this whole ABTS experience. ABTS opened up a lot of doors for me as well. It was the reason why I made new friends that will last a lifetime!! The reason why my confidence has risen, how I gained a lot of knowledge that I will most certainly put to use throughout my life and share the knowledge I’ve gained with the people around me, and it was all because of ABTS.

I was really grateful that day when I got an email from Tiffany and Cherine saying I got chosen to be an ambassador to represent my school. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity they gave me. When I read the email, I thought I got picked but what am I going to do now?? Am I just going to accept half-heartedly?? Or am I going to give it my all and get the most out of it. I’m so grateful I gave it my all because I came out of it a better person. I know a lot more than what I started with, and I’m more confident than ever before!! The things I’ve learned while participating in ABTS will last a lifetime. It’s an experience I will always remember. It was one of the best moments of my life!!

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Noor Khan, BTE High Wycombe, United Kingdom

My ABTS Experience in a Nutshell

I don’t know where to begin. So many things had happened within those three days at ABTS; new skills were learnt, and friendships made. BTE and ABTS as a whole, was an experience that I know I will never forget. Although the whole experience can seem a bit intimidating at first, and maybe a bit of a challenge, that was soon forgotten about when we got to know our mentors and Student Ambassadors, because we were in this together. If we were ever stuck or confused there was always support provided where needed. The question is, what can one do in the span of three days?

Well, I was quick to find out, a lot. You can discover, learn, and create so much in just three days.

The first day of ABTS we went in not knowing what challenge we may come to face or even how we would overcome it. Normally, this event would have taken place in Washington DC.  Due to the current pandemic, however, this year it was switched to virtual after the rise in cases across the globe. You’re probably wondering, was I ever disappointed of not being able to travel and gain that experience? Well truthfully, as nice as it would be, not really. The way that the program had been planned out had almost made me forget that we were supposed to go. Everything was so well executed and ensured that we used the virtual experience to the fullest as well as gain all the skills we would need to acquire for today’s virtual world. I mean sure there were struggles such as time zones and having to get work ready for the next day but this had taught me so much in terms of working under pressure in a timed environment which I believe is essential for the work world.

Chris Singleton, a motivational speaker came to share his journey with us, to educate us about adversity in the 21st century with a story that genuinely touched all of our hearts. We got to learn about him and his story and how it had affected him, and it was truly inspiring hearing his words and learning how young people can become advocates and leaders for their local communities.

Once we got to know what our project entailed, we gained some training provided by Jessica on how to use Adobe Rush for when it comes to editing our videos when the time comes. The training was performed with a clear explanation making sure we obtain a thorough knowledge of the software for a good execution of the final product. Breaking out into the project groups had us get to know our team members better and form friendships within those three days. This enabled us to learn the key skills of communication and working together as a team. It taught us to face challenges such as time zones and time restrictions which we worked our way around by communicating with one another.

The second day was probably one of my highlights of the program. It was a day where we got to put all our skills to a test. Having the experience to conduct, host and schedule an interview, we learnt how to be independent in a professional work environment whilst working together in a team to bring our video together. By going live on Zoom in front of many people it helped to bring out confidence and learn the essence of public speaking which as much as it was nerve-wracking, we had the support of each other as student ambassadors.  Our mentors made it okay for us to learn from our mistakes if we made any. On the same day we managed to edit our individual videos, so we gained the IT skills of this virtual world and learned to work together the next day to bring out videos together. Our project was to create a 2-3-minute video to promote the Pathways program after having conducted two half hour interviews with a Pathway student and a Student Ambassador. There was time where challenges arose, such as connectivity issues and not having enough questions to ask but with improvisation and perseverance it all worked out in the end. Having that independence but also the essence of teamwork within that day made me have a lot more self-confidence and feel more prepared for the work world.

The final day of ABTS was really exciting but sad at the same time, it meant that we had to say bye to the friends and mentors we had grown to know. It felt refreshing and satisfying seeing our videos come together and watch how our hard work had paid off throughout the three days. Our small ABTS family was created in those three days as we helped each other with the skills that we learnt in this program.

Before I got selected for BTE as a Student Ambassador, I wasn’t sure which path I wanted to take and if I could achieve the goals I want to achieve in life. Once I got told I had been selected, it made me have such a huge sense of accomplishment and relief, even just getting to the interview stage I felt so grateful for. BTE has given me the opportunity to express myself and enable me to learn the skills that I need in the future. Having it virtually this year also provided for the modern virtual world that we are living in today. Through this we have already been through it, feel more prepared, and know what to expect.

Lastly comes to my final point. None of this would have been possible without Tiffany, Cherine and Jessica. Our mentors and ABTS Leaders who were with us on this journey, as well as the BTE Alumni. They were the reason that the whole experience felt a lot less intimidating and were always there whenever we needed support. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do all of this and we learnt so much from them. Not just in terms of skills but we learnt many things such as empathy and how to look out for one another knowing that we always have someone to back us up when we make a mistake, so we can learn from it. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to spend another year with the mentors and I know the journey onwards will be an adventure, but I am prepared for it. The time has come where I will start to wrap up this blog and I just wanted to say that I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have had and look forward to what is yet to come.

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Andreea Balaescu, BTE Helsingborg, Sweden

The project ABTS could be described as a fully inspirational and motivating project. Its goal is helping us, as teenagers to find our way in life. And it does. The whole community is like a puzzle in this “life game”. Each piece is meant to improve our future and spirits in becoming better with ourselves.

But do you know what? I have another definition for this project. It is much simpler: ABTS is the project which everybody should be part of. So, let’s bring teenagers into this big family, all over the world. Helping others means helping yourself to live in a better society

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Aseel Mansour, BTE Athens, Georgia, USA

The tooth fairy is coming tonight. She’s picking up my favorite tooth that has fallen out yet. I called her ABTS, I always name my teeth that fall out. ABTS is a special tooth though. She was my shiniest tooth and she sat right in the front. I feel hideous without her and the spot where she fell from has caused an enormous pain. Mom says that it’s normal to let go of her because I can implement the values, she’s taught me into my life now, without help. It’s still hard to think of it that way, but I’m trying.

The next day, I woke up and my mouth still felt a bit sore. Looking under my pillow, I see a $100 bill! I’ve never received this much money for a tooth. The tooth fairy must have really known how special ABTS was. I quickly run to my mom and show her; she gives a heartwarming smile. I ran up to the bathroom to get ready for school. Looking in the mirror, I smile. How am I supposed to feel self-assured when there’s a hole in my mouth? I truly miss ABTS.

At school, my friends don’t even recognize me. “You’re a whole new person,” a friend says. I feel new. Redefined. But none of this in a bad way. That day in class, I answered all the questions, without ABTS. Instead of peeking around the corners and showing people what I want them to see, it feels like the corners have disappeared and I can truly show my true self. Infatuated by what ABTS has taught me, I begin to learn the value in self-reflection.

When I get home, I pull out my diary. In a series of writing and erasing, and writing and erasing, I finally begin to write fluidly.

‘ABTS….It broke my heart departing from you but since you left with clear warning,
I’m writing this for closure.
The three days when we were last together, you showed signs of leaving.
You were nearly hanging off a thread on September 30th.
I never took those signs into consideration though because you taught me to live in the moment.
You’ve taught me that as long as you’re around the right people, the experience is always worthwhile. Even though I could never confront you in person because I can’t see you, through the mirror, I was connected to you and all the values you held. I’ve learned to communicate and build stronger relationships with others without you. I’ve learned that although we’ll never get to see each other, the values you’ve taught me will live within me for a lifetime.’

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Fincy Vassantlal, BTE Bracknell, United Kingdom

My Journey Attending the ABTS

ABTS is one of the best opportunities I’ve experienced in my life. My 3 days were filled with an immense amount of activities which all built up to our earning a digital badge in Virtual Communication. Before we started our big project, we were welcomed by guest speaker, Chris Singleton who gave us an uplifting speech on adversity. Later, we jumped right into the project by starting with a class on Adobe Premiere Rush and then went on to a live Alumni Panel where we could ask the past BTE members a range of questions on their experiences and passions. That was the first Zoom call that I’ve been on with 70+ people! After that is when the fun began! We began working on our Student Ambassador Showcase and brainstormed ideas on how we would carry the task out. The anticipation for the next day was unbearable! I was so excited to meet everyone again to continue with our project.

On Day 2, we were given the task of interviewing people over Zoom, which went so smoothly. It was an amazing experience to be conducting interviews myself and being the interviewer for once, rather than the more common, interviewee. Quickly, after all of the interviews were filmed, we started editing them down to use in our project. This day would be incomplete if I didn’t mention my favourite event, the Fishbowl! This is where I talked about Virtual Learning and the pros and cons of it in our daily lives. This was the first time my heart started pounding during the ABTS but certainly not the last.

Day 3 is where the pressure was really on! Myself, Yasmin and Hadiza managed to edit and crop five 30 minute interviews into a 3-minute video in 3 hours! It’s crazy what you can do when you put your mind to it. My team and I did a great job representing BTE Around The Globe, regardless of the WIFI mishaps. I felt so honoured working with all of the fellow Student Ambassadors! I’m so proud of overcoming the first hurdle of public speaking as a team.

The big Student Ambassador Showcase was a surreal experience. I would never think of myself to be presenting to 70+ people. From the ABTS, I have gained so much confidence in myself and have found a new appreciation for face-to-face interactions. I’m grateful to say that I’ve made some great friends along the way and have loved my time in ABTS. This wouldn’t be possible without Tiffany and Cherine’s hard work and dedication towards the ABTS, so I would like to thank them once again for this great opportunity.

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Hailey Fitzgerald, BTE Limerick, Ireland

On the 28th of September 2020 I attended the annual Bridge to Employment conference. This year, however, it had a bit of a twist. Although I was saddened to hear that I would not be attending the conference in person like originally planned, I did get the opportunity to virtually take part. The training session lasted three days and I could not have been happier with how they went.

Day one: On Monday, the 28th I woke up eagerly, ready to start my week off right and meet new people. I was feeling very nervous about the experience due to the amount of build up there had been previously. I met lots of new people that day and learned so much about myself as a person and my peers. I learnt what the week had in store for me and I could not have been happier with what I was getting myself into for the week. Each and every person that I met was so enthusiastic about either teaching me and my peers or learning from us and our experience with the ABTS sessions. Overall, I really enjoyed the day and it made me more excited than ever to be a part of something that big, while just sitting in my room at home.

Day two: On the second day we were conducting our interviews with lots of different people at Johnson & Johnson. We had the pleasure to meet so many amazing people and we definitely took on board some of the advice they gave us. We started working on our group projects and in my opinion we all became much closer friends on this day. I got the pleasure of working with Chloe and Noor and we quickly got along with each other and started planning our roles for our ABTS videos, which had to be ready by Wednesday. We were a little stressed at first but in the end, we figured out the best approach and went with the flow of things. After the call we decided to work on our videos in our spare time to have a head start the next day.

Day three: Wednesday was the last day of the ABTS conference and all of us were feeling a little sad about the fact that we may never be able to meet in real life after spending such amazing times together the last few days. Although there was that sad element to the day, we were all determined to make it a good last day together. My team worked so hard on our project video and in the end, we were really proud of ourselves. The thought of presenting it was daunting, but it was all worth it in the end when we saw how much people enjoyed it.

The ABTS conference changed my life completely, I met 12 amazing girls who I couldn’t be happier to be newly friends with, and I also made lots of memories with them. Tiffany, Cherine and Jessica are only some of the people who helped us all along the way and I am so grateful for all the hard work they put in to making our experience as good as it was. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.

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Tanzina Choudhury, BTE High Wycombe, United Kingdom

My name is Tanzina Choudhury and I am a young 17-year-old girl from a small town in the UK. Through hard work, I had been given the opportunity to become Student Ambassador and attend the virtual event of ABTS. Honestly, I didn’t think I could achieve something like this, but I had faith in myself and worked hard to come where I have now. But not only did I just gain the title of Student Ambassador, but I also gained 11 new and great friends along with it.

With our obvious virtual limitations, I didn’t think that my fellow ambassadors and I would become close but was really proved wrong with just how well we got on with each other. It truly made me believe that distance doesn’t matter to create strong bonds.

I have to say I was a bit worried when we were given our project. How would our time zones correlate? How would we even get along and finish this project with our online limitations, and with such a short deadline? It made me think that the project might have not been finished properly, but with this task, I realised that if you truly put the effort in, anything is possible.

Staying up until the early hours of the morning just to finish my individual part was worth it after seeing the outcome I received. Even with working in a pressurised time limit, I found it very enjoyable and I even had the joy of getting to know my project partners Katerin and Andreea. We learnt a lot about where we’re each from, and just spoke about simple things. I felt very comfortable despite our virtual limitations, and we even finished our project to what I believe was a very good standard. Working with that very intense deadline, for me, only made it become more of a fun challenge; and the result was definitely rewarding!

The live showcase on our last day was certainly a run of my emotions throughout the stream! We all presented our project videos and had a great ceremony, which truly made me so proud of all the Student Ambassadors. And when it came to the ending video, I couldn’t help but feel sad and overwhelmed that the event was coming to an end. I couldn’t be more grateful to Tiffany and Cherine to have held and guided this event for us and make this truly an exceptional experience.

I’m so glad to have had this chance to attend and partake in such an event, meeting such great people who I can now call friends, and just having a fun time which I can now recall as a very sweet memory. Thank you, Johnson & Johnson and FHI 360 for giving me this opportunity!

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Namhla Chweba, BTE East London, South Africa

The 3 days at ABTS have changed my life

The ABTS counts as one of the most insightful and fun experience in my life. I think it’s very rare to have that kind of experience where I get to interact with different kinds of people, learn more about BTE, and discover the one thing that we have in common as BTE sites, which is caring for the futures of our youth. It was just so great to meet the other student ambassadors from other sites. It was an eye-opener.

The first day in the ABTS was just great we got to see different site videos and meet everyone and just got excited about the next 2 days. I had a chance to be grouped with great teammates who were able to understand and be supportive to the fact that I was not going to be able to be more hands-on in our video making project because of my exams. The BTE alumni were just great; they helped us understand the BTE program deeper, and they were inspiring. The motivational speaker, Chris Singleton, had taught us more about grabbing opportunities with both our hands and identifying them. Our video making projects taught us about recruiting students and volunteers, which is very important for the BTE project to keep going. Presenting our projects was a beautiful way to end our journey in the ABTS because we had a chance to showcase our abilities and what we learned to do best in our BTE sites. I don’t think that my words can really explain the amount of knowledge I got from ABTS and how it has changed the way I look at things.

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Yasmin Al-Shabee, BTE Helsingborg, Sweden

How I Secured My Future

Hello! I’m quite sure that a lot of you have been confused, stressed or even upset at yourself for not figuring out what you’d like to do in the far or near future. I know that I worried a lot about it, and I decided to take a road I have never thought of ever taking before. Now I can’t help but feel grateful for doing it.

Choosing a major in a Swedish high school was difficult, especially when you’re young and still feeling confused about what you’d like to do. Therefore, I chose a school that offered a project called Bridge to Employment. When I first heard about the name, it was already so clear. They offered to build us a bridge to the employment we wished for, helping young students in how to act and what to do to gain experience for any job.

Not only did it help many students, but it gave them an immense sense of confidence for the future. I just finished my first year and I already feel confident. I can’t wait for what the next two years will bring me.

A lot of countries are involved with the BTE-project, but I still feel like it’s not enough. I feel like all students should feel secure and confident in their future because students’ future is the world’s future. The new generations need to feel confidence in order to lead the world into a better place than now. We need to improve our students to improve the state of our earth.

Here is a video showcasing what BTE is capable of:

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Hadiza Sarr, BTE Athens, Georgia, USA

4 Ways to Make the Best of your ABTS Experience

Be Open Minded

Days before ABTS started, I kept trying to imagine how ABTS would work, what we would do, what type of people I would interact with, the list goes on. A major reason for my apprehension was because it was my first time participating in a virtual event. However, I advise you to not worry yourself to death; trust the process and trust that the coordinators will not let you down. Entering the conference with an open mind will help you learn and grow from the ABTS experience by allowing you to participate in the conference with your ambassadors without any premeditated bias.

Don’t Be Shy

Engagement is what makes the conference fun. If everybody was just sitting quietly, the conference would be passionless. During the first day, do not be afraid to speak your mind. Engage in the discussions, ask any questions you may have, and overall, just don’t hold yourself back. However, always remember to act professionally.

Soak Everything In

Take advantage of this opportunity! Not only is ABTS the perfect grounding for social networking, but it’s also a great place to learn about other cultures, and to take in the true diversity of BTE and Johnson & Johnson. Furthermore, take notes of all your encounters during ABTS. That way, everything you’ve learned can be shared with your local BTE peers.

Have Fun

Even though the conference is packed with training sessions and you are expected to complete a project at the end of the 3 days, make sure you don’t extract the fun out of the experience. Don’t be uptight and don’t let your nervousness overwhelm you from participating and interacting with the amazing people that you will meet!