For Callum Read, part of the experience of attending the International Baccalaureate Student World Conference at Oregon State was getting here. When found out he’d been chosen to go, his mother told him he should bike from their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Corvallis, where 300 International Baccalaureate high school students from 10 countries convened to explore the theme of “Sharing our Humanity.”
She was joking, but Read, a competitive cyclist, thought it was a fabulous idea. All things said, it would be a 1,600 mile trip over desert and mountains, and through five western states. What Read didn’t count on, though, was the kind of support he would get from friends and family. He ended up being accompanied by his mother, his sister and several friends.
“Everyone who went with me I know personally and I’m good friends with. It accumulated. My mother and sister were going to do it,” says Read. “Next thing I know I have nine other people who said they wanted to come and support me. I can’t even explain it, just having friends around me the whole day, riding bikes and doing what we love.” Read and his friends also managed to raise money for the ride to try and keep his high school cycling team alive.
It underscored for Read the importance of having personal connections, particularly when he was feeling petered out from grueling, 100+ mile rides over the 11-day trip.
“There were some days I thought I couldn’t do it,” says Read. “Support from family and friends was great. They were there for me whenever I slipped.”
The conference itself has also highlighted for Read the difference having personal connections can make. The whole IB conference was assembled when Read and his friends rode into Corvallis last Sunday. And throughout five-day conference, Read has been able to connect easily with people, no matter where they’re from. “Here, people want to meet different people, and see what they think about the world. You can gain perspectives you would never have thought of,” he says.
This is the first time in eight years that the IB Conference is being held, and the first time ever on the mainland United States. The conference draws together high-achieving, civic-minded International Baccalaureate candidates for a series of meetings and activities focusing on global citizenship, cultural awareness, and youth empowerment aimed at a “just and sustainable world.”
Students from different regions will also form “global action teams” that will take on service projects in different places around the world. These teams will work to develop their senior year humanitarian projects with agency and organizational representatives from Doctors without Borders, Engineers without Borders, Mercy Corps, Project Our Turn, Habitat for Humanity, Humanity First, Schools for Afghanistan, Beat the Drum Village, and Pennies for Peace.
So far at Oregon State they’ve visited the Tsunami Wave Basin, Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Veterinary
Teaching Hospital, and attended an outdoor Shakespeare play on campus. They’ve also heard from a number of speakers, including Michael Furdyk, co-founder of Taking IT Global, internationally-known marine biologist Daniel Pauly and Jeremy Gilley, of Peace One Day.
It’s the perfect setting for a student like Read, who, when he’s not cycling, spends much of his spare time in Albuquerque on community service and working in homeless shelters. His father used to be in the military, and so Read has lived all over the world.
“I remember living in Italy, and I was probably about 6 or 7 years old. I remember playing with a kid who didn’t even speak English, who only spoke Italian, and we were able to have fun and relate to each other,” he says.
Read already feels like he’s gained much from the conference. In particular he loved talking with Furdyk, and was inspired by the idea of creating a “day for peace.” And, of course, there are the relationships and perspectives. “You just get a new understanding of everything,” he says. “I’m not narrow-minded, but there are some things other people bring that I can now see differently.”