Final year law student Elaine Foong was the director of the first-ever TEDxUniversityofMalaya which took place mid-March this year
“If there is one word which best describes myself, I’m afraid the word is stubborn.” Elaine shared with us matter-of-factly. Elaine Foong Sook Yen is a final year student of the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, who recently organised the first-ever TEDxUniversityofMalaya which turned out to be a huge success back in mid-March. Once she sets her mind on anything, this carefree 24-year-old lass from Ipoh, Perak, will not take no for an answer. “I’m not trying to be funny. My close friends can testify,” she sheepishly remarked about her previous statement.
While her sudden active involvement in extra-curricular activities may come as a surprise to many of her acquaintances, her passion for TED events dates back to 2015 where she formed part of the very first TEDx organising committee on campus. Unfortunately, that team did not manage to pull through due to unforeseeable circumstances. After partaking in the faculty’s fun and challenging Internal Moot Competition (IMC) during her freshmen year, she was quick to realise that competitions are not her niche. Her multiple attempts to apply for positions in clubs during that time were fruitless as well.
Her fortune changed in her second year when she was presented with a golden opportunity to be part of the ASEAN Youth Dialogue Kuala Lumpur (AYDKL) organising team. There, she met admirable seniors and formed valuable friendships with members from various faculties who imparted not only knowledge and experience to her but also taught her everything she needed to know about event management. “Those people were overwhelmingly nurturing and inspiring. It was a pivotal moment in my undergraduate life,” she confessed.
The Asean Youth Dialogue Kuala Lumpur (AYDKL) 2015 organising committee
Inspired, she moved on to lead a humanitarian project called EIGHT4ALL under the 8th Residential College, University of Malaya. Based on the mantra 'Every child needs a teacher', the team picked Kampung Changkat Bintang in Slim River to offer tutoring services to Aboriginal children ranging from kindergarten students to secondary school teenagers. The two-week trip created an impact of such depth to both the organising committee and the respondents that Elaine found her calling in life, which doubles as a hobby to pursue outside the legal field.
Smiling ear to ear, Elaine is flanked by her precious EIGHT4ALL team consisting of residents of 8th Residential College, University of Malaya, alongside the Aboriginal children of Kampung Changkat Bintang in Slim River
Elaine resonates most with her late father’s saying that “If you cannot change the world, that is fine. However, you can choose to change a person’s world, and that will make all the difference.” In her final year of law school, with a new surge of hope, confidence and fresh inspiration from watching countless TEDx sharing sessions online, Elaine applied for the TEDx campus license and formed her team of 34 persons.
The theme ‘Interconnected’ bearing the infamous Malaya tiger crest
Themed 'Interconnected', Elaine wanted this year’s edition to illustrate how every facet of life is connected. She believes that there exists a barrier which restricts the way people think and behave. This causes our intentions and actions to deviate from the bigger picture. Such a barrier may be due to cultural singularity, individualistic thinking, or closed-mindedness. Therefore, TEDxUniversityofMalaya 2017 hoped to define, explain, and expose the interconnectedness of life through a series of short presentations by speakers from many different fields of study. Out of the many inspirational and thought-provoking speeches given at the event, Elaine personally resonated with three.
First, Elaine told us that she found Raphael Kok’s presentation on how to read minds and win hearts deeply intriguing. It made her realise that stalking a person online need not necessarily be a terrible thing. In fact, it showed that there is someone out there who is willing to put in an effort to get to know a person before approaching them such as finding out whether they own any pets, their interests, and hobbies. “Truth be told, I have ‘stalked’ quite a number of people before, but I’d never admit it out loud”, Elaine confessed.
Secondly, Elaine found Soh Wai Ching’s presentation on self-belief highly inspirational. She was in awe of his determination in trying to break records and his conviction to never give up on his dreams. She was also amazed by the degree of self-discipline he has achieved with his daily schedule of waking up early and sleeping early.
Last but not least, Mohsin Memon’s presentation, 'We were always meant to game', which explored the future of our education system, shifted Elaine’s perspective on the interrelation between gaming and education. “I think he breaks the old rules whereby games are viewed as antithetical to learning and not an activity students should indulge in when he proved to us that many aspects of education could be imparted through gaming. I couldn’t agree more with him as I also enjoy playing games and believe that there are skills which can be acquired through playing games such as logical thinking and planning.”
Throughout the event, the theme of interconnectedness was dissected, reconstructed, and examined in an effort to build a framework for looking at how people think and behave. Faulty mental models of the direct cause-and-effect paradigm which inhibit creative problem solving and 'bigger picture' thinking were challenged. TEDxUniversityofMalaya 2017’s mission was to challenge the audience to reflect on their own behaviours and thought processes in order to integrate the presented ideas about interconnectedness into their daily lives.
Although the team presented a calm and measured exterior throughout the planning of the event which gave off the impression that everything ran smoothly, in fact, the team faced numerous difficulties throughout this arduous journey, including securing a permanent venue in only less than two months away from the day of the event! After overcoming such a huge roadblock, no menial issues involving leaky ceilings or faulty audio equipment presented much of a challenge.
Elaine with the rest of the miracle workers behind TEDxUniversityofMalaya 2017
Today, you can still find Elaine lamenting on the possible improvements to TEDxUniversityofMalaya such as a better venue selection and enhanced PA systems to present a better TEDx event. However, she knows better than to cry over spilt milk. All in all, Elaine is extremely pleased with how well the event turned out, as proven by the many good feedback received from both the speakers and audiences alike.
Since the entire process took almost six months to bear fruit, many were interested to know just how Elaine managed her time. “I’ll say task-prioritising, as well as good time management, is the ultimate secret (to my success), coupled with my habit of pre-planning my day the night before,” she elaborated. She is also especially thankful for to all the lecturers and her friends who kept her updated in class and relentlessly assisted her to stay on top of her game despite her hectic schedule.
Finally, Elaine would like to extend her gratitude to her organising team for sticking with her through thick and thin, thus further labelling them as the “second most awesome team” after AYDKL’s, and emphasising that she cannot thank the team enough for their honest feedback and countless hours of contributions. As for the upcoming TEDx board, she wishes them a smooth journey ahead. She would also like to encourage juniors to partake wholeheartedly in more campus events to explore their true passion rather than joining solely for the sake of participating.