The Malaysian Youth Delegation hosted the annual Retreat at EPIC Collective over the weekend of the 28th and 29th April 2018. New members were asked to reflect the activities they took part in, what they learned along the way, and what they took away from the experience. Here’s what our new members had to say:

Abirami Baskaran

A weekend of knowledge, personal growth and the unexpected appreciation of Leonardo di Caprio

By Abirami Baskaran

I honestly did not know what to expect, attending the MYD retreat. Were they going to quiz us on the climate agreements? Who said what at Bonn? What if I was asked to explain my application answers? I didn’t remember what I wrote! Thankfully my overactive imagination proved false, as it quite often does. Over the span of two days, I was exposed to an avalanche of new terms, names, key dates, policy agreements, documentaries, and the works. Admittedly it was quite a lot to absorb and process, and by Sunday afternoon I was overwhelmed with information, but in the best way possible.

The retreat on Day 1 began with an ice breaking session (of course) and while I was a tad nervous to be away from my classmates, I always love meeting new people. The story game was fun, but horror of horrors I had to speak! In front of people! With a microphone! To be fair the Abi a year ago would probably have frozen on the spot, and would’ve tried to get out of speaking by any means possible (which is surpassed only by the Abi five years ago, who would have cried and or puked). But 2018 Abi has almost gotten over her stage fright. And while my heart was pounding while I rattled off my part of the story, my voice was steady (I think) and my mind was mostly void from the usual “omg what if I mess up” anxiety. So on a personal achievement scale, the first part of the retreat: Success!

The subsequent knowledge sessions was truly an eye opener. Whatever I knew about climate change policies and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was incredibly on the surface. Being exposed to it and educated on it by the MYD facilitators, who’ve had first-hand experience was a great session, albeit it made me feel very unknowledgeable. I was incredibly attentive due to the captivating nature of the knowledge sessions, and that’s saying something because I have the attention span of a toddler, especially in a sit-down-and-listen type situation. I could really feel the passion and excitement radiating from the seniors (and Adrian) when speaking to us about UNFCCC. Being in the presence of these remarkable individuals was truly inspiring to me, because it made me feel like I too, could make a difference and could contribute to MYD in the future (cue overactive imagination of me sans stage fright taking part/speaking at conferences and at next year’s MYD retreat). The night screening of Before the Flood was captivating, due in part to Leo di Caprio’s charming voice, which I’ve never noticed before by the way, so that was an interesting discovery. Not to mention the content of the documentary itself, which was eye-opening.

Day 2 of the MYD retreat yielded more feelings of “omg I do not know so many things”, but this time I was not as anxious about it. I really enjoyed the talk on the Role of Youth in UNFCCC. It made me feel like although as young members on the climate change policy scene, all our voices would still matter, would be heard, and would be considered; and that to me is a pretty powerful feeling.

Following the youth talk was the team bonding session: Toilet agreement, which was a very creative component in teaching us about how UNFCCC negotiates agreements and proposes policies. It was not easy. It was difficult to come to an agreement, and incredibly challenging to deal with characters of different personalities. It really does make you ponder on how large scale consensus are achieved. Finally we came to an agreement, more out of the time limit than anything else I imagine, and presented it in the front. Another success on a personal scale: I spoke in front of everyone without dying! Sure the eye contact was minimum, and when I wasn’t speaking I hid behind everyone else. But the main take-away would be: Abi is making progress.

I really enjoyed listening to the ensuing MYD Buddies sharing sessions along with watching the videos and photographs. The seniors made us feel very inclusive, despite having just met us, and I appreciated that. I was not at Bonn’s COP23, but I sure felt like I was (overactive imagination, back again), due to the vivid storytelling by Jasmin, Azam and Mike, and the add-ons by the other MYD seniors.

After the knowledge sessions were over I remember feeling a rush of emotions all at once. Intimidation – “man I barely know anything what if this is all too much”; Anxiety – “what am I even doing here I feel so dumb!” Excitement – “This is all so cool I’m learning so many new things!” Eagerness – “I honestly cannot wait to continue in MYD”.

During the reflection towards the end, I had plenty to say, but nervousness on having to stand up and speak with everyone watching took over. Instead, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible, I raised my hand, mumbled out a generic positive statement and let out a sigh of relief. But really though, the retreat was organized well, and I enjoyed every aspect of it. I was happy to be surrounded by like-minded people, and am looking forward to bonding more with everyone.

Last year, I was going to apply for COP23, but the application questions intimidated the heck out of me. Being somewhat unconfident in my knowledge, and having little experience, I passed on it, and told myself that I would apply the following year, and I’m so glad I did. The retreat taught me a myriad of things in just two days, and I eagerly anticipate gaining more knowledge on this MYD journey with my classmates and new friends, in hopes of contributing to a more sustainable future.