MUN student part of youth delegation to APEC summit in Honolulu

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Memorial business student Samantha Phelan talks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Asia-Pacifica Economic Co-operation forum in Honolulu in November. - Submitted photograph

It wasn't Samantha Phelan's first time meeting a high-ranking government official, but her encounter at a summit in Hawaii had her a little more nervous than usual.

The MUN business student was part of a Canadian youth delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Honolulu in the Aloha State last month with the goal of gaining skills and experience in establishing and maintaining business relationships with companies in other countries. The five-member team was trained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on networking and body language.

"We were put there to ask really informal questions for Investing Canada, but really try to see how these CEOs of these corporations worldwide, what kind of business relationships they have with Canada. Do they have relationships? Are they interested in starting relationships? Are they satisfied with the current relationships that they have?"

It was at the end of the week when she met Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that she felt the pressure of representing Canadian businesses at the forum.

"Going and talking to him and representing the youth of Canada, and me representing youth from Newfoundland, and saying, 'This is what we did. These were the connections we made,' and then talking about what we're currently doing in our communities, what we're doing to help Canadians, to help youth, to help improve voter turnout - to talk to him about all the stuff we'd accomplished, that was a really pivotal moment in that week, because it helped us feel more confident as youth that we can accomplish something, and know that somebody so substantial such as Prime Minister Harper was realizing that and he could notice that and appreciated that."

Apart from meeting Harper, Phelan said she found that being a youth delegate often made it easier to strike up a conversation with business leaders a little weary of constantly talking shop with other businesspeople.

"We're not asking them anything at first that's too intruding. It's not like, 'Hey, we should do business' or 'Hey, we should sit down and talk about this.' It's just a very refreshing conversation with them, and that's how we capture their attention and then continue to build those relationships and follow it up with emails later. The biggest goal was to get their business card, and then come back and be able to present that to Investing Canada to say, 'We had a conversation with them. They like their relationship with their partners in Canada and they're looking to expand on that, so you may want to follow up.' Or, 'They haven't been able to get into the Canadian market for whatever reason, maybe this is something you should look into.'"

During the summit, Phelan was able to sit in on speeches given by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, among others, as well as meetings with business leaders from global companies such as Microsoft and FedEx.

"I think the biggest takeback from going to the APEC summit was building the confidence in yourselves as Canadian youth, to be able to really tackle and accomplish anything that people give to you, and more importantly, large Canadian organizations or governmental organizations who give you mandates really feeling confident that you can take anything that they give to you, and deliver."

On the flip side, Phelan's growing experience at international summits - earlier this year she was part of a Canadian trade mission Indonesia and Malaysia - isn't helping her narrow down what she wants to do with her degree when she graduates next year.

"I think, in fact, it may be the exact opposite. It's really opened my eyes to so many opportunities that I've dabbled in so much within the past year, that it's left me with a huge question mark floating over what it is that I'm going to be doing in four months."

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: APEC, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Microsoft FedEx

Geographic location: Honolulu, Canada, Hawaii Aloha Newfoundland U.S. Indonesia Malaysia

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  • David
    December 12, 2011 - 13:18

    That's one expensive suntan.