My name is Annabel and I’m a third year Zoology BSc student here at the University of Southampton. In the summer of 2021 I took part in the HEX Hacker Exchange Global Challenge – a 5 day intensive course based around creating technological responses to human rights issues. The Hacker Exchange Global Challenge usually takes place at the HEX campus in Australia, however, this year it was all online due to the pandemic. However, this did not take away from how enriching this experience was!
A few days before the challenge began, I was given access to HEX World – the online portal that had all the information I would need for the challenge; including my 5 day schedule. Due to participants being from all over the world, time zones were a big hurdle from day 1. In my team there were participants from India, Australia, China and the UK so we all had very different work and sleep schedules. The first task to overcome was to delegate each task between the group in a way that meant we could meet the checkpoints set to our team.
The brief all groups were given to complete by the end of the 5 days was to create a technology-based solution to a current human rights issue. We were given checkpoints that we needed to meet throughout the process, including workshops, talks and interactive panels to help guide us throughout the process.
Day 1 included a welcome meeting, some panels on how to present start-up ideas and a meet-your-team event! We were given the brief that we had to complete by the end of the 5 days which was to create a technological response to a human rights issue. On this first day me and my team brainstormed ideas, took turns going to the provided panels and lectures and generally just got to know each other. Throughout the rest of the remaining 4 days we built up our final pitch, creating a financial plan, a prototype and a presentation for the final day. On the final day we presented our ideas and the results we were in – unfortunately we didn’t win but I was still proud of our efforts!
Throughout this experience I learned a lot about myself including my strengths, weaknesses and how I work best. The most difficult aspect of this challenge was the intense 5-day schedule and trying to manage my time around other life commitments. This aspect of the challenge helped me learn how best to manage my time, how best I work and it massively helped with my communication skills as it meant I had no choice but to organise a work schedule with my teammates. If I could give any advice to other students taking part in Study Abroad schemes, it would be to go in ready to learn and with an open mind to the opinions of your peers – you may learn something from them! Learning from other students from all around the world is a great way to expand your own ideas and knowledge, don’t go in thinking you know everything already!
Overall, I really enjoyed this experience and would encourage other students to take part in other Study Abroad schemes as the knowledge and skills I have gained from it are invaluable. Most of all, it was really fun!