Last week, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet , Tenzin Gyatso, visited Cambridge to attend the Global Scholars Symposium, a conference organised by scholars, for scholars from over 40 countries studying in the UK. Not only did we learn about the importance of using non-violence to resolve conflicts around the world and the current holes in our modern education system, but the experience of planning and hosting the spiritual and former political leader of Tibet was an education in itself.
The email arrived Christmas morning, stating that His Holiness had accepted our invitation to speak at the Global Scholars Symposium. The excitement was overwhelming, even though at that moment we did not realise what a huge responsibility this would be. When organising a VIP visit, every minute must be planned for, no detail can be overlooked. Although this visit was predominantly organised by students, a seemingly countless number of people worked together from the London Office of Tibet, St. John’s College, the Gates Cambridge Trust, and the Cambridge Union Society. Everyone had their role, and because of this, constant communication was critically important.
The visit was a great success. During his weekend in Cambridge, His Holiness spoke to more than 1,600 students, national, local, and student press organisations, and had 2 talks streamed live on the internet to reach followers around the world. It was an incredible experience for everyone involved, and especially for us students. It is not often that students get the attention of such a high profile, and inspirational visitor.
We were the main organisers for every detail, including accommodation, meals, security, transportation, guest lists and media coverage. By the end of the visit we had dealt with everything from university politics to undercover police officers and people fraudulently posing as press. Needless to say much of this was outside the realm of our PhDs, which are in Linguistics and Neuroscience, and it was the first time we experienced the luxury of holding official entourage badges.
During his visit, His Holiness shared his teachings on compassion and non-violence principles, as well as clear words to the media to report the truth, which requires looking beyond the surface appearance of an issue. A continuing theme throughout all of his talks was the need to improve the modern education system around the world, to incorporate ethics and universal morality. We need to “educate the heart” to make people happier and more caring individuals if we want to solve some of the world’s problems, he said. His Holiness is a global voice of peace and left many scholars changed for the better, more inspired and passionate to use their careers to make a positive impact in the world.
Along with His Holiness, scholars at the Global Scholars Symposium heard inspirational talks from Justice Goodwin Liu, His Excellency Gordon Campbell, Professor Cindi Katz, Wes Moore, Wanjira Mathai, Sir Tim Hunt, Tony Juniper, and many more. As hoped, scholars left the conference feeling inspired and motivated to bridge ideas into action, in order to make a real contribution to tackling the world’s greatest challenges.
*Brianne Kent  and Cameron Taylor  are doing PhDs in Experimental Psychology and Italian respectively. Picture credit: Jeremy Russell.