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Thanks to you: Carmen Leung, HBA ’18

  • Carmen Leung
  • |
  • Nov 14, 2017
Thanks to you: Carmen Leung, HBA ’18

Carmen Leung, HBA ’18 candidate, is the recipient of the Gareth Coombes HBA International Travel Fund. She wrote a blog for Donor Thank You Day, expressing her gratitude for the financial support and the opportunity it gave her to study at Ivey and travel internationally.

Gareth Coombes tragically passed away in September 2012 while a student in Ivey’s HBA program. Gareth lived life to the fullest and loved to travel. He was among the first group of Ivey HBA students to participate in the service learning trip to Africa. Gareth’s classmates, professors, and friends established the Gareth Coombes HBA International Travel Fund in his memory to relieve some of the expenses of the service learning trip for a student who exemplifies Gareth’s spirit of adventure and his passion for learning.

It’s true what they say: the days are long, but the weeks are short. With that, my month in Ethiopia has come to an end.

This trip allowed me to continue pursuing my passion outside of the business world, which revolves around international development and education. I’ve always had a sense of my own privilege, and I realize how fortunate I am to not only have a warm home to sleep in at night, and to have food on the table every day, but to receive a top-tier education from a world-renowned institution. Not everyone is as lucky as me and my peers are, so I’ve always had an urge to help and contribute what I can to those who are not as fortunate as me.

In the past two years, I’ve volunteered in the Dominican Republic and in Peru on teaching trips. I realize it’s impossible to change someone’s life within a week, or a month’s time, but my continual hope on service trips is to teach others at least one new piece of knowledge or skill that can positively contribute to their future. While I am there to share my knowledge, and let others learn, I always hope to learn a lot along the way too.

To say I learned a lot in Ethiopia is a gross understatement. Every day, I learned something new. I learned my level of patience is twofold; it heavily exists when I am in the classroom with my students, but it lacks in most other aspects of my life. I learned how to be accommodative and to truly listen to my students’ and my peers’ needs, and to answer to those needs. By being patient, taking it slow, and keeping an open dialogue, I was able to cater the lessons to the students. I’ve also learned that I am capable of more than I believe. Confidence is something I always struggled with; from teaching, I saw the true value of “faking it till you make it.” All it took was for me to push myself outside of my comfort zone for 75 minutes a day, and before I knew it, confidence in the classroom came naturally.

However, this trip wasn’t about me, at all. It was great that I got to further develop my own abilities, but the purpose of this trip was to create an impact abroad, which I believe I accomplished.

I remember walking into the classroom on day one, and the students told me about their dislike for lectures because they were concrete and a one-sided dialogue. They had no outlet to share their opinions and were discouraged to do so. My main goal from that day on was to teach students that their opinions matter. While I taught them some hard skills, like how to use a SWOT analysis framework to solve problems, that wasn’t what I wanted to focus on. I wanted to focus on the soft skills that they don’t have a chance to exercise and develop at school, such as communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills. Every class, I encouraged them to develop an opinion based on analysis, share them, defend them, and debate them.

These are transferable skills, which will help them become better business leaders in the future. I know I left them with at least one new skill or piece of knowledge that they didn’t have before I arrived, which was my ultimate goal. Plus, they had fun doing so. A lot of them were grateful for those exercises, and told me about it in person, or sent kind words through email and text.

A student named Kidst was telling me how summer internships were not common in the country, and how most of the population just jumps into the workforce right after graduation with no experience. She said that after the session, she felt empowered to reach out to alumni and to her connections to find a summer opportunity, whether it be volunteer, or a job. She had a light in her eyes, and I could feel her genuine excitement about what’s to come in her future. The students I met were so intelligent and so driven to learn. It was truly an inspiration and it made me realize how I often take my own education for granted.

The impact doesn’t stop just because I left the country; I’m keeping in touch with my students and friends. I reminded them to reach out to me whenever, wherever for advice, or just because. It’s been months since I left Addis Ababa, and many of us are still in touch.

All in all, no matter what field I end up working in, I know the lessons, values, and characteristics that were developed on this trip will help me become a better business leader in the future. This trip has empowered me to make a difference both locally and globally. I’ve gone through growth like no other, and I know the impact I made in Ethiopia was worthwhile. This trip showed me what the best version of myself looked like, and has fuelled me to continue pursuing my interests in both business and international development.

Without a doubt, my time abroad is something I’ll cherish forever. After all, it was one of the best months of my life.


  • Donor Thank You Day