Last week I was at a really special working session hosted by AmazeRealise, led by Helena Good of Edinburgh College and bringing together Whitespace, Skyscanner, AmazeRealise and Campfire with educators to work on a new programme launching in schools to encourage creative thinking. While there, I was lucky enough to meet Natalie Loh who is one of the speakers at the TEDxYouth event in Glasgow on 31 May. Over coffee I found out more about what has led Natalie to the Tedx stage.
Natalie is currently a graphic design student at Edinburgh College. Alongside her college commitments she works as a locum veterinarian. Whilst at college she became involved with the Daydream Believers Program run by the graphic design department. The program aims to promote creative thinking and problem solving across all subjects. She will be speaking at TEDxYouth Glasgow at the end of May on the topic of the relationship between the sciences, arts and the future.
QUESTION: How did you find out about TEDxYouth and what was the driver for putting in an application as a speaker?
Natalie: I first heard of TEDxYouth through Helena Good, my college lecturer. Having previously enjoyed listening to talks on Ted and having a friend speak at TEDx Edinburgh, I thought that it would be a good experience. The real driver though, was Helena – she has been so supportive and inspirational. Her drive and dedication to the future of education inspired me to want to give back and share my experiences with other students.
QUESTION: Do you have any observations to share about the process of submitting to be a TEDx Youth Speaker?
Natalie: It’s scary! But also very exciting. Making the 3 minute application has been the hardest bit so far, no doubt getting on stage will be harder. It was difficult to get a point across in such a short period. Having Gurjit Singh Lalli, founder and curator of TEDxYouth Glasgow as my speaker’s coach has been hugely reassuring. It is all very well planned and they give us a lot of support in preparation.
QUESTION: How did you feel when you found out you would be a speaker and how did they tell you?
Natalie: I was in a state of shock, I never thought that I would get selected. I got the email just after one of our classes, I burst out with an ‘oh my!’ and then realised that it specifically said not to tell anyone. I had to contain myself!
QUESTION: Now you are part of the programme can you share any insights on how the Tedx Glasgow team prepare you for the big event?
Natalie: The whole team have been extremely helpful and are contactable in times of panic. There are set deadlines for when drafts are to be ready and I have weekly check-ins with Gurjit where he tears my draft apart and gets me to start again. It’s a very different approach to building a talk than to what I’m used to. I’m trusting the process as he says! Am looking forward to the Bootcamp and meeting the other speakers.
QUESTION: I understand the theme of your presentation is Art or Science. How did you get to this question and (without giving too much away) have you arrived at an answer?
Natalie: I feel that the way we learn and think needs to change. The old saying ‘You will never get a job in the arts’ isn’t true. Everything around us has been through both creative and scientific processes. Art isn’t painting a pretty picture, there is such stigma attached to it. Art is creative thinking & creative thinking is an art. We need to value it more if we are to have a future.
QUESTION: Can you tell me a bit about your education background, your favourite subjects and aspirations?
Natalie: I received my primary and secondary education in Malaysia and went on to complete my A-Levels at Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire. Throughout this time, I studied all the science subjects. In Malaysia we are streamed very early on and our subjects were chosen for us (sciences or arts) based on our grades. Naturally, I continued to study all the sciences at A-Levels. I did sneak into the Art department quite a lot. Yes, I did get caught! No, I didn’t get in trouble – instead I got asked why I wasn’t taking art as an A-Level. I didn’t have an answer to that.
It did get me thinking and throughout my veterinary degree and career I sought to keep up my creative practices. Eventually I decided to go for it and apply for an art foundation program which led me on to the Graphic Design course at Edinburgh College.
It’s hard to say what my favourite subjects are. I have always had an inquisitive and a creative mind and I think that suits lots subjects. I liked finding out how things work and problem solve – I remember when I got my first bike, before I did anything I turned it upside down to see how it worked. I also drew and painted a lot and still do.
I would like to keep being creative and problem solve in new ways – maybe even own my own design agency one day! Honestly though, I would love to be able to carve out a successful career in design. I’ve met so many inspiring, creative and lovely people in my design journey so far and it would be amazing to be able to keep doing that.
QUESTION: I know you are also a Day Dream Believer Ambassador. What inspired you to take part in this programme and did it help you on your journey to be a Tedx speaker?
Natalie: When Helena offered the opportunity, I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of it. I was never given the opportunity to choose my subjects at secondary school. I feel that it is so important especially when you are trying to decide what to study to get into university to explore the options available with an open mind.
It is also important to give back. I wanted to share my experience of not knowing and that it’s alright not to know. Playing my part in talking to the pupils and shifting perceptions and stigma around the arts was also a big part of my motivation.
Being a Daydream Believer Ambassador had a huge part to play in my journey TedxYouth. Going to the schools, meeting the pupils, seeing how they react to our stories and experiences and coming out of their shell has really driven me to want to give more back. It has been and still is such an experience, knowing that we are making a difference.
QUESTION: What do you expect it to be like on 31 May and what do you hope to get out of it?
Natalie: Intimidating! I will probably be pretty nervous, in fact I already am. We practice presenting and speaking to people but never to an auditorium at such a big venue.
If I can inspire one mind or at least get the audience to think about what I have to say I will be happy. The experience will no doubt help me with public speaking!
QUESTION: A Day Dream Believer Ambassador, a TedxYouth speaker, you obviously believe in being an active part of your community. What next for you?
Natalie: The Daydream Believers program will have 20 pupils in to college this summer and in September we will launch the new pilot program which I am really excited about. It has been amazing working with the 13 schools that have been involved so far. Through the new September pilot that has been developed with our industry partners, we hope to be able to provide the program to all secondary schools across Scotland.
I’m also in the process of setting up a design collective with some classmates which I am excited about. We hope to have it up and running by the end of summer, so watch this space.
QUESTION: Finally, do you have a piece of advice or a saying you have found helpful, that you can share with your TEDxYouth audience and your Day Dream Believer participants?
Natalie: Make the most of every opportunity, work hard, learn as much as you can and share as much as you can.
Come see us speak, share our stories and just chat to people, you never know who you’ll meet. Tickets are still available from the TEDxYouth Glasgow website. You can also find out more about the speakers by following us individually on social media and see all the blood, sweat and tears (literally) that has gone into the event.