Laure Chabenat is an alumna of our International Public Speaking Competition and Ambassador for Youth at ESU France. As part of her degree course at Sciences Po, Lille, she is currently spending two years at the University of Kent in Canterbury in order to obtain a Bachelor of Art in political science. She takes part in Model United Nations extra-curricular activities, and hopes to participate in national and international conferences next year.
Tell us about how you became involved with the ESU.
The first experience I had with the ESU was in 2018 when John and Patricia Curd (representatives of the ESU Loire Valley branch) came to my English class in high school to encourage us to get involved with public speaking. For those really interested they suggested participating in the French National Public Speaking Competition, which I won that same year.
Tell us about your experiences at the IPSC.
Participating in the IPSC was the beginning of an incredible journey and an experience I will never forget. As a 16 year old I was terribly impressed by the level of this competition and the venues we went to but most of all it was a marvellous human experience.
Seeing that one given subject provided 54 different visions and interpretations was truly enriching. I got to spend a week with motivated, interesting, determined and ambitious young people and the relationships I built in London went far beyond the competition itself and beyond all borders. Many of us are still in touch over social media and as soon as we have the opportunity to meet again, we do so. It’s funny that even years later when someone I met at IPSC comes to France or the UK I get a message to see if we can meet again. They are really special people to me.
Tell us about your role at ESU France.
The idea is to help attract adolescents and students to join the ESU. Being at university I realise that public speaking skills are essential for all. It is the reason why I hope to put into place a twinning of students between Kent and Lille which would be enriching for all parties. They will discover or get to know better another culture and have the opportunity to debate.
What are your impressions of England?
Although England is only a few kilometres from France, I still had to adapt to a new country, culture and environment. However, I think that’s what I like best. It’s not always easy (especially weather-wise: the rain and the cloudy weather are unfortunately not a myth…) but as my British grandmother used to say ‘when in Rome…’. That’s why ‘cheers’ has now become part of my vocabulary, and why I love eating scones and drinking tea (even if I must confess, I needed a couple of months before really appreciating this!)
What words of advice do you have for other alumni/young members?
Open up to others as much as possible. Don’t stay focused on your own ideas but to talk to different people, from different backgrounds with different ideas. Exchange with people whose views you don’t agree with. This is the most enriching thing you can do and through which you learn the most about the world, about others but also about yourself.
Whom do you admire and why?
A few years ago I had the honour of meeting Scott Cairns, a UN (OPCW) inspector who verified the use of chemical weapons during the war in Syria. He is a kind, selfless and dedicated person who works for peace because he believes that a more stable world is possible. He is the person who has influenced me the most and to whom I look up tremendously.
Tell us something surprising about you
Before I could talk, I did not throw tantrums but I activated breath-holding spells when I disagreed with my mother. This shows that language has always been important to me…
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
Try something new even if it means pushing your boundaries a little bit further, speak up for a subject that you care about, apply for the internship or the job you dream of. Try and even if you fail or get rejected you will have learned something from it. One should never be afraid to follow one’s gut.