By Nadia Ali. They say dreams come true if you only try. This is true for Katrina Khan whose three environmental essays qualified her to represent Trinidad and Tobago at an international symposium in Punta Cana.
As a guest of Jetblue Airlines, she went on a three-day, all expenses paid trip from Trinidad to Fort Lauderdale to her final destination of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to attend the “Symposium of Innovators for Coastal Tourism” hosted on July 22 to 24, 2015.
Katrina is a Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) professional at the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited and a student at the University of the West Indies (UWI) studying a Master of Science (MSc) in Tourism Development and Management at the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Her classmate, Aly DeGraff said, “Katrina, I am sending you an email with an environmental sponsorship opportunity that you can enter as your mix of academic experience would be perfect. Also, the deadline is in one week!”
Katrina read the email that detailed what the JetBlue Foundation was offering. They were offering two student scholarships to attend the Center for Responsible Travels (CREST) and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation’s Innovators Think Tank in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Despite the short deadline, Katrina said, “When I read the questions being asked I was immediately inspired to write, drawing from personal experience as well as my studies in Environmental Resource Management, Marine Biology and Tourism. In my opinion, I was asked to put my passion for these interrelated subjects into words, a task I was eager to accomplish.” So, she put other things aside and began working on her essays. Little did she know at that time, that she was actually competing with over 90 plus other applicants – all vying for one of just two spots available.
Having submitted the essays, the next hurdle was the nerve wracking wait for the response. At 7.30 in the evening, just eight days before the start date of the symposium an email arrived stating:
“Congratulations! After careful review of 90 plus applications, yours was selected due to your impressive work in sustainable development, passion for Caribbean conservation, and unique and clear goals for attending the conference. We at JetBlue and CREST were very impressed with your application and sincerely hope that you can join us.”
Screams and shrieks of laughter could be heard throughout the household as she told her mum, dad and sister, immediately hopping onto Skype to tell her brother. What looked like a one in a million opportunity had turned into a reality!
Katrina was soon on her way as a representative of Trinidad & Tobago to the Symposium of Innovators for Coastal Tourism. Once there, she was introduced to the other qualifier – Stefan Knights from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Barbados.
The speaker presentations saw a range of established and distinguished persons ranging from University Professors, Environmental Consultants and even the Ambassador to the USA for Mexico.
Although deemed as a student observer, Katrina gained a world of knowledge in the two days of the symposium and took the opportunity to share her insights. She says she was amazed to see that “through the doom and gloom of the issue of climate change and all the repercussions of this dramatic shift in our environment, there are people actively working, researching and lobbying for a sustainable future, not only for tourism, but for the world”.
There’s no doubt that attending the symposium has rejuvenated Katrina’s focus and determination. Just meeting like-minded people with similar interests allowed her to network with new acquaintances and prospects of future partnerships. She advises, “No matter what life throws at you, or how low you may be feeling, once you try, you have opened up a world of possible outcomes,” words to live by from Katrina Khan flying the red, black and white flag of sweet T&T.
October 2015 – Issue 18 www.sweettntmagazine.com
You may also like: