As the Malaysian winner of the Esri Young Scholar Award, Norezzayana Binti Rohaizat, was given an opportunity to present her work at the 2015 Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) in San Diego, California.

From meeting Jack Dangermond and learning from GIS industry thought-leaders to partying with more than 15,000 spatial enthusiasts from around the world, here Norezzayana shares her top highlights from the week.

Day One (17/7/2015)

Despite the 24-hour flight, I arrived in the evening, the San Diego city skyline was breathtaking, making the long journey worth it.

Upon my arrival at the famous Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel and hearing the conversations of the people nearby, I realised people from all over the world are travelling to San Diego for this event and the thought of meeting new friends and learning new things made me very excited for the plenary.

Day two (18/7/2015)

This was the first day of the Esri Education GIS Conference.

Esri’s education team prepared a day full of activities for all the Esri Young Scholar Award recipients. We attended technical workshops and plenary sessions throughout the day. In fact, I particularly enjoyed the topic “Service Learning with GIS” and how speakers shared their experiences on how they implemented GIS in their field of study.

I also valued the ‘lightning talks’ session in the afternoon – particularly  the topic “Making History with GIS Education” – because we discussed how providing educational resources at every level can help students in the field of GIS.

Apart from the new knowledge I gained from the plenary and workshops, the  best part of the day for me was meeting the other Esri Young Scholar Award recipients.

Before flying to San Diego, we all converged at a dedicated Facebook page for Esri Young Scholar Award winners. It was great meeting them in person and talking about their projects and their plans during their stay in San Diego.

Here, I also met Esri Indonesia’s Young Scholar Award winner¸ Ayin. We became such good friends, we were practically inseparable the whole week.

Day Three (19/7/2015)

The second day of the Education Conference is underway with the plenary focusing on Servant Leadership and Education Enterprise.

One topic that really caught my interest is the Esri GeoMentor program.

A GeoMentor is a volunteer who can assist a teacher or youth club leader build capacity and help children use GIS technology. Working together with an educator, a GeoMentor uses tools of geography (such as digital or hardcopy maps plus practical field work.

I think it is a great program to help schools and teachers introduce GIS technology to classrooms across the country. The program plays a major role in building awareness and the use of GIS in schools and I hope Malaysia can implement this program in the near future.

Day Four (20/7/2015)

From UC first-timers like me to frequent attendees, this is the day everyone has been waiting for.

The Esri UC plenary was held at the San Diego Convention Centre, a massive structure decorated with imaginative GIS-centric designs.

Now I understand when spatial professionals say the Esri UC is the best place to feel inspired about GIS technology. Not only does the UC make you  appreciate GIS technology more, it also illustrates the role of GIS in the world we live in.

Among the unforgettable presentations on the day were Jack Dangermond’s plenary keynote and US Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley’s.

I also went to the technical support corner to see the new features of ArcGIS. I had to go to Esri Maps for Office section and the Esri staff there demonstrated how to use the new software.

I was also quite excited to see my project poster displayed in the Map Gallery. All Esri Young Scholar Award recipients – including myself – gathered  at our respective posters to explain our projects to delegates who were interested in learning more.

I also took this opportunity to walk around the Map Gallery to see my counterparts’ work and learn from them. Even in such a short time, it certainly was a great way to way to share our ideas and experiences.

Day Five (21/7/2015)

First on the schedule for today is the  disaster management and response breakout session.

I was really looking forward to learning more about disaster management and response as my next research study may revolve around this topic.

I also visited the GIS technology area where I discovered the new trends shaping GIS technology plus latest features of the ArcGIS platform – especially features we can use to efficiently collect data.

During this time, I also took the opportunity to meet staff from the Cultural Heritage Engineering Institute and talk about their 3D equipment. I think the 3D equipment is very interesting and  we can use it to produce better results. More importantly, it is very user-friendly.

Day Six (22/7/2015)

Today we attended the Special Achievement in GIS award ceremony.

All of the Esri Young Scholars received their awards and had a group photo with Jack - who I grabbed the chance to take a selfie with!

It truly was one of the most unforgettable highlights of the week!

Day Seven (23/7/2015)

Capping off my Esri UC experience is the Thursday Night Party at San Diego’s Waterfront Park and the Maritime Museum.

With all kinds of food, music and performances, the most exciting moment at the party was when I again met Jack Dangermond and  his wife and when I tried rock climbing for the first time!

I also enjoyed visiting the Maritime Museum where I had the opportunity to board and explore the Museum’s collection of ships, steam-powered boats and submarines.

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