My Story of Attending the St.Gallen Symposium

Hongtao Hao / 2021-12-30


The following is my story of attending the 47th St.Gallen Symposium. I wrote this story back in 2018.

I wrote my memories of attending the Symposium in Chinese as well, which is more thorough.

I attended the latest Symposium and it is having an unbelievable impact on my life. I could not imagine my life without having been influenced by the activity. I am now applying for a PhD and the aspiration for the area I want to do research on comes from my essay for the Essay Competition. Preparing for the Competition made me convinced of what I am passionate about.

What changed me the most are the people I met there. When thinking about my three-day experience in St. Gallen, I want to cry with smiles. I was literally moved and touched. Every moment was there in my memory: the bread I got when we gathered for the first time around the train station; the excitement I felt when I for the first time met and TALKED with so many energetic young people around the world on bus on the way to the snow mountain; The boat-ride on the beautiful lake; going up the little hill in the morning to the university; mingling with bright minds from the world when we were eating and drinking; watching people dance with the self-played music……

The people I met gave me great confidence. It made me believe that all my hard work in the past 25 years paid off. I was born and raised in a very small and poor village in the northern part of China. I am the first college student in my family. I could not believe that a student like me could one day be invited abroad and to attend such a top-notch activity. Rishi, a guy from New York University kept telling me that “Tal, you are a Leader of Tomorrow, you can do everything”. It felt like a dream, a day-time dream.

John Clark, whom I met there, also impacted me greatly. I could not believe that I could one day talk with a guy from Harvard and Cambridge. The two-hour talk with him also had a great impact on my academic career. My essay for the Symposium was about the possibility of Brain-to-Brain Communication. It just seemed like fancy. Even myself did not believe that it would be possible in the near future. I talked with him and he said that he was doing research on how governments should be prepared for technological innovations. He told me his vision for augmented reality. His explanation made me realize that I was not the only one who was doing research on the future and this gave me the confidence to move on.

I also met Jiska from the Netherlands, Katharina from Austria, Minwoo from South Korea. I met Pia and Jianjian who were students at SGU. I remembered the talk with Jiska when we were on the boat and when we were in the bar. I remembered I walked to our apartments with Katharina after the dinner. We walked on the roads and talked. Looking back, it seemed to me that I was walking on another planet since everything is so different from what I was accustomed to back in China. The lights far away when we walked and everything I passed were still in my memory clearly.

The activity only lasted for three days, but I felt like it was about 10 days since so many details of my experiences were in my mind. As I said, I could not imagine what my life course would be like if I did not attend the activity.

Another guy that influenced me was the British cyborg, Neil. As I said, my essay was about B2B communication, i.e., people communicating with each other without texting or even speaking. Neil’s talk at the symposium made me realize that human augmentation is not only thoughts and theories: he put it into practice. He made me think about the future of humanity and this is what I want to study. His talks, or, his mere presence was a huge influence on what I perceived about the future.

Having attended the St. Gallen Symposium has now become one of my identities. The images of that small city, the roads, the hills, the bars, the lectures, and the people are now deep in my consciousness. I am so grateful for the universe because of my stay there.

I downloaded most of the videos when I returned from the Symposium. I still remember that on the last afternoon of the three-day activity, I cried when the two students on stage were giving the closing remarks. I did not know why I cried. I was touched. I was moved. The moment made me think that all human beings are the same. I remembered people clapping their hands when the remarks were over. I clapped hard, very hard, for five or ten minutes straight.

I am now close to 26 years old. Sometimes I would think that I had experienced much and no longer view myself young. Attending the symposium was an exception. Now, I will always become surprised when I look at photos of me taken during the symposium. I was so young, so energetic, so passionate, and so promising. I left the best part of me there. Every time I feel unworthiness, when I lose my self-confidence, when I become frustrated, I’ll get some motivation and happiness when I think of what I experienced in that little place called St. Gallen.

Last modified on 2022-05-18