A Student’s Life Changing Experience At Cannes Lions

Once I heard about the Young Lions Academy, I was determined to be part of this world-renowned program because of the amazing things I’d heard about it. A chance to learn from the best of the creative industry for 5 days by the beach in Cannes, who wouldn’t want that?

I sent in my CV to The Worx, the Cannes Lions representatives in Egypt, and then was called in for a small competition with 13 other applicants. We were evaluated based on our critical thinking skills as well as our creativity after which the committee selected me and two other applicants to proceed to the next step.

To finalize the application process, I had to submit a video to the Cannes Lions selection committee convincing them why I should be the one that gets to go. This was the most challenging phase of the application because I’d never done anything like that before. I decided to film a Friends-inspired video since I’m a huge fan of the series.

My cousins and I recreated the scene with the trivia questions to settle who knows who best, but we changed the questions to be trivia questions about me. I thought this would be fun way to convey to the committee my personality and achievements, but I honestly didn’t think that it would actually get me accepted; it felt like such a long shot.

When I found out I got accepted to the Roger Hatchuel Academy*, I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited because it was going to be my first time to attend any professional event related to advertising or the creative industry in general; and let me tell you, this was by far one of the most enriching experiences ever.


Me and Cannes Lions

I remember on our very last day, our mentors asked us to discuss with our group the ups and downs of our week and I looked to my group and told them that there was literally no part of the week that I would classify as a “down”.

Going back to day one, I actually arrived late because of a delayed flight, so I entered the class in the middle of a lecture to find Wyclef Jean, the man who wrote Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” giving a talk! I knew then that I was in for an incredible week.

The entire week followed with inspiring talks from different people from the industry.

They told us about their journeys and experiences which I honestly think will guide me through my own journey. The experience with the Roger Hatchuel academy was very practical and engaging. Every day we would gather in our class and “check in” which basically means that each one of the students would describe how he/she is feeling about the day in one word.

Then, we would listen to the talks scheduled for that day and get the chance to engage in a Q&A session with our speakers which was extremely beneficial. At the end of the day we would gather again in a circle and “check out”.

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We also had the opportunity to be hosted at the Google beach to learn from Googlers from all over the world who taught us about the importance of design, research, and strategy.

My favorite talk, however, was about a campaign called #IAmRemarkable** which is about how women and underrepresented groups should celebrate their achievements more openly without having to worry that they’re self-involved or anything of the sort.


Inspired and Ready; After Cannes

The campaign and the experience were inspirational and taught me to be proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished so far. I also got to attend talks given by some of my favorite celebrities such as Camillo Cabello, Shonda Rhimes, and Jesse Williams which was insane!

I was moved most by Shonda Rhimes’ talk because it was about smashing beauty stereotypes in the creative industry, something I’m very passionate about.

Overall, it was quite the learning experience and I came back to Egypt feeling motivated and ready to change the world.

That being said, I have to say that what made this week the most memorable were my classmates and mentors.

We were a class of 38 students with 32 different nationalities but managed to become a family within 5 days. The first thing I told my friends and family here in Egypt when I came back was that it’s astonishing how I was sitting in a room with 38 people and each and every single one of them were so friendly, supportive, motivated, and just pure-hearted. I was privileged to share this experience with them.

We got to learn and broaden our horizons by day, and party together and bond all night! And our mentors were truly our backbones. They guided us through the entire week, making sure we got the best experience we could possibly get, and we did.

If I were to narrow it down to key takeaways, it wouldn’t be a specific speech or topic we covered, it would be the family I gained and the fire that’s inside me urging and driving me to do the most I can with my life and use all the knowledge I gained to benefit our society and the world we live in.

I can’t quite put my finger on what lit that fire because the entire week contributed to that, but I can safely say that I grew as a person in those 5 days more than I ever thought I would. It was, without a doubt, a life changing experience.


Editor’s Notes

*The Roger Hatchuel Academy is a student learning program by Cannes Lions Academy designed to introduce students to the advertising industry and help them kick-start their careers.

The author is the first student to attend the Roger Hatchuel Academy from Egypt.

** #IAmRemarkable is a Google initiative that “strives to empower women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond, thereby breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings.”

Habiba Waly

Habiba is a Junior at the American University in Cairo, and the first student to attend the Roger Hatchuel Academy from Egypt. She is an avid Friends fan, who has joined several MUN conferences as a delegate, secretariat and was a member of the organizing committees.