Look mum, I’m a diplomat!

Over the past two years I have had the privilege to travel to Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, South Korea and New York. I was a United Nations delegate for Egypt, India, Portugal, Dominica, Saudi Arabia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Well… not in a literal sense, let me explain my GLP journey to you.

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United Nations Stall, O-Week 2015

For the past two years I have been heavily involved in Model United Nations (MUN), holding two executive positions within the Macquarie United Nations Society on campus. The aim of MUN is to allow students to engage in an academic simulation of the United Nations, by taking on the role of Diplomats and representing different countries. By preparing draft resolutions, plotting strategy, negotiating with supporters and adversaries, resolving conflicts, and navigating the United Nations rules of procedure as applied in the respective United Nations bodies, all in the interest of mobilising “international cooperation” to scrutinize international issues, argue, deliberate, consult, and finally develop solutions to world problems.

My MUN experience peaked when I, along with two other Macquarie students, took the plunge and decided to make a bid to host the Asia Pacific Model United Nations conference at Macquarie. This required a lot of hard work, emails, phone calls and organising that resulted in a 27 page document! A conversation with GLP staff, Chloe and Tara, helped to boost our confidence and open doors we didn’t know existed when navigating university systems. Our GLP experiences taught us to stand up for global issues and stand out from the pack, and it was this that ultimately influenced the theme of the conference we envisioned hosting.

The proposed theme was ‘A New Frontier’; the exploration and navigation of our world and the unknown challenges and triumphs that lay before us. Allowing for a visionary way to view our world in the past, the present and the future tense. Creating the means for delegates to observe the challenges and changes global society faces in the modern day, and discussing how the international community can best address them. We were aiming for delegates to be exposed to how past and current events in the world impact the day-to-day functioning of society, politics and relations between states, with hopes to facilitate a fluid and complex interaction between decisions and their impacts politically, socially and globally over a period of time. The theme would afford delegates the opportunity to observe what could have been with the benefit of hindsight at their disposal.

Though we were not successful in our endeavour we were able to utilise our skills and take a risk that I would dare say we’re all better off for!

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SydMUN 2013 and 2014 reconnecting with old friends from the Third General Assembly!

Model UN conferences are a great way to build networks with like minded people, just as we’re encouraged to do through GLP. With a diverse range of students participating from all sorts of majors, and the chance to meet delegates from other universities and countries, Model UN is the perfect blend of intellectual and social.

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My first ever conference, SydMUN 2013 #clicheMUNphoto

Imagine having the opportunity to assume the role of a delegate representing Yemen, discussing maternal health in the developing world. Taking on the role of a country that is different to my own and having to look at pressing issues from a different point of view has taught me to think outside of the box and look beyond my own experiences to create effective solutions.

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On my way to Seoul, South Korea to compete at the Harvard World Model United Nations 2015

There are conferences all over the country—and the world, so get out of town! Whether you want to take a trip to USyd or UTS and experience a conference at a different uni, or go to Canberra, Brisbane or Melbourne, even Germany, New York or Russia, there are dozens of different opportunities to explore the world around you through Model United Nations. I can say with confidence that I have gained a couch to sleep on in every continent through MUN!

Without the GLP and the encouragement of GLP staff I’m not sure that I would have taken initiative, or had the drive to get out of my comfort zone, stop coasting through my degree, create great experiences and become a better version of myself.

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Some of my MUN memories!

 

*Jeanette Nkrumah

Jeanette has just completed a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations and Media, Culture and Communication. She finished up the GLP with a whopping 260 experiential credit points! A number of those points were from the many Model United Nations conferences Jeanette participated in.

For Undergraduate students, Model United Nations is applicable for 40 experiential credit points. For Postgraduate students, Model United Nations can be claimed as an international or domestic conference. More details on how to claim a Model United Nations can be found in your guidebook or get in touch with your GLP Advisor.

If you would like to join the Macquarie Model United Nations Society check out their Facebook page.

Leadership lessons from a local on the Cabramatta Cultural Day

Cabramatta is a cultural hub, busy and full of life. In October I took part in the GLP’s Cultural Day of the suburb to hear from local residents and organisations that work in the community, discover the cultural landmarks and sample some of the South East Asian food! It was an amazing experience and hearing some of the hardships encountered by residents was truly inspiring. From the perspective of a nineteen year old, growing up in a world where everything is in arms reach and there are so many opportunities, we tend to lose touch of how lucky we are. Hearing the diverse stories and hardships of some of the Cabramatta Cultural Day speakers instilled an appreciation for the day to day luxuries that others do not have.

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Students on the Cabramatta Cultural Day

During our day we were lucky to meet with Jenny, an immigrant with the most amazing story! Jenny lived through and survived the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. From 1975 to 1979, the communist Khmer Rouge movement evacuated Phnom Penh’s 2.5 million residents. Former civil servants, doctors, teachers and other professionals were stripped of their possessions and forced to toil in the fields as part of a re-education process. Those that complained about the work, concealed their rations or broke rules were usually tortured in detention centres, such as the infamous S-21, and then killed. The bones of people who died from malnutrition or inadequate healthcare filled up mass graves across the country. An estimated 1.5 million people died or were killed during the regime.

Under Pol Pot, the state controlled all aspects of a person’s life. Money, private property, jewelry, gambling and most reading material and religion were outlawed. Agriculture was collectivized, children were taken from their homes and forced into the military and strict rules governing sexual relations, vocabulary and clothing were laid down.

Jenny, who speaks five different languages, came from an educated, wealthy family. Jenny spoke of how they were all stripped of their possessions and marched down to work in a field where she ended up staying for the three years of the Pol Pot regime. Education was not valued and if you had it, you would ‘disappear’ as she put it. For three years, Jenny kept quiet and did not speak to anyone out of fear she would lose her life. She spoke of how she lost 10 family members during this time. Luckily, Jenny escaped Cambodia with her family in the 1970s.

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Jenny Tew speaking to students on the Cabramatta Cultural Day

Although she was free from the atrocities in Cambodia, she was not yet completely free. Jenny, her mother and two siblings were taken to a refugee camp. Fortunately, Jenny’s father had encouraged her to learn English and she used her skills to assist fellow refugees with interpreting in the camp. The UN’s refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), arranged for Jenny and her family to be placed in Germany.  However, Jenny’s mother was unhappy with this decision, as she and the family were unable to speak German and would likely have to work in an industrial factory. It was through Jenny’s determination and perseverance that the family migrated to Australia in 1981. Jenny approached a visiting Australian diplomat in the camp and negotiated for the move to Australia.

Jenny’s strength and courage combined with her will to carry on brought her great success in Australia. She has two sons, who are in successful careers, one even studies at Macquarie! Since her first role as an interpreter in healthcare in Australia, Jenny has worked seven days a week, 365 days a year to build two successful businesses. She is currently an education and migration agent, supporting international students and immigrants as they establish themselves in Australia, and also has a shop in Cabramatta, which sells her amazing “bum pants”- a creation of Jenny’s that give women curves in the right places! She was also one of the first women to sell Shiseido make up in Australia!  She is an example of triumph, embodies the true Australian values and is an outstanding leader.

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Freedom Gate in Cabramatta, which is opposite Jenny’s shop

In 2012, Jenny was recognised as a People of Australia Ambassador for her endless work in her community to make sure everyone fits in and is doing well. You can find her vibrant little store on the corner right opposite Freedom Plaza in Cabramatta. It is absolutely worth a look!

I feel that as a young person, Jenny is such an inspiring person to look up to. She has so much strength and determination! She is what it means to be a Global Leader, she has taken every hardship she has endured and has the courage and power to help others and to share her story with us to inspire and teach cross cultural understanding and empathy.

References

‘Pol Pot’, 2009, History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/pol-pot.

*By Jacinta Harmer

Jacinta is studying a Bachelor of Law, majoring in Criminology. Next year Jacinta is deferring her degree at Macquarie to join the Navy.

The Cultural Day Series is an opportunity to develop your communication and leadership skills in Sydney’s multicultural hubs through briefings with local organisations and residents, a walking tour and a “Scavenger hunt” with other GLP delegates. The GLP runs two Cultural Days a Session. Keep an eye out on our Facebook group and your student email for details on the first Cultural Day of 2016!

Unlocking your Potential: Lessons from another 2015 Excellence Award Winner

In today’s society there is an exorbitant amount of pressure placed upon school leavers to know what they want to do for the ‘rest of their life.’ When I was finishing school, I had no idea what I ‘wanted to be.’ At that point, I barely knew ‘who I was’. I had seen so much pain and unhappiness from adults that regretted not pursuing their dreams. I had also suffered the loss of a great love; and learnt that at any point life can be taken away. So to me, the pursuit of happiness is the pathway to success.

After school I embarked on an expedition to discover what I was going to dedicate the rest of my life to. I asked myself these things: What makes me leap out of bed in the morning? What challenges me? What makes me unconditionally committed? And most importantly, what makes me happy?

Our 2015 Excellence Award Winner, Ashley Avci.

Our 2015 Excellence Award Winner & Animal Rights Activist, Ashley Avci at the Killing Cove.

I realised that making others happy makes me happy. So I worked three jobs to save enough money, then packed my bags and headed overseas to volunteer with animals at a sanctuary. Here I met a little monkey named Joey. Joey’s bones never formed properly, he had severe rickets in his back and had no use of his tail. This was because he had never seen sunlight in his lifetime. Despite all this, he was the most cheerful monkey at the sanctuary. I realised that animals are effectively slaves without a human voice. They are, in fact, completely voiceless and need people to speak on their behalf – which was actually what brought me around to the decision to study law.

I have never really enjoyed studying. I thoroughly enjoy learning new things, however I find it very hard to sit still. After travelling around the world and volunteering I was anxious about commencing full-time study. My plan was to balance my short-term goals with my long-term goal of completing a university degree. I had to find a way to enjoy my life whilst studying.

I was lucky enough to come across the Global Leadership Program (GLP) in my first-year at university. The Global Leadership Program has given me a way to involve myself in current issues and affairs, and take part in projects that mean something.

Ashley on the job with Sea Shepherd

Ashley on the job with Sea Shepherd

University often causes a lot of stress for students, from societal pressures telling us to achieve high grades in order to get the highest paid job. However, graduates often lack experiences that provide us with soft skills such as knowledge of global issues, cross-cultural sensitivity and community responsibility. The GLP has provided me with so many insights into important issues I had no idea about. The first Distinguished Speaker Series I attended left me in awe of the students that won the Global Leadership Excellence Award. So much so, that it gave me the courage to do things I that I originally thought may be too difficult, or may be out of my comfort zone.

During my involvement with the program, I founded my own not-for-profit ‘Fin Free Sydney’ with my sister, which raises awareness about the impacts of shark finning and aims to change the negative perception of sharks. This led me to Dr. Mehreen Faruqi at NSW Parliament and her campaign ‘Let’s Take Shark Fin off the Menu in NSW’, and subsequently to an internship in Mehreen’s office at Parliament where I work on several animal welfare issues.

Ashley with her sister and NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi who Ashley works with on the 'Let's take shark fin off the menu in NSW' campaign.

Ashley with her sister and NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi who Ashley works with on the ‘Let’s take shark fin off the menu in NSW’ campaign.

This year we collaborated with a young journalist and produced a documentary feature on The Feed (SBS2) on shark finning in Australia (click here to watch). In each of these projects, I have used cross-cultural understanding and leadership skills that I have developed from the GLP.

While studying in 2013 I helped lead an international team of volunteers on Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s ‘Operation Infinite Patience’ documenting the capture of wild dolphins and whales for a lifetime spent in a bathtub, aka (marine entertainment parks). I watched as the most intelligent animal on the planet was stolen from their home and from their family. The skills I picked up on this campaign cannot be taught in any classroom, and they are exactly the kinds of skills the GLP is encouraging students to develop.

Operation Infinite Patience, The Cove Guardians Campaign

Operation Infinite Patience, the Cove Guardians Campaign (Sea Shepherd.org)

Through the encouragement of the GLP staff, I have continued to undertake several projects and develop ideas for future projects. The GLP has given me an outlet from study and provided me with goals that I can strive towards through participating in meaningful activities. In addition, it has helped launch my life goal to save the world.

There are so many opportunities in life awaiting you and the GLP is a magnificent way to help you seek them.

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential. – Winston Churchill.

Ashley Avci

Ashley is studying towards a Bachelor of Environmental Science with a Bachelor of Laws and began the Global Leadership Program at the start of 2013. Ashley impressed GLP staff with her Excellence Award application and was one of two Excellence Awardees at our Distinguished Speaker Series event with Rachel Botsman in October. One important theme the GLP team was particularly impressed with was Ashley’s single-minded dedication to a global issue she feels passionate about, and her seemingly limitless energy for educating those around her to build more momentum and awareness around the cause she is committed to. GLP also recognises that for many students for whom the ‘study-life’ does not come easily, it is important to combine the theoretical knowledge and academic pursuits with hands-on experience, networking, and engaging colloquium style learning which can diversify students’ knowledge, refresh, engage and inspire as it has for Ashley.

Brazil: Diverse yet Disparate

Brazil is a nation bursting with vibrancy, diversity, rich multiculturalism and ethnic heritage, music, dance, history, colour and breathtaking landscapes. Upon our recent visit to this awe-inspiring country, we as young leaders were exposed to an incredible amount of firsthand experiences that allowed us a deep insight into the cultural essence of Brazil. We did this through the exploration of both historical and modern sites, and by gaining a greater understanding of contemporary social and political issues facing Brazil through participation in briefings and active engagement with NGOs, corporates and government organisations. But as we wandered the beautiful streets of this remarkable nation, one particular issue of institutionalised racial discrimination and social stratification experienced by particular societal members of Brazil became increasingly noticeable to me.

GLP Brazil Symposium delegates in Salvador.

GLP Brazil Symposium delegates in Salvador.

To me, the first city we visited and Brazil’s first capital, Salvador, was by far the richest in social and cultural history. Immersing ourselves in the neighbourhood of Rio Vermelho in southern Salvador and Pelourinho in Salvador’s historical downtown showed us firsthand the blending of European, African and Amerindian cultures – with the contrast between the historical, slightly run-down buildings and lively, bustling shopkeepers and citizens, being truly indicative of the city’s diversity. In particular, Pelourinho (the Portuguese name for the historical downtown which is UNESCO Heritage Listed) highlighted the strong presence of Afro-Brazilian culture – and it was here that I began to notice signs of discrimination and prejudice emerging after we passed patrolling police strip-searching two Afro-Brazilian youth on the basis of “suspicion” – an early sign for us of the concerning presence of stigmatisation towards this cultural group.

Pelourinho, Salvador

Pelourinho, Salvador.

Music, dance and art emerged as key components of Brazilian culture – with the African influence being particularly evident both in Salvador and the Cantagalo Favela (best translated into “slum”) that we visited in Rio de Janeiro. The Afro-Brazilian Museum we visited in Salvador emphasised the importance of artwork as an expression and dissemination of the religion, beliefs and customs of Afro-Brazilian culture.

Compounding this was our wonderful visit to a drumming workshop with the Olodum music school and organisation in Pelourinho, which focuses on combatting racial discrimination and encouraging self-esteem and pride in Afro-Brazilian youth. These cultural experiences placed great emphasis on the strong sense of community and belonging established by the Afro-Brazilian society in Salvador, with their richness and strength showing great resistance to white oppression throughout history.

GLP Students having lessons at the Escola Olodum in Salvador, Brazil.

GLP Students having lessons at the Escola Olodum in Salvador, Brazil.

Concerning issues of subtly institutionalised racial inequality has resulted in poverty, inadequate housing and inequitable access to education and pose major obstacles to Brazil’s progress and wellbeing, and this was really highlighted when we visited the NGO Desabafo Social based in Salvador.

Monique Evelle is a 21-year old inspiration – as founder of the NGO Desabafo Social, she actively engages with youth in her Afro-Brazilian community to raise social awareness and promote a culture of human rights by stimulating their involvement in social causes. To date, she has personally ensured the success of 23 Afro-Brazilian students in securing a place at university – an articulation which is usually resisted by racial discrimination and the presumption that, as our tour guide Robert Merces put it, “blacks are only good for labour”.

As a victim of racial discrimination herself, Monique epitomises the strength and perseverance required to fight for justice and equality, and she shared her work and the realities of the social climate of her city with our group – work that has earned the title of being one of the 25 most influential Black women in Brazil.

GLP Symposium delegates with the founder of Brazilian youth NGO Desabafo Social, Monique Evelle.

GLP Symposium delegates with the founder of Brazilian youth NGO Desabafo Social, Monique Evelle.

After experiencing what I will always consider to be one of my most beautiful, engaging, enriching and eye-opening life experiences and lessons yet, I feel I can make a personal judgment about the people, culture and diversity of Brazil. As a multicultural nation characterised by such rich customs, traditions and practices, it can definitely be said that diversity is one of Brazil’s strengths. However, upon a deeper consideration of the level of inequality between different ethnic groups – in particular the marginalisation of the Afro-Brazilian community, you can appreciate the social issues and violations of human rights that exist in this nation. Its diversity is its strength, and yet it is its greatest challenge.

The 2015 GLP Brazil Symposium has educated, enlightened and inspired me with such depth and beauty – and as a young, first-year student, it has allowed me to discover my passion for human rights. So, fellow GLPers, I urge you to remember why you are a young leader and what motivates you to create positive change. There is an entire world out there awaiting enthusiastic, driven and passionate students like us to experience and gain knowledge of such issues and initiate change. We are, after all, the future. Brazil undoubtedly changed my life for the better. Let it change yours.

Shelby Sewak

Shelby Sewak is a first year B Psychology (Hons)/ B Laws student and begun her GLP at the start of 2015. She was selected through a competitive application process to be a delegate on the GLP’s International Symposium trip to Brazil in September, 2015. This Brazil Symposium is part of an ongoing GLP series and trips are advertised via email and social media generally 4-6 months before the trip is scheduled to run. You can also read blogs from previous trips including Madi Curby’s ‘Brazil: a Country of Blinding Contrasts’ or Sonika Kalra’s, ‘Rio 2016: Opportunity or Opportunistic?’.