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.


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