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A focus on science: Tailoring your GLP experience to your studies

Nicholas is in his final year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Human Biology.

The Global Leadership Program is a fantastic way to experience many opportunities the world has to offer and put Macquarie students, such as myself, in environments that challenge us both personally and professionally. However, sometimes it can be difficult to tailor these opportunities to your studies as I found being a science student, particularly with a major in Human Biology. But it is certainly not impossible!

One of the first volunteer-based projects on which I worked, was organized through PACE with a partner organisation called Know One Teach One or KOTO. KOTO is a social enterprise in Vietnam that provides hospitality training, English & life skills education to disadvantaged youth. I had a wonderful time teaching the trainees English at various levels for 4 weeks and this was the start of my passion for volunteering and overseas work. I remember coming home and thinking, “on my next trip, I want to work in a medical science or health related field”.

On my return I decided to plan for a second trip working in a medical science or health related environment. This took many hours of research and strings of emails going back and forth between various organizations and myself. I was very keen to find an opportunity in my field of study. Eventually, I came across an organisation through which I volunteered in a children’s medical centre in Chile. I worked in the radiography area of the centre and assisted with X-raying children aged from just a few months to 15 or 16 years. Despite the language barrier, the experience was great because it forced me to speak and practice Spanish with my supervisor and the children. Furthermore, I learnt to interpret X-rays, worked on some basic administrative tasks in Spanish and attempted discussions about patient’s symptoms and possible diagnoses. Even better still, my studies at Macquarie complemented the work and enabled me to put knowledge I already had into a professional environment. I also used my language study at Macquarie and at an International School in Chile as a means of preparation for the volunteer work. I was able to use the trip to claim experiential credit.

Since returning home, I have attended a 1-day conference on Infectious diseases that focused on current global eradication campaigns and the associated barriers to success, the HIV epidemic and other diseases that are particularly relevant to modern day society. The conference really put content learnt at Macquarie into perspective and showed where attention has been placed in order to alleviate the current issues in health both in Australia and globally. These conferences create great environments to network with professionals and staff in your field of study or interest. You never know who you’ll meet!

I am hoping to embark on postgraduate studies in Public Health next year as I wish to contribute to disease management and epidemiology both locally and internationally. By volunteering in Vietnam and Chile, I have developed essential communication skills and discovered how important this is when working in a cross-cultural environment. In addition, teaching English in Vietnam, even though not directly related to science has given me even greater experience of working in a team and highlighted the benefits of collaboration. Epidemiology often seems to involve large teams of people from a wide variety of disciplines and hence collaboration is an essential skill in such an environment. Furthermore, learning Spanish overseas has inspired me to continue practicing and speaking a second language here at home, which will increase the global opportunities available to me as part of my postgraduate studies and future career choice. Luckily for me, it so happens that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world!

Tailoring experiential credit can often seem difficult, particularly for science students, but there are always opportunities out there. With the assistance of GLP staff and consistent research your next GLP opportunity in your chosen field may be only an email away.

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