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How to eat an elephant: Advice from our 2016 Excellence Award Winner

Written by Perri, a fourth year Bachelor of Laws with a Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in Criminology. She impressed GLP staff with her Excellence Award application and was one of two Undergraduate Excellence Awardees at our Innovative Leaders Series event with Audette Exel AO in September this year.

I’ve always been a strong believer in never judging a book by its cover.

Growing up with anxiety has taught me one thing about both myself and others around me; you should never underestimate the power of support and friendship when it comes to challenging yourself.

My journey in the Global Leadership Program started in 2015, and oddly, I have had the eye-opening experience of experiencing both worlds, Macquarie life with the GLP and without the Program. My first two years at University, I treated it a lot like school – I basically didn’t participate in anything apart from my classes, turned up, then left. I often felt too shy to talk to people, and never dreamed that I would ever be considered by the University for any sort of exchange opportunity due to, well, not being the sort of person who easily adapts to social situations. At the end of my second year of University, I felt as though I needed to change, and to change now or nothing will become easier to overcome in the future.

As a result, in 2015 I joined the GLP with the guidance of a dear friend who was undertaking the Program, and instantly, my life changed. I started to gain confidence in myself, recognise my skills and have confidence in them, identify my weaknesses, and expand upon them to make them my strengths. I developed strong friendships and support networks, and have been able to truly embrace my anxiety and question my hesitation in pursuing opportunities. The GLP has not only opened doors for me in terms of providing avenues of change and diverse perspectives on issues I previously took for granted, but has also given me the tools to build doors for myself and combat my fears, anxieties, and my lack of confidence in myself as a global leader.

After winning the 2016 Global Leadership Program Excellence Award, many students approached me and asked how I completed so much with the small amount of space I had remaining in my degree.

My answer to this is simple: I combated my fears, and applied for opportunities with gusto!

I say this, because I feel that a lot of students forget that there are so many opportunities available out there for budding leaders – they need only apply for them. I fear that so many students suffer the same way I did at the beginning of the Program, where I did not have the faith in my own abilities, let alone thinking of myself as a deserving ‘global leader’.

If I could offer present and future students one piece of advice, I would offer them this: I believe that becoming a global leader is a process, and not something that you become once you have achieved a certain amount of outcomes.

For me, the biggest contributor to considering myself as a global leader was overcoming my anxiety and pushing through personal boundaries to fuel my professional goals. Participating in activities, such as the public speaking Colloquium provided by Convener Bruce Thomson, gave me a profound sense of confidence in myself, and allowed me to challenge myself both professionally and personally to pursue other opportunities which I would not have been able to achieve without the aid of such support. Being able to study overseas in South Korea and New York for Experiential Credit also widened my perspective beyond the Australian landscape, and has allowed me to think more holistically and critically about issues which I had previously took for granted, allowing me to influence and pursue positive change upon my return.

I personally love the saying ‘How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.’

My father said this to me at the airport as tears flooded down my face the first time I boarded an airplane by myself, off to a foreign land where I didn’t speak the language, had no contacts and no one to welcome me. The terror and exhilaration that I felt when I boarded that plane, flight attendants smiling sadly at me as I sobbed silently clutching my passport, still remains in my mind as one of the most prominent memories of my adult life. And always, that quote comes to mind.

Because how do you eat an elephant? How do you combat your anxiety, your fears, your worry that you won’t be accepted because you aren’t good enough? How do you go out there and pursue international experience when domestic experience is hard enough? How do you fight for the chance to create positive change for those around you through the sheer willpower of one individual?

One mouthful at a time.

That, for me, is my personal experience of the Global Leadership Program, and I urge every student who reads this blog to go out there and challenge yourself, because really, at the end of the day, your fears are the only thing holding your back.

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