Emma Macintosh is a current GLP student. She is in her second year at Macquarie University, studying for a Bachelor of Arts.
My first year participating in the GLP has been fantastic! I’ve developed new skills, made new friends and claimed new credit points with each experience. Here is a snapshot of the many opportunities you can take part in…
For my first GLP experience I attended a conference run by Amnesty for university students. We spent the day learning about human rights issues, with a focus on gender inequality and asylum seeker policy. It was inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people and learn about practical ways to get active and change things that are unjust.
One thing leads to another! After meeting people at the conference I soon became involved with the Amnesty student group on campus. I developed a passion for asylum seeker and refugee policy issues. I attended more events and seminars on this subject, which also counted towards GLP credit. Later in 2014 I helped organise a conference on asylum seekers and refugees, attended by politicians, health and legal professionals and many reputable NGOs working in the field. I learnt a lot about event organising – I never knew so much planning could go behind one day!
The Cultural Day Series:
Speaking of event organising, each semester GLP staff organise cultural days. I went on the Cabramatta tour in May and spent a wonderful day meeting other GLP students, eating delicious food and discovering the rich history of Cabramatta. It was a great day of learning about and appreciating the diversity of cultures and nationalities that live within our own city.
Model United Nations:
In July I went to the Asia Pacific Model United Nations conference in Brisbane, to debate refugee policy and the Refugee Convention. It may sound nerdy to research a country and a set topic and debate a draft resolution with other students while pretending to be a delegate for a country you may not have even heard of before… but it was such a fun experience. Model UN is a brilliant invention! I made new friends and learnt new skills in diplomacy, negotiation, debating, how to represent a view that you may not personally agree with, and the art of compromise. Model UN is a great way to learn about particular issues in depth, from all perspectives; it makes you open to different points of view. These skills are undoubtedly just as applicable to the real world as they are to the world of model UN!
In Semester 2 2014 I applied to be a mentor with LEAP, a program that aims to increase the participation of students from refugee backgrounds in higher education. This has been an incredibly worthwhile and rewarding experience. Although I was a mentor and supposed to be imparting wisdom of sorts, I learned much more than I could have imagined from the students, about resilience and perseverance. I know many other mentors share this feeling!
In the summer holidays I went on a PACE International trip with 10 other girls from Macquarie to work with the NGO ‘Peru’s Challenge’ in rural Cuzco, Peru. Every day our group worked tirelessly on construction and taught holiday classes in the community school. Myself and two other interns helped the NGO with marketing, policy and funding work, while the entire group also helped with additional important administrative tasks in the afternoons.
I’ve always been a bit cynical about ‘voluntourism,’ but I’m glad to say that PACE restored my faith that a well-designed program can, in fact, work well and benefit everyone involved. There is no doubt we, as volunteers, gained a lot in return for all our hard work. We gained the satisfaction of seeing the results of our physical labour as we opened a new classroom at the school! We delved outside our comfort zones, experienced a new culture and country, and practised our Spanish. We learnt about development work while experiencing extreme poverty first hand. This was an important part of our learning and empathy building; an impetus to continue working hard at home to change the injustices of the world whenever possible.
Overall, I’ve learned and gained a lot from one year participating in the GLP – perhaps more than in the degree I’m completing! (haha). You need to have experience before you can contribute, and learn before you can lead. I think that’s a big part of what the GLP is all about.