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An Idealist in a Realist's World

When I first learnt that I had gained early entry into Macquarie University under the Global Leadership Program, I was ecstatic. Beside the stress it took away from me as a year twelve student in the middle of my trials, the GLP presented an opportunity for leadership and development in the real world. I had served as School Captain in my final year, but I was hungry for more. I was like so many young leaders who have an idealistic dream, one in which they help change the world.

Fast forward to my second year of university and my desire for leadership, my passion for correcting social injustice had pretty much come to a standstill. I had not attended any Colloquia, I regularly ignored the GLP emails (sorry!), and I hadn’t given a second thought to how I would build up my required 200 points. I was stuck. I convinced myself that a large part of this was because I was becoming more focused on my study, and adapting to a new environment.

But in reality, I think it had a lot more to do with a service project which I undertook to a remote Indigenous Community in the Northern Territory in lieu of going to Schoolies. An opportunity which had presented itself after year twelve and one which I had taken with open hands, excited at the prospect of meeting new people, experiencing a new culture and travelling with new friends. But the reality was that this idealistic girl, who had travelled to the Red Centre, returned home a disheartened realist; one who couldn’t quite comprehend how privilege of birth had afforded her so many opportunities while countless others faced an uncertain future. For me, the question of “what would you like to be when you finish school” had brought with it hope and endless possibility, yet when I had asked a young student from an Indigenous school the same question, he had merely replied “nothing”.

From that moment, the idea of leadership and affecting change seemed somewhat naïve to me, with the GLP representing the continuation of an idealistic vision which had been shattered. And so, I pretty much ignored every opportunity to attend Colloquia or participate in GLP activities. In fact, when a friend of mine insisted I come with her to my first Colloquia, I enrolled, wondering what I could learn from a talk entitled “Getting the Message Across: the Fundamentals of Effective Public Speaking”. Weirdly enough, it was sitting in this classroom, with a group of students I had never met before, listening to a talk on the importance of phonics that I felt the idealistic spark of hope ignite once more within me.

Slowly, as I began to attend more Colloquia, and engage in discussions ranging from the importance of culture in the global workforce, to the place of men after #MeToo, this spark continued to grow. I began to read the GLP emails, keeping my eyes open for any opportunity to participate in GLP activities, ranging from community service activities, to seminars, until this spark had become a full on flame.

There is something uniquely satisfying about sitting in a classroom (or behind a computer on Zoom), listening to people from all walks of life discuss and explore important topics. For me, it was the much needed lesson that leadership is not just about serving others and seeking immediate answers to problems. It’s about education, communication, global-awareness and most importantly, it’s about becoming comfortable with the reality of the world around you before you can effectuate change.

The GLP has helped me realise that you can be an idealist in a realist's world, and for that, I am forever thankful!