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Reflections on how the Global Leadership Program transformed my university experience

By Rachel Hogan, Bachelor of Arts with a Bachelor of Education (Secondary)

The end of 2022. The time I have looked forward to for four years. The time when I no longer have to listen to lectures, spend countless hours in the library completing assignments, or stress about exams. The time when I can finally go out into the world and do what I have always dreamed of doing – teach.

My final semester at university has always seemed like a spec in the distance, a little shimmering light on the horizon. But now that I have finally reached this much anticipated end to my undergraduate degree, I can’t help but feel that my time at university has disappeared in the blink of an eye. Where did the time go?

As all graduates seem to do, I have started to look back on my time at Macquarie. Surprisingly, it’s not the stress of assessment deadlines that stands out; it’s the people and the experiences I had. For that, I owe the Global Leadership Program a great deal of gratitude. And so, I invite you, dear reader, to come on a journey with me as I reminisce on the opportunities I had by completing the GLP. And maybe, just maybe, I can inspire you to embrace everything the GLP has to offer.

25th February 2019

My first day of university. I walk down Wally’s Walk for the first time, an introverted 17-year old girl, nervous for this morning’s lecture and classes. It’s been a while since I’ve known absolutely no one. The fear of small talk and ice-breaker activities pulsing through my bloodstream, I take a seat in the back corner of the Lotus lecture theatre. I took a breath. ‘It will be okay,’ I tell myself. ‘You will figure it out.”

It was on this day that I actually learnt what the GLP was all about. I had received early entry into Macquarie through the GLP scheme, but I wasn’t aware of what was actually involved in the program. So, I attended the introductory session that afternoon. I was amazed by the abundant opportunities available to me – things that I was interested in and already doing could count towards its completion. Plus, it was going to look excellent on my resume. I was hooked.

I started my GLP journey by enrolling in Colloquia. As an undergraduate, I needed to attend ten sessions, so I thought it would be best to start them ASAP so I wasn’t rushed to complete them later on in my degree. The range of topics that were available to choose from meant I could attend sessions that suited my interests and boosted my knowledge of relevant world issues. With so many options, I decided to first complete the three mandatory colloquia – 'Communicating Across Cultures', 'Leadership for Impact in a Complex World', and 'Beyond Borders'. Each one was a great segue into the program as the values of culture, leadership and global citizenship underpinned these sessions. By developing my understanding of what these concepts meant in our daily lives as well as worldwide, these sessions broadened my scope of the kinds of activities I could engage in to obtain Experiential Credit.

So, in Semester 1, 2020, I decided to apply to be a part of the MQ Peer Mentors. Having had a mentor during my first semester, I wanted to give back to the university by helping first years settle into university life. And I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to enhance my leadership skills and connect with the Macquarie University community. I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering during O-Week, providing tours and answering questions. I also loved assisting my mentees throughout the semester, sending personalised weekly emails to keep them up to date with all the goings-on at Macquarie. But the absolute highlight of this was being able to connect with so many like-minded people, many of whom were also completing the GLP. Hearing their experiences, I was more motivated than ever to continue gaining Experiential Credit points by venturing out into the world, attending events and participating in activities I loved. Maybe, just maybe, I would even do a semester abroad…

March 2020

Covid-19 has hit NSW. My whole family is stuck studying and working from home now. The dining room table has transformed into an administration office, a Year 10 classroom, and a university lecture theatre. It’s cramped, it’s distracting, and I don’t know how much longer I will be able to stand the humming that is coming from the other side of the table. Hopefully everyone will be allowed out of their isolation bubbles soon…

I had always imagined my university life being a balance between completing assignments and exploring the world. Yet, it seemed the world had other plans. The pandemic sent us into lockdown, and we were not allowed to leave our homes, let alone explore neighbouring or overseas communities. This presented a great challenge for those of us completing the GLP – how could we possibly engage with Colloquia and complete Experiential Credit now?

Just as we had to adapt to online learning, the GLP had to adapt to a virtual world. And what a success it was. Many events were now held via Zoom, allowing for greater flexibility as we could easily find time of an afternoon or evening to attend, all from the comfort of our lounge rooms. Curled up on the lounge with a blanket, I took my mind off Covid for a few hours to attend Colloquium sessions and think about other current social issues, from racism to the #MeToo movement, and how I could make a positive difference in the world through effective altruism. I was also able to attend two seminars, captivated by the charismatic speakers as one discussed assumptions about refugees, the other about the power of literature in communicating different perspectives. Careers events were also moved to Zoom meetings, and I was able to engage with Macquarie alumni and representatives from TeachNSW to discover more about my future as a high school teacher.

The introduction of Virtual Cultural Days also provided a means for me to engage with other cultures without having to leave my home. Through iLearn, modules were developed and I was able to complete the interactive activities at my own pace over two weeks. Areas in Sydney that I had never ventured to before were now at my fingertips, and I became immersed in learning about the rich cultural histories of Auburn and Parramatta. Migrant experiences, diverse languages, the food – all of it was accessible through videos, articles and challenges. Even virtually, I was able to experience the new and amazing flavours that cultural dishes had to offer, stepping outside my comfort zone to create home-cooked daal!

But what was also at the forefront of my mind was the wellbeing of my peers. I wanted to continue supporting my community during these difficult times, and decided to apply to be a Peer Leader. In this role, I was able to work with a group of MQ Mentors to develop virtual social activities and support other students while learning from home. Boosting morale was an extremely rewarding experience, especially as, by helping others stay connected, I did too!

Adapting all of these events so that they could run virtually is something I am extremely grateful for. Completing GLP activities was one of the main things which helped me maintain a positive mindset during lockdowns through the opportunities to engage with peers and have topical discussions about issues besides Covid. They provided a necessary escape and a means to connect with the outside world, transforming my university experience from virtual to personal.

28th February 2022

I’m not sure where the past three years have gone, but I’m now apparently in my final year at university. “I’ve hardly ever set foot on campus, yet, as a fourth year, I should know the ins and outs of the place,” my friend huffs. The rest of my group can’t help but laugh at this comment as we stroll down Wally’s Walk - even we have no idea where our next class is!

It was time to escape the multiple lockdowns and get back to face-to-face learning. Thanks to Zoom, I had now attended my ten Colloquia, and was about halfway to completing my 200 Experiential Credit points. But I was a bit worried given my workload – how was I going to complete all these activities in just one year on top of all of my university assignments and work?

I voiced my concerns to one of my friends in the GLP and she pointed out that my PACE units counted as an internship. I was thrilled! Embedded in my degree were four opportunities to undertake so it was relieving to hear that the hours I dedicated to my professional development as a teacher were recognised by the program. In addition to my placements, one of my mandatory units – Indigenous Education – was also able to go towards my Experiential Credit. Its cross-cultural focus by exploring positionality, educational policies regarding First Nations people, and differentiation strategies to employ in the classroom made for an eye-opening learning experience which has challenged me to investigate and meaningfully engage with the wide range of cultural backgrounds of my students.

So it was with the completion of my placements and my unit of study that I found myself finishing my GLP with 240 points…

24th October 2022

My final day of university classes. My final day as a university student. My final day as a GLP participant. And I can’t believe I am 10 points short of graduating with merit.

“How about you write a blog article then?” my friend suggests to me across our desk in the library. That one comment set a lightbulb off in my head. ‘Yes,’ I thought. ‘And I have the perfect idea in mind.’

A few hours later and it’s done. A reflection on my time in the GLP. Everything I’ve done. Everything I’ve learnt. Everything I’ve achieved. I smile, all the memories of the past four years floating in the forefront of my mind.

What a time I had.

And so, I close my laptop, packing up my belongings with my friends. I exit the library and walk down Wally’s Walk, surrounded by the people I met through the GLP, and others we picked up along the way. But this time, it’s not nerves that fill me. It’s excitement.

I’m ready for what the future holds.


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