Words by Kelsey, 20 NSW
The girl I was a year ago wouldn’t recognise the girl I am now.
The past year has been an absolute whirlwind. I’ve lived in two countries, visited three more, made friends from around the globe, and stepped so far out of my comfort zone I had to redefine it.
You might have heard people preach just how life-changing travel can be. Is there really truth to their words? After 6 months abroad (and with another 5 months to go) I can honestly say that my life has transformed in the most profound and unexpected ways.
I’m a strong advocate for engaging in international experiences especially during your youth. Travelling the world around you is an opportunity to broaden your perspective, deepen your engagement with global issues, and gain the tools to become the force of change you wish to see in the world.
This desire to make the world a better place is what drew me to the idea of working and living abroad. If this opportunity was available for me to develop my skills, contribute to society, and see the world, why wouldn’t I take it?
Living in Bangkok really exposed me to the development challenges which beset Asia. I’m from Newcastle, NSW, – a far cry from the mega-city of Bangkok. I found myself struggling with culture shock for the first few weeks.
Where was I to go to get my groceries?
How was I supposed to drink water or cook safely?
How does one do washing if the tap water is unsafe?
Living for months in a developing country provided me with the ability to truly embrace and appreciate local experiences.
I saw first-hand the challenges of implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including the reliance on single use plastics, over-population, and lack of basic infrastructure. This inspired me to think globally, creatively, and with more compassion.
This past year I have taken so many leaps and bounds outside my comfort zone that I can’t keep track anymore! I lived in Bangkok while I was working at the UN. This was a crazy, insightful, monumental, and life-changing experience all in one! I was working in the Environment and Development Division, mainly helping to write a flagship report on urban sustainability. Every work day was different. One day I would be drafting social media posts about plastic pollution, the next I would be taking minutes for a closed-door meeting. When I graduate I want to represent Australia as a climate diplomat. My experience in Bangkok has given me such transformative insight into multilateralism, international policy, and global sustainability challenges which will ultimately help me reach this goal!
I lived in a non-English speaking country in a neighbourhood where I could communicate with very few people. I went from living a relatively no-waste lifestyle in Australia to struggling to find anything which wasn’t wrapped in plastic. I left a comfortable family environment back home and moved into a private apartment on my own. I pushed myself to meet new friends and interact with locals. As an introvert, I challenged myself and created my own blog and podcast so I could share my experiences with other young people Sharing my thoughts and experiences on a public stage was daunting! However, I’m a big believer that if we don’t push ourselves into challenging environments, we won’t realise our true capabilities. I chose to create a blog and podcast because these were creative mediums I thought would most facilitate my personal growth. I wanted to embrace the feeling of the unknown and grow from a position of vulnerability.
I can’t encourage this sort of opportunity enough. There is something so empowering about exploring, learning, and understanding a new part of the world. It builds your personal capacity to make the change you want to see in the world, whether that be enhanced knowledge, a new perspective, personal resilience, or professional skills. Armed with more knowledge and immersive experiences, I feel as though I can now put all my huge dreams into action. I will continue growing by interning in Timor-Leste and Singapore throughout 2020. I will be specifically focusing on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, raising awareness about sustainability issues, and heightening my knowledge of advocacy to contribute to a brighter and more sustainable future.
Most of all, I am having the time of my life! I feel very lucky to have the chance to follow my dreams. My travel is supported by the New Colombo Plan Scholarship. I would encourage all young people to take the opportunities available to them. While I am extremely lucky to be a New Colombo Plan scholarship recipient, you don’t need this scholarship to access life changing opportunities. A plethora of funding opportunities are available at universities whether it be, an OS-HELP Loan, travel grants from your faculty, or a scholarship from your university’s global office. Outside school, look for community grants, Rotary Club grants, and sponsorship from the private sector.
Grab your opportunities by the reins and get ready for an adventure!
Kelsey (20) is a young student from Australia who is passionate about environmental sustainability, international relations, and youth advocacy. She is studying a Bachelor of Laws and completed a Bachelor of Science with the aim of combining these two areas into a meaningful career in international environmental policy. Her home base is in Newcastle, however her studies have taken her to Germany, Brazil, Thailand, and East Timor. After being appointed a New Colombo Plan Scholar for 2019, she worked for the United Nations in Bangkok, studied on exchange in Singapore, and is now still in Singapore juggling multiple internships. Her experiences living abroad have had a transformative impact on her approach to life. She has started her own blog and podcast series called ‘Wanderlust with a cause’ which is encouraging young people to follow their dreams, explore the world, and seize all opportunities available to them. Continue to follow Kelsey’s adventures by reading the blog and subscribing to the podcast on Spotify!