Conquer the impossible dream: Australia Awards graduate

8 February 2018

More than 90 Australia Awards Scholars recently touched down in Brisbane to take part in a five-week Introductory Academic Program (IAP), before commencing their degree programs at UQ. The International Scholarships Unit within Global Engagement has been busy welcoming the new students – who come from 32 countries – and ensuring they settle into their studies. As a new cohort gets started, we farewell our graduates and wish them all the best for the next stage in their careers.

Donna Kelly, a UQ PhD candidate and Australia Awards Scholar from Jamaica, was selected to give the Queensland state address for the Australia Awards Graduating Class of December 2017. Her soon-to-be-submitted thesis examines how governments can make the most out of large-scale events, with a focus on the Caribbean. She shares an excerpt from her speech below.

Undoubtedly, being the recipient of an Australia Awards Scholarship was a significant and life-changing achievement. I now refer to my life in two blocks – before Australia and after Australia – as my life has been indelibly and incredibly marked by this Australian experience.

Donna Kelly on stage giving speech

In my time at UQ I have witnessed such a great commitment to academic excellence. With the range of services and amenities available one ought not to fail. There are support services to ensure that students accomplish their educational goals. One of my early UQ memories is of an email that was sent out to the university community advising that a certain Jacaranda tree was to be removed.

I thought to myself if such care is being taken for a tree, then I could expect the same.

As fate would have it, I would need care. I was getting close to submission and my elbow was pretty much out of service – talk about bad timing! In quick order, Student Services organised for someone to assist me with typing. The person was truly a lifesaver and her assistance was critical in helping me type up my thesis and complete my milestone presentation. The individual who helped me has a visual impairment. As I thought about both our challenges, I was reminded of the greatness of my institution. We were enabled and provided with facilities to help us achieve. Her spirit and strength were an inspiration to me.

This experience showed me that we can contribute and be productive in the face of challenges and we can use our diversity for good.

Donna Kelly in audienceThis journey was not just an academic pursuit but also a social experience. Accepting opportunities to connect with others over a cuppa or a barbie is a great way to meet new people, have fun and take a break from uni, and also an excellent medium for cultural exchange. It is important to manage a budget, decide on the best neighbourhood for your needs and balance your time. Some of us are juggling many roles, as parents, students, spouses, tutors, volunteers, or student association members.

Getting involved and connected are vital.

Certainly, this pursuit of higher education has been a journey. A journey of ups and downs, successes and a few failures, trials and triumphs. Much has been sacrificed, but I believe any journey worth taking involves risk. History is replete with stories of endeavours that seemed impossible at the start but were accomplished in the end. In fact, we are the beneficiaries of these once impossible dreams.

To whom much is given, much will be required. We have been entrusted with much and so we must use our education to do good, to help others, and to help humanity. As we prepare to depart, may we cherish these wonderful memories but be resolute and committed to helping when our turn comes around.

I implore you: don’t be fearful, be fearless!

Be fearless to speak out about injustice. Be fearless to conquer what seems like an impossible dream. Be fearless to create change, as every change begins with one.

The Semester 1 2017 cohort of Australia Awards Scholars come from Bangladesh, Botswana, Cambodia, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Zambia.

This semester, the most popular programs include PhD studies, Master of Economics and Public Policy, Master of Agribusiness, Master of Environmental Management, and Master of Governance and Public Policy.