GAF Story

Mariah Ritchie

Griffith University
Bachelor of Laws & Bachelor of Government & International Relations

Mariah Ritchie, Griffith University scholar

Mariah shares how a GAF scholarship opened new doors. From seeing President Obama speak to funding her attendance at the International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, she has taken advantage of every new opportunity that comes her way.

How did you feel when you were awarded a George Alexander Foundation scholarship?

I was absolutely ecstatic. I found out the week before Orientation Week that I had been awarded the scholarship and I was so happy I cried. With no other way of being able to afford to move to Brisbane for university, I had already prepared myself for the worst and planned to defer for the year if I missed out. By being awarded the scholarship, I was given the independence to leave home and attend my dream university, which was more than I had ever imagined. The most amazing feeling was knowing that someone believed in me enough to fund my education and my goals. That's a feeling you cannot even begin to describe.

What has it meant to you? What has it made possible?

This scholarship has been everything to me. It not only gave me the opportunity to attend my choice of university, but it also provided me with experience. Living on campus has been an unbelievably positive experience. Everything from your living, academic, social, physical and emotional needs are catered to. Having the university at your doorstep makes life so much easier. I have developed so many lifelong friends, skills and stories from college, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

The scholarship has also increased my focus on study and professional development by relieving the pressures of working full-time. By working part-time as opposed to full-time hours, I was able to engage in numerous extra-curricular activities. Such engagement furthered my skills, enhanced my resume and boosted future employment opportunities.

Furthermore, the scholarship helped me gain entrance into Griffith Honours College, which opened up a number of doors for me. The Honours College enabled me to see President Obama speak in 2014, fund my attendance at the International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, assist with my successful application to the Asia Future Fellows program in Beijing and fund my participation in the Asia Pacific Model United Nations Conference in Kula Lumpur.

Overall the scholarship has provided me with an abundance of amazing opportunities, and I will be forever grateful for being selected as a George Alexander Foundation scholarship recipient.

2016 was a busy year for you… what were some of the highlights?

2016 was another amazing year of studying at university. A highlight would definitely be attending the Asia Pacific Model United Nations Conference in Kula Lumpur. It was such an incredible and challenging experience to compete at an international level representing Griffith University. I met so many beautiful people, some of whom I now call my best friends, and gained so much knowledge about the international diplomatic system. I came away from the conference with so many new skills and a completely different mindset about international governance.

Another highlight would be helping my college to win the inter-college cup for the first time in six years. As Sports Head of the Residential Committee of Bellenden Ker College for over two years, I was involved in organizing all of the events that contributed to winning the cup. It was so exciting to see all of my hard work pay off with our whole college coming together to have a good time and participate in classic college rivalry. I was especially excited to win Phar Cup again, which is our biggest sporting event of the year. As a member of the girls' team for the last three years and part of the coaching team in 2016, it is so rewarding to gain another victory after three years of training 3-4 times a week.  Another highlight was attending the Griffith Business School Alumni Awards Night and the Australian Institute of International Affairs Dinner at City Hall. I represented the Griffith Government and International Relations Society as Vice President of Academia at both of these events, which was also an exciting moment as the club was only established in 2016, and we were already able to attend such prestigious events. It was such an amazing opportunity to network with successful professionals in my future field and to meet Kim Beasley in person and talk to him about Donald Trump's victory and its impact on Australia.

Where are you hoping your course will take you?

I study a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Government and International Relations and an online Diploma of Spanish. I am also about to undertake a semester exchange to Chile. I hope that after I graduate and gain experience in government positions, I will receive a position at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and obtain an overseas posting to somewhere in South America. I would love to have the opportunity to negotiate trade deals on behalf of Australia with new countries and help Australians in trouble overseas. I love travelling, and I hope that my course will provide me with the opportunity to continue to do so.

Do you do any community/volunteer work? Why is this important to you?

I am actively involved in a number of student societies. I am Vice President of Academia for the Griffith Government and International Relations Society (GGIRS). In this program, I am currently creating the first government and international relations mentoring program and working on the first GGIRS Winter Gala. I was also sports head and later secretary of the Bellenden Ker College Residential Committee and also previously secretary of the inaugural year of the Australia China Youth Association Griffith Chapter, in which we won the best club of under 100 members in 2015. I was also heavily involved in fundraising for Bethel China, a charity for blind orphans in China and was lucky enough to visit the charity in 2015 and volunteer at the orphanage for two days. I was also an academic mentor at my college for two years and an academic mentor for the Griffith University Law Society. I love getting involved in student clubs and giving my time to make other people's university lives better. I feel so grateful that I was given the opportunity to have such an incredible university experience through being funded to live on campus that I want to give back by giving other people the same experience. The work I've been doing for GGIRS has been particularly important to me as it's the first society focused on international relations at Griffith, and we're finally providing an opportunity for our small cohort to bond, which is very exciting to see.

If you could say anything to George Alexander, what would it be?

A million times thank you! I cannot put into words how grateful I am for everything that his foundation has done for me. If it were not for his scholarship I wouldn’t be studying at Griffith, and I wouldn't have had all of the amazing opportunities I have had, in particular, the international experiences. I am so incredibly thankful, and I hope that he would have been proud of his investment in me. I am looking forward to continuing his legacy by giving back to the foundation once I am in the position to do so.

Gaze into the crystal ball…where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

There is always an element of uncertainty when gazing a decade into the future. However, we all have ambitious dreams we strive towards. For myself, I would love to gain an overseas position with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Whilst I acknowledge that such a goal will take many years to achieve, I will remain faithful to my dream. I am confident that with the aid this scholarship has provided me, I have a strong foundation to achieve it.