Good afternoon to everyone, to the representatives from the George Alexander Foundation, RMIT representatives and fellow scholars.
My name is Natasha, and I was lucky enough to be a recipient of one of last year's GAF scholarships.
When Bianca from the RMIT Development Office contacted me about speaking today, she asked me, "what has the scholarship meant to you?"
To answer that, I have to explain that growing up, it was my dream to study in Europe. I attended public primary and high schools that were fine but weren't able to offer exchange trips (nor would I have been able to take advantage of them). Once reaching university, the demands of study, volunteering and personal responsibilities made me think that perhaps that dream was lost to me.
That being said, I’m so grateful and happy that the scholarship supported me during the last semester in 2016, which I spent living and studying in Berlin, Germany. The scholarship covered my flights, student accommodation and many other costs. But more than this, as my degree is in International Studies, being in such a historical and politically diverse region really fed my hunger and passion for my degree. Now I am pursuing internship opportunities in Europe, with help from my Berlin professors, that I have kept in touch with.
Since being back in Melbourne, the financial support of the scholarship has meant I have had time to focus on leadership experiences and roles. At RMIT, I have been involved in creating the Bachelor of Arts International Studies global affairs magazine since 2015. This year I am co-chairing as head editor for the fourth edition, which we will use to “officially launch” the magazine. It has been a really rewarding experience to give back to RMIT and to my course as more than just an enrolled student.
In addition, my volunteer work as a founding committee member of the James Marcon Youth Health Foundation has increased. We sponsor art therapy programs for Australian youth with mental health issues, working closely with Orygen and Headspace. My responsibilities include meeting with representatives of Orygen, creating and editing our written publications and letters, and monitoring our social media. It has been a very humbling and confidence-building experience, aided by the leadership classes from the RMIT Future Edge program.
So I would really like to thank The George Alexander Foundation for their generosity and the opportunities that they have allowed the other scholars and me here today. In the scholarship booklet we received last year, it said:
“George Alexander knew first-hand about life's obstacles – and its promise"
To me, the scholarship is not just an acknowledgement of challenges the scholars may have faced or a reward for our hard work and achievements, both academically and in the broader community.
The scholarships are an opportunity to effectually realize the goals that have driven us through every late night of studying, every assessment and every exam. They are encouragement and belief in our potential and a helping hand to bring us one step closer to wherever we envision ourselves to be after university.
So a sincere thank you to the foundation for the wonderful opportunity you have given us as George Alexander Foundation scholars.