Mlle Batoul TAMIM

From: Lebanese living in Paris

Age: 27 years

Activity: 2nd year of Ph.D. in charity marketing at Le CNAM de Paris

My name is Batoul Tamim, I am Lebanese and I live in Paris. I am in my 2nd year of PhD in management sciences at Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, CNAM de Paris.

Driven by a humanitarian impulse and passionate about my research, I work on charity marketing, in particular, a concept called “cause-related marketing” (CRM) and “shared product“, which aims to encourage companies to donate all or part of their sales, whether product or service, to a nonprofit organization to support their cause and in return enhance the image of the company. The main objective of my research is encouraging all companies to support a cause of an association through development of a shared product. Indeed, engaging in charitable action has a significant impact in a world oriented towards economic performance.

For the moment, obtaining the doctorate degree from a French higher education institution is what I am focusing my energy on, side by side with my thesis supervisors. 

My other commitments are mainly of an associative nature, I am a volunteer with UNICEF with a mission to promote and defend the rights of children around the world. As I grew up in Bamako, Mali, my dream, is to be able to open my own association there in order to help African children in need. Acting to protect children is a priority since “all grown-ups were once children…” according to Le Petit Prince de Saint-Exupéry.

I am also the creator of a project promoting equality between women and men, which is based on l’ODD N°5 Sustainable Development Goals set up by the United Nations Organization concerning gender equality. This ongoing project aims to combat violence against women and girls.

Like all young people, I faced many difficulties that have made me the strong woman I am today. I try to stay positive and give the best of myself in order to get closer to my goals. I like to read and I write poetry from time to time as I have a rather poetic vision of life, poetry represents a refuge where I can express myself freely with the hope to be able to make a book out of them one day.

In love with French literature, the quote that motivates me is “Make your life a dream, and a dream, a reality” (again from d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

 Caroline Michael Asiala

From: Michigan, USA

Age: 28 years

Activity:  Strategist at Uhuru Network

Originally from Michigan, I began my journey into the social impact space at Alma College where I studied Environmental Health. It was during my university days that I started to gain an understanding of the privilege I had grown up with. Volunteering and conducting research in a variety of fields in Sierra Leone, India, Mexico, and Ecuador, I was inspired by the people I met and the work they did to advocate for justice and equity. I wasn’t certain of much on graduation day in 2015, but I was sure I wanted to work in something that was making a net positive impact on others’ lives.

A month after graduating from college, I followed my heart to Quito, Ecuador. After a couple volunteer projects (one that was just ok and one that went pretty terribly wrong), I realized I needed to be more studied and strategic about my approach to career building. I began working as an intern for Asylum Access, an organization dedicated to making basic human rights a reality for refugees. With time, I was hired onto the regional Latin American team and helped build a new program to create private sector partnerships and employment opportunities for our refugee clients. I was fascinated by the potential of business to do good in the world, but knew I would eventually need to “speak the language” of business to form lasting partnerships. 

So, when an opportunity to work for the marketing agency, Centrico Digital, and lead their B Corp certification process was offered to me, I took it. Within a year, we had achieved B Corp status and were working to open a new branch of the agency, BCentrico, to serve nonprofits and purpose-driven businesses. It did not come without its challenges. Agency work is tough: it’s fast-paced and client-driven, so it can be very challenging to prioritize anything that’s not serving the immediate revenue-generating accounts. However, the leadership at Céntrico Digital was committed to seeing BCentrico thrive and we grew the portion of company serving purpose-driven organizations from 1.5% in 2018 to 23% in 2020.

In December 2021, Centrico Digital was acquired by Uhuru Network, in part because of the success of this work. As a Strategist at Uhuru Network now I’m getting a chance to expand the work done for purpose-driven companies and be a part of a larger organization that has the potential to make a much bigger impact on the world. I hope to lead that change, expanding the reach of our NGO and social enterprise clients, and make safe, well-paid, and fulfilling remote work opportunities available to more people around the world.

Fariah Nazir 

From: Dudley, West Midlands, United Kingdom 

Age: 19 years

Activity: Second-year student, studying LLB Law at Aston University 

When I was in secondary school, I really enjoyed History and English Literature and noticed that a lot of the skills I was using were very similar to the role of a lawyer. I did some research and found myself very interested in the work lawyers undertake and decided to pursue a career in law. Particularly, I liked how in depth the research is that lawyers undertake for their client. 

Success to me is being independent, happy with who I am and being able to share my experience with people who are like me and help them in their career progression. Being from the ethnic minority is something I am extremely proud of, and this has helped me find my motivation to succeed. When I decided I wanted to pursue a career in law, I found that there were not many ethnic minority candidates. Whilst this did feel very unwelcoming and daunting, I was determined to be different and help break the cycle. Diversity and inclusion have become such an important matter and I am proud to be part of this.  Being in an Asian community can be difficult especially dealing with stereotypes and double standards and I witnessed a lot of this when I visited Pakistan. This made me extremely grateful for where I am that I can become who I want to be and have the support network around me. I want to help inspire young girls to become the best version of themselves, constantly pushing to reach their true potential. Whilst there are many challenges, these are part of the process to help achieve something way bigger. 

My journey has not been easy. I have had many challenges which I have had to overcome. However, I look back and I am grateful for this, and it taught me valuable life lessons. From being rejected from my university choice, this was something which shocked me and took me a while to process. However, after completing a year at the university I am at, I can safely say this was one of the best choices I made. I have been given opportunities which I never thought was possible for me. I decided to make the best of what was given to me, and this helped me in becoming who I am today. Another challenge which I faced was being scared to explore the wider opportunities as I thought I wasn’t ‘clever enough’ compared to other candidates. This came as I had a lack of experience on my CV and trying to pursue a career in law, experience is essential. I found myself at times being hesitant to apply for insight days and work experience schemes because I felt I wasn’t good enough. I began dealing with imposter syndrome. Therefore, I decided to ‘start from the bottom’ and find ways to make myself more employable. This came from signing up to free programmes which helped individuals to build on transferrable skills, online internships which required no in-depth application forms, attending virtual law fairs and finally making a LinkedIn account.  From this, I became more confident to explore new things as I had developed the necessary skills. What I learnt from these is that whist it can be difficult finding internal motivation to complete assignments, applying for vacation schemes, always utilise what you have around you. The result will be worth everything you have been through. 

One of my biggest achievements has been being able to secure a variety of experiences to help showcase myself to employers and I am happy with how my CV appears. I am particularly proud that I am the President of Aston Law Society. As a committee, one of our aims is to help students become aware of the latest opportunities they can be getting involved in to kickstart their career. When starting my degree, I realised I needed experience alongside my academics to obtain a successful career. Therefore, I want to encourage students to get involved in as much as they can so they can become more employable. 

Looking into the future, I want to become a lawyer. I am interested in technology, commercial law and family law. I want to continue to become the better version of myself and push myself out of my comfort zone to explore new opportunities. I know that if I had not pushed myself at the start of my degree, I would not be in the place that I am today. I want to be an example for students who may be anxious about trying new things and hopefully, this will give them the courage to make the first steps in helping their career. I want to make the world a better place by giving underrepresented students the chance to develop themselves and raise more awareness that change is possible. I want students to feel inspired and not be put off by the pressure that employers can sometimes have on students in making them feel they are not good enough for a particular company. By having a welcoming environment, it can open the doors to many more successes. 

From being a quiet and introverted individual, I am proud to say that by moving out of comfort zone I have become the best version of myself and now have the confidence and motivation to pursue a career in law. 

Fariha Tasnim

From: Canada

Age: 24 years

Activity: STEM Advocate, Gen Y + Z Career Coach, Sustainable Tech Engineer 

Who you are – qualifications and traits, what defines you as a person

If anything, I’m a sponge. I’m always absorbing information around me and implementing what resonates into my beliefs, values and personality. You could say I’m in a state of eternal adaptation – and I like it that way.

  • Your ambitions, drives and motivations to succeed and grow in life

I’m driven by two core elements – be fulfilled and make an impact. As long as I’m progressing with that intent, I’m a happy girl. 

  • The journey you’ve had so far, and challenges that you have met and overcome

My journey is the opposite of traditional. I like to call it the path of trial and error. Step one, try things. Step two, succeed sometimes. Step three, fail sometimes. Step four, learn, refine and repeat. I implement this mindset in everything I do, whether that personal or professional development. It’s not only widened my world view, but allowed my career to be incredibly diverse.

  • Factors in your own country/region that have helped or hindered you

I’m a woman of color in STEM. It’s safe to say that my path is not the path of least resistance. But through the constant barrage of impediments, I’ve had the support of incredible communities by my side. It’s not only allowed me break through as a standout leader, but also advocate for people like me in the process.

  • Achievements you are proud of, next goals you look forward to

Pride often elludes me, but The Cohort Collective is a standout accomplishment of mine. As a Gen Y + Z career coach, I fouded The Cohort Collective to support students who fall into marginzalized communities, equipping them with the mindset and skillset needed to accelerate their career development. I’m looking forward to building my firm and expanding my reach to champion the Gen Y + Z career.

  • Your outlook for the future, hopes and dreams

Sometimes I think I’m an oxymoron because I love to plan spontaneously. So my future hopes and dreams are a question mark – your guess is as good as mine. But I’m okay with question marks, that’s what makes the journey fun.

  • How you want to make the world (or tiny part around you) a better place

Impact is subjective. You can change the world or one person. Either way, you’re making a lasting impact. I want my impact to come in the form of perspectives. The core of all human decision making is dependent on perspective – how you see things affect how you lead your life. So if I can help people think differently, I can help people lead a better life.

Meena Abdula

From: South London

Age: 19 years

Activity: BA Architecture (first year)

I am currently studying architecture at MSA. Before getting into MSA, I did Physics, Maths and fashion textiles for Alevels and a foundation in Art and Design and Media practices. I went into the foundation course with the intention of gaining knowledge that will prepare me for architecture school such as learning how to use softwares and becoming a better artist. The other reason I didn’t go straight into university after Alevel was COVID. I delayed my start at university in hopes of the education service getting better. Outside of studies, I enjoy running. Last year, I would do 15min jogs, in the park outside my house, about 5 days a week. I use running as tool to increase mental strength. It helps me understand how I can push through doing things I dislike for the greater good. 

Alevels were extremely challenging to me and currently, university is also as challenging. The hardest part is not allowing stress to decrease the quality of my work. Consistent runs are another challenge. Even though I was consistent, I would notice points of no improvement and sometimes a decrease in the improvement. Im also trying to teach myself to play the violin. There is improvement but it is slow. This is because I only invest 1 hour a week on it. That hour is a struggle but I believe with time it will become more enjoyable; I just have to be consistent and intentional. Other than that, fortunately or unfortunately I havent had many challenges. My biggest challenges at the moment are education and I like it that way. Putting most of my energy into education means that I am putting most of my energy into gaining knowledge and with this knowledge I can create a better world.

My main ambition is to please God. I aim to do this by acquiring knowledge and sharing it with the intentions of improving this world and the life on it. In my architectural path, this could be by finding resourceful ways to build and or create buildings that make us better. I am unsure of how the knowledge I gain today will help me tomorrow but I believe with the right intentions a link can be made. 

I was born in the UK but I left it when I was 3 only to return to it when I was in year 5 (9 years old). This meant that my childhood was influenced by my upbringing in the UAE and then Oman. This upbringing along with my Iraqi parents, gave me an interest in the arab world and the way they design especially when compared to the UK’s building designs and techniques. In general, the Middle East is filled with traditional and futuristic designs that look very different to the buildings in the UK. Climate and culture are factors for this difference that has always interested me. Having this comparative exposure has allowed me to understand the reasons behind the differences. In my case, this understanding exposed me to the possibilities of integrating Middle Eastern building technique for the benefit of the country I live in (the UK). This is one of the things I wish to integrate in my work whenever I see fit. The greater benefit of having a Middle Eastern background was the large exposure to Islam. Islam gives me purpose and guides me on what is right and wrong and for that I am extremly grateful. 

I believe I am yet to achieve greater things that I will be proud of but as of now, I am proud of my persistance and consistency in things. I have made a habit of small acts like reading before going to bed. This meant that there isn’t a day that goes by without improving myself. I am proud of this skill because I no longer rely on motivation to do them. As for future goals and ambitions, I want to succeed in architecure school. Apart of that is to be apart of the Venice Biennale fellowship programme. In this programme I want to expose myself to the variety of projects and exchange ideas with thoughtful creatives from all around the world. With these ideas, I aim to return with new trajectories on how to improve the way we build. In the long term, I wish to work for an Architecture firm that will include my opinions in majority of the process along with my team memebers. 

I hope that the future will be filled with exciting architectural projects that leave a positive impact on the users. I am currently focused on my future career in the professional world but above that I would hope to divert my attention to things that are equally beautiful such as having a family and caring for it. I dream to have a life filled with curiosity and the ability to act upon this curiousity. Lastly, I want to run a marathon at some point.

The way I wish to make the world a better place is through trying to be a better person myself. This automatically radiates to those around me and, though it may seem small, it makes the world a better place.

Sara Xhelilaj

From: London, England 

Age: 18 years

Activity: Pharmacology Undergraduate at King’s College London

My name is Sara and I’m an aspiring medical researcher- currently completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacology at King’s College London. I enjoy how rewarding making a positive difference is and it’s through medical research that I hope to change lives.

I knew I was interested to pursue a career in scientific research when I became increasingly eager to plan and conduct my own experiments at secondary school. A close friend recognised this and I was gifted a set of Petri dishes and agar powder, which I used to conduct my own experiments in the laboratory during after-school hours. I gained an exciting sense of what working in the laboratory might be like, and it was a privilege to later complete work experience at Britannia House King’s College London’s Department of Chemistry. 

I would like to pursue a PhD and dedicate my time exploring the scientific world around me. I understand the commitment, determination and patience required to complete a PhD but the idea of contributing to humanity’s scientific understanding and bettering society because of it is beyond captivating. 

I’m grateful for the education that I’ve received, the support that has been given and the opportunities that lie ahead. I look forward to working with other researchers to ultimately revolutionise our understanding of medicine.

Muthanna Nayyef Alfaris

From: I’m living in Dublin, Ireland and originally from South of Mosul, Iraq

Age: 27 years

Activity: Market Specialist, Arabic Market (Iraq) at meta platforms/ Facebook previously 

My name is Muthanna Nayyef Al-Faris. I am now 27 years old. After receiving a job offer from Meta, I moved from Iraq to Ireland to start working as a Market specialist in the Iraqi market and the Arab region. But before this there was a lot of effort that I put in and a lot of support from my father, may God have mercy on him, and my family in supporting me and equip me with all necessary stuff.

I can’t pinpoint when my quest to make a markable change on this world and the passion to leave the world a better place than I found began, but I can say that these dreams began in childhood from the traditional question of what you want to be when you grow up? It was the hardest question that really made me think: Why should I become a doctor, engineer, pilot, Military officer, is there nothing else? I was looking for the answers in people’s talks and in stories and cartoons, which in turn developed this sense of becoming the hero, savior, leader, lover and defender of people.

At a time when employment in the public sector, even at low wages, was the goal, which became as if it was part of customs and traditions, and embodied in it being a safe job. My question has evolved into why should I be part of the public sector, is there no other solution? How do the rest of the people live on this planet? These questions began to expand and the Internet entered Iraq. I searched a lot on the internet for answers, which in turn became keys to open the doors for more questions. In the same time I graduated from high school with a GPA of 93.3%, which was the highest in my district. My final grade qualifies me to choose any college, and of course I was expected to choose one of the medical colleges – because it is the highest socially and financially – but I decided to go a different way. I decided to try out these habits and see what would happen despite the opposition of my family and the people close to me. Nothing happened, and I started my studies in college with a pledge I made to myself not to enter the public sector and to find myself in the private sector to build my own company and put my fingerprint in a part of this world. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Process Engineering in 2016 from Tikrit University in Iraq.

I was not able to get a job in my field due to the difficult situation during the military operations to restore the lands occupied by ISIS in the country and the lack of job opportunities in this sector after the deterioration of oil prices and the dependence of employment mostly on personal relationships or affiliation with political parties or high experience. I had fled alone from my small city that was occupied by ISIS at that time at the end of 2014, and I had to complete my university studies and deal with the little money that I have in order to be able to afford the costs of living and deal with the society’s view of me as an internal displaced person, in addition to my constant concern about the situation of my family under the bombing and military operations. Before graduation, the money started running out and I had to get any job that would guarantee me a place to sleep and some money to live.

It was very difficult for a person who had not worked hard in his life to start looking for a job. I started working in a hypermarket for $8 per 12-hour workday – which is much less than the minimum wage. Then I worked in a bakery for $20 starting from 4am to 9pm. I used my break time to read news and books related to self-development. That is why I developed my personal and technical skills and read a lot on the Internet and books to be able to keep pace with the development taking place in the world and to make my skills and qualifications valuable in the eyes of recruiters.

I taught myself to develop websites and how to use graphic design software which developed into a specialization in the User interfaces design. In addition to these skills that I considered as personal hobbies, my entry into the field of NGOs to help civilians during military operations in northern Iraq helped me to develop my English language and my administrative, leadership and decision-making skills in the most difficult circumstances. By continuing to work in the NGO sector for five years, I developed data analysis, project management and communication skills, and moved to higher positions, reaching the position of Deputy Manager of Programs in the city of Mosul with an international organization.

During this period, I participated in many youth events related to entrepreneurship and youth empowerment in the fields of technology and digital product development, which was undoubtedly the paradise of my dreams. I received the award for Best Individual Performance in Iraqi Innovation Hackathon and was invited to be a speaker at TEDx Baghdad.

But the achievement that makes me proud is the moment I defined my interests and identity. I knew that my passion is arround entrepreneurship in the technology sector, digital design and Personal development of people, and I realized that my mission in this life is to improve the economic situation of people in the Middle East and North Africa and to find a new line of technological development for humanity. I presented many ideas and projects, which I worked hard to make them come true, but I failed for various reasons, including personal and environmental ones.

I then studied all the ideas and projects I had worked on and tried to find common challenges. I discovered that the main problem was not the funding as I thought, but rather my low experience, implementation, and the lack of a team of experts to work on the success of such projects. I realized that such businesses first need a network of healthy relationships and more experience.

Undoubtedly, I saw that LinkedIn had a golden opportunity to create a healthy and useful network to add to my experience and show me a lot of opportunities in the world. One of them was my experience with Meta Company, which was a long series of interviews that ended in rejection in the last interview, which was difficult for me, but I accepted the result and sought to develop myself more and benefit from the feedback that was given. Then I received another call for another chance with meta and was accepted this time.

This is not the end of the journey, but rather a learning phase and the beginning of my path towards my ultimate goal. In the next stage, my goal will be to start my first start-up company that works either in the field of logistical infrastructure or financial technology in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which still lack such facilities.

My ultimate goal is to create a new path of evolution for humanity bearing an Eastren and Arabian characters. I seek first to gain knowledge and experience and then start a series of business as an Arab entrepreneur who builds a network of businesses and companies that work together as one force that invests in the areas of developing new technology and individuals in different countries to move the Middle East and North Africa region from a consumer to a producer and dominator in new sectors.

I may not be able to see the results that will come from my pursuit of this goal at any stage, but I’m glad I’m still on the right track.

Eleni Avgenaki 

From: Greece

Age: 20 years

Activity: 3rd year Biomedical Sciences Student  

I’m Eleni Avgenaki, I’m from Greece, and a current final year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Sunderland, England. I would define myself as passionate, optimistic and determined. I work hard for any goal I set my mind to, either short term or long term, and I make sure I get the most out of it during the process. Seeing myself succeed, hitting every milestone that I’ve set as a goal, and improving myself both personally and professionally, are my main ambitions to progress in my career and motivate me to excel in the workplace. Additionally, helping other people succeed and seeing them happy and satisfied, is also what drives me to grow in life. I was born and raised in Crete, Greece until the age of 17 years old. From a very young age, I was very disciplined, organised, and a good student overall. I always liked helping other people and finding solutions to their problems or alternatives that could make them fulfilled. It was like connecting the pieces of a puzzle. During my secondary and high school years, I had a love for biology, specifically human biology. I was mesmerized by how the human body functions and its capabilities. This is when I knew that I wanted to focus on that sector in my future career. I was even one of the three students who got shortlisted to display a presentation with the title “Gene mutations & Evolution” at the 2nd Student Conference for Research and Science at the Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics “Democritus”, in Athens. In my final year of high school, as most Greek students do, I had to undertake the Panhellenic exams, that would allow me to enter a Greek university and focus on my field of interest. Having spent countless hours studying, problem-solving, and critical thinking, I, unfortunately, didn’t get into my university of choice. I felt devastated. I felt like a year’s hard work not only didn’t pay off but left me stymied. While having the freedom of choosing another major with the grades I got, biology was the only thing that I wanted to get involved with. Thus, I was trying to find alternative pathways to do what I loved the most. Eventually, I got the chance to speak to an agency that sends students directly to the University of Sunderland, so I grabbed this opportunity. Sooner or later, I got an offer letter from the University of Sunderland for the Biomedical Sciences course and, as it included exactly what I was interested in, I went for it. While being a huge step for me, I felt it was the right choice. Two months later, I was in a completely different country, with a different culture, speaking a non-mother language, but somehow, it felt like home. I adjusted very quickly and easily from the start, without any major difficulties. During my three years of university, and have enjoyed the course, and I developed other interests as well. I was, and still am, very active regarding university opportunities, mostly including the Student’s Union but not limited to that. One of my biggest achievements to date is that I had been chosen to be one of the 15 students that will take part in a 6-week virtual internship with a selected company, mine being Enterprise-Rent-A-Car. The goal was to conduct a PowerPoint presentation at the end of the internship, where we discuss the company’s main issue, recommend ideas to resolve that problem, and refer to what we have learnt from that experience. Also, I’ve been the School Coordinator/ Student Voice Representative of the Health Sciences & Nursing School for the past two years, representing the views of thousands of students by collecting feedback and actively participating in both formal and informal meetings, to meet their needs and make their university experience the best it can be. Moreover, I was selected to be one of the four Peer-Assisted-Study-Sessions (PASS) Leaders of my university, in which I assisted first-year Biomedical Sciences students to solve complicated course components, answer their questions, and direct them to appropriate university services. I was also selected to be one of the LinkedIn Learning Student Ambassadors of my university, in which I promoted LinkedIn Learning by creating social media, public speaking, and writing projects. This is when I started having an idea of how blogs work, by writing a series of articles with the title “The 5 top soft skills that will help you achieve your goals”. I am also involved in a wide range of volunteering activities, including Student’s Union volunteer and member of the Environmental Society. Being involved in many different disciplines, and having talked to people from different backgrounds, I discovered a hidden interest in the business field. My passion for helping others emerged again, but now on a more professional level. Thus, I was looking for a career that could combine both my love for the STEM field but also my desire to help other people meet their needs. After strenuous researching, contemplating, and getting in contact with people from all over the world to learn from their experiences, I got approached by a recruitment company to be part of their portfolio. Following careful consideration, I went through the interview process and eventually, passed it successfully. That means that I will be working as a consultant in the Medical Affairs sector from September 2022. The next goals I’m looking forward to are to help as many people as I can find their dream careers and build global trusting relationships. My dream would be to travel, get to know people from all parts of the world, and work towards the same goal of making the world a better place.

 Sheu Ng

From: I am Malaysian but was born and raised in Cambodia and am currently living in New Zealand.

Age: 20 years

Activity:  Bachelor of Commerce, Majoring in Accounting and Finance

I honestly have no idea who I am or who I’ll be in the future. But I think not knowing and restricting myself to definitive traits is what makes life interesting! People are like lumps of clay. We start off a certain shape and mould into different ones all the time. We are all very complex creatures, and we experience many things in life and change all the time in response. With that being said, I don’t believe it’s accurate or fair to try and define what might just be one version of me.

But if you want to break it down, I guess one could say a big part of who I am comes from the cultures I was influenced by as I was growing up.

For a little context, my father is Malaysian, and my mother is Cambodian. Legally, I should identify as Malaysian, but I was born and raised in Cambodia for around 20 years, so I personally feel that I connect more with the Cambodian culture. My maternal family also has Chinese origins, which is still deeply integrated into my family, so I could also consider it a big part of who I am as a person. In addition to that, I grew up studying in an international school, so I’m admittedly a little bit “white-washed”. All these factors would probably play a big part in shaping who I am today. But having recently moved to New Zealand and stepping out of my previously sheltered life, I think I am again at the cusp of changing who I am as a person.

I’ll admit that change is scary, especially if you’re moving to a completely different country all by yourself. This was definitely a huge step outside my comfort zone, but I believe this will be a necessary change for me to grow as a person.

The move was inspired by a desire to advance my education and career opportunities. Academically, Cambodia does not have much to offer when it comes to higher education. So after completing my A and AS levels in 2020, I had to look abroad for better opportunities.

However, as a sheltered, fresh high school graduate, I honestly had no idea what career path to pursue. While I am proud of the results I’ve achieved in my A and AS levels, all I could think about at the time was, “Well, what am I supposed to do now?”

During high school, goals were pretty much set for me to achieve, and all I had to do was work towards them. I had no particular ambition of my own and simply did whatever was expected of me. Considering that I’ve always had a strong background in STEM studies, I figured I would just continue to follow along that path and become a woman in STEM. So the plan at that time was to study Engineering on campus at the University of Auckland. With New Zealand’s borders closed, however, I had to study online instead, which I did for one semester…until I impulsively switched to Business studies instead.

As I’ve mentioned, my studies have always been very STEM-focused, so Business was a completely new area for me. Despite that, I was feeling rather spontaneous and ambitious when I made the change, so here I am now, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and majoring in Accounting and Finance. 

I’ll be honest and say that I actually performed better in Engineering. Still, I don’t regret the switch, even though I definitely struggled a lot at first. With the switch came a heavy focus on teamwork and practical problem-solving, while I was more used to working alone and doing numerical calculations, so adjusting was not easy. However, as a result of my impulsive decision, it opened doors to different skills for me to develop, and I’ve learned a lot of new things that I would never have learnt otherwise. Two of the most valuable things I’ve learnt would be business ethics and people skills, which I believe have helped me better as a person and expanded my outlook on my impact on other people and the planet.

I’ve always been more on the introverted side, but having been placed in many group projects with other introverts, I’ve learnt to take the initiative and be more extroverted. As I was interacting with people more, it also made me self-reflect on a lot of things. I’ve always been a heavy overthinker, spending a lot of time reflecting on my actions and trying to understand why I act or feel a certain way. Still, I’ve been doing that even more now than ever, so I like to think that I have become a very cautious and considerate person.

In addition to these new skills and opportunities, I have sincerely come to enjoy studying my majors. I find it interesting to learn about all the risks involved in investment decisions and the tools financial managers use to mitigate them. So, for now, I am working towards finding a career in those fields.

But despite everything I’ve said, I am by no means extraordinary nor particularly ambitious. I’m versatile and can usually handle any task I’ve been given satisfactorily, so I consider myself a jack of all trades but a master of none. This often led to me having low self-esteem because I tend to compare myself to people who have mastered certain skills. This is a personal issue that I’m currently working on by telling myself that, as someone who has just reached their twenties, I’m still discovering and learning about myself. I am still very inexperienced, and there’s still so much I don’t know. So at this point in my life, I just want to learn as much as I can. Rather than thinking about how I want to make the world a better place, I believe it is better to spend the time developing any skill I can so that I will be capable of doing so.

What I want to do now, though, is to lessen the burden people my age might have when it comes to having their future figured out and worrying about what positive impact they can make. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I graduated high school, and I still don’t know what I’ll be doing once I graduate from university. But like I said at the start, I believe not knowing is what makes life exciting! Figuring out along the way and working at it one step at a time is just a part of life. I believe that any skill or experience you get during your journey will always have value, so there’s no reason to be afraid to try anything!

Victoria Li

From: Living in Australia, Chinese family, born in Australia (Second generation migrant) 

Age: 19 years

Activity:  Studying Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne 

I didn’t realise how long the walk home from school was. My grandma suffering from osteoarthritis was always persistent in walking me back on her burgundy shopping trolley as I sat cross- legged, holding on tightly to the corduroy fabric, soft under my small fingers. Turning my head, I looked back to see my grandmother’s right hand pulling the trolley, left hand carrying my school bag. I levitated momentarily as the trolley manoeuvred over a protrusion in the concrete. I talked to my grandma about everything on the way home. I would ramble on about how my feet throbbed from my first pointe shoe class or the early morning synchronised swimming sessions, the new piano piece I was learning, or how excited I was to compete in my first chess competition. 

My grandma was a powerful figure in my life. She taught me how to cook and how to speak Chinese fluently, but most importantly, she taught me bravery and courage, persistence, and determination. Those are the things that have stayed with me. When I lost my grandmother to gall bladder cancer, I distinctly remember the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as I watched my mother struggle for years with severe anxiety and depression. Calls for the ambulance at 3am in the morning became a sort of habit. I wanted to be the “good kid”, the one that didn’t make my parents worry and the child that they could be proud of. I launched myself into extra-curricular activities and filled my time trying to “prove” something to other people and my parents. Synchronised swimming became a huge part of my life as I began participating in national competitions. I started writing songs, started a YouTube channel for dance which has now aggregated more than 2 million views, and found a passion in taekwondo. 

I never wanted to experience the same feeling I felt when I was 8, watching my grandma slip through my fingers, unable to help. That’s where I found my passion for medicine and research. I am grateful that I was offered a place in the Australian Biology Summer School and became a Scholarship recipient of the International Science School, but I desperately wanted to become involved in research. As I approached the end of high school, the pandemic made seeking experiences increasingly hard but nonetheless, I reached out to hospitals in China seeking research experience. I have assisted in writing papers for the neurosurgical department of Peking Union Medical College Hospital, and the dermatology department of Tongji University School of Medicine. It was challenging, there was so much content that I didn’t understand, and the copious amounts of literature available was initially overwhelming. But these experiences were priceless to me, and I still reflect and question why they would accept a high school student’s help in writing a paper. Sometimes I think it was because I was truly passionate, other times, maybe I was just persuasive. I guess the first lesson I learnt here was that opportunities will not come to you unless you relentlessly seek them out. Wanting to share my passion for neuroscience at school and promote more women in the field, I founded and became the president of the Neuroscience Club. The club participated in the Victorian State “Brain Bee” Competition and placed first. The burgeoning field of neuroscience has opened so many more doors to research and understanding the human brain and being able to share that with my peers has been one of the most rewarding experiences. 

As I transitioned from high school to university, I learnt a very important lesson. Stemming from the altruistic morals my grandmother lived by, I used to want to work in healthcare, and become “successful” to help others, and to please my parents. I hurt my closest friends as I denied their help repeatedly, “we felt useless to you”. I hurt my peers as I obsessively gave to a point where they were burdened by guilt and helplessness because I never allowed them to give back. I hurt my parents who wanted to help but couldn’t even get through to me. They blamed their parenting and became critical of themselves instead. And I hurt myself, to a point where I withered in stress and self-condemnation. However, it is important to realise that this is the starting point for burnout. It’s counterintuitive to learn that being selfish is an act of being selfless. Choosing to do what I love, and not what other people want to see has been the most impactful decision of my life. 

Now studying Biomedicine at The University of Medicine, a lot of things have changed since I last sat on that burgundy trolley. I am still that same child that loves swimming, dancing, making music, and kicking bags, but most importantly, I still have the same ambitions and dreams. Currently leading my own research with a group of students across different disciplines and ages, my research is dedicated to utilising synthetic biology to detect and convert macrophage cell identity which has potential applications in chronic inflammatory disease and cancer therapy. Passionate about public speaking and building confidence in spoken English, especially migrants of Chinese background, I am also the Co-founder of Austin Public Speaking and Debating 

A phrase I hear quite often is “How do you have the time?”. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day, and I have been fortunate and privileged enough to fill these hours with activities and opportunities that I am passionate about. I truly believe that if you are doing what you love, no matter how big or seemingly impossible that dream is, the passion you have is enough to motivate you to work towards it. 

As I look past my first year of university and look to the future, there are still so many things I want to achieve. And if my grandmother was still here, I would ask her to teach me a new recipe in hopes she would ask me for help too. I would tell her about my day in hopes to hear about hers too. I would sit next to her in the hospital and hope I could help her a little more. And I would sit her down on her burgundy corduroy shopping trolley and walk her back home so her knees could rest for just a little while too. 

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