How a Free Trip to Sydney Taught Me the Biggest Lesson of My University Career

By Madelaine Nott

On Wednesday the 15th of March I attended DIGIEngage 2018; a forum bringing together young people from across Australia and Southeast Asia. The forum was an initiative of the Australian Government and The Digital Industry Group Inc – the group representing Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Oath, and Twitter in Australia – and sought to promote identity, diversity and leadership by empowering young people to counter online extremism.

Essentially, it was an all-expenses paid trip to Sydney, where I was able to connect with passionate young people and learn from experienced industry professionals. Not to mention the coffee, food and wine included free of charge, as the cherry on top. #studentgoals

Sounds like a great gig, right? I certainly thought so, and yet I was still hesitant to get involved.

Why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to be a part of such a great opportunity? Because attendance at the conference was by application only, and spots were limited to just 150 people from across 11 different countries.

Now, I want to preface this by saying I’m not a straight 7 student. I have never successfully read a unit’s complete list of set readings and I’ve certainly never received any awards or accolades for my studies. I say this because, if you’re anything like I was before applying, you probably think opportunities like this only eventuate for people who fit these criteria.

You see, a problem I continually encounter at university, both personally and amongst my peers, is that of imposter syndrome. We think that we are not ‘good enough’ for these opportunities and hence we don’t bother applying in the first place.

So whilst this conference taught me so much about challenging dangerous online narratives, my biggest takeaway was to not be afraid to get involved.

For me, the difference between stepping foot on that flight to Sydney, versus spending the day procrastinating my impending assignments, was a 15-minute online application. It took only a small amount of my time and yet taught me an incredibly valuable lesson. However, it also reminded me of the hundreds of opportunities I have missed out on, simply because I wasn’t willing to step outside my comfort zone.

So, as a late bloomer who only truly realised this in the final year of my Media and Communications degree, I want to encourage you to get involved. If you see an opportunity that interests you, go for it! Even if you think you’re not good enough, and even if none of your friends are keen to join you. Because it is the opportunities that you pursue outside the lecture hall that will teach you some of the most valuable skills and ultimately enhance your career. And just think, if I, the far-from-perfect student can experience these opportunities, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t either!

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