Dear future graduates...

3 March 2020

What makes a well-rounded graduate?

This is the question all students are asking one other. While there is no one right answer, it is true that employers are looking beyond university degrees and expecting students to deliver a diverse portfolio. So what is the secret? Tahlia Smith was well and truly a well-rounded graduate after she graduated as Valedictorian in 2019, but it wasn’t because she spent university hiding under a rock. Tahlia credits her success to the life-changing global experiences she was able to take advantage of during her time at UQ.

Tahlia studied a Bachelor of International Studies and a Diploma of Languages, majoring in International Relations, Spanish and French. Although she always loved learning languages and travelling, she couldn’t have imagined the breadth of opportunities that were awaiting her when she reached university.

“Starting university I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do, but I chose my degrees based on my interest in languages and cultures. Little did I know that I would be able to combine my studies with travel as well as professional development through literally hundreds of global experiences that UQ had to offer.”

Once Tahlia realised there was a world of travel opportunity at her fingertips, she dived right in. Her first global experience was a semester exchange in Colombia, studying Strategies of Negotiation, International Relations as well as Spanish and French. Eight months of study, travel and volunteering at the Pontifical Javeriana University (la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana), Tahlia immediately got insight into what she was passionate about.

“I saw a different side to the world when travelling. Studying at a foreign university gave me a new perspective, and I was able to analyse global political issues through a whole different lens. Moreover, during my exchange I learnt a lot about myself, as I constantly had to step out of my comfort zone. This experience enabled me to become a stronger, more independent person. Some of my fondest memories were simple things, like going to the supermarket and interacting with the local community; or bribing University security guards with Tim Tams so they would help teach me local slang.”

After returning from Colombia, Tahlia couldn’t wait for the next global experience. She signed up almost immediately for the U21 Social Entrepreneurship CORPS in Ecuador. She was selected as one, of only two UQ students.

“The experience in Ecuador was amazing for my professional development. I worked with international students from universities across the world to help local communities solve issues at a grassroots level. I stayed in rural and indigenous communities and learned the importance of social issues – not to mention what social entrepreneurship actually meant. I also got to put my language skills to the test, as not only did I often serve as a translator, but I also taught other international students how speak Spanish.”

During her last year Tahlia was looking for an opportunity to improve her French as well as her employability before graduation. The Global Experiences Team directed her towards a French program in New Caledonia supported by the New Colombo Mobility Grant.  This exciting program not only improved her language and cross-cultural communication skills, but also enabled her to develop her own research project.

“Throughout these global experiences I have been able to put my studies into practice in real world situations. This gave me a competitive edge upon graduation and succeeded in me obtaining employment in my field of interest. I am so grateful for the variety of opportunities that were available to me during my time at UQ, and the funding that the UQ Global Experience Team offered, so that I was able to take advantage of as many as possible.” 

“So many students don’t realise the amount of opportunities on offer within the Global Experiences Team at UQ! I encourage all students to look into the experiences available and apply. Financially a lot of things are supported or partially supported by UQ!”

So what are Tahlia’s top tips for finding out more about global experiences at UQ?

  • Talk to university staff! They can find people who have been on exchange prior, to help future applicants
  • Don’t be intimidated by finances. So many programs are fully or partially funded!
  • Utilise drop in sessions at the Biological Sciences Library! You can literally ask them anything about exchange
  • Go to the Global Experiences Expo! The Expo will help connect you to the right people – universities, students, partner programs, scholarships programs, financial and application advice, and school and faculty based programs.”

“My experiences helped give me direction in what I wanted to do in my professional life and opened my eyes up to what job opportunities are out there. Take advantage of these opportunities! I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. 

Find out more about Global Experiences at UQ:

Register for the Global Experiences Expo:

Find out more about the Student Employability Centre and Global Experiences available at UQ:

Follow @UQlife and @uqsec to discover key events and opening and closing dates