Expanding my horizons: reflecting on the Global Voices experience

Rebecca Field, Curtin University

Grateful and motivated…and a little jet-lagged. That’s how I feel following a week in Paris as part of the Global Voices Scholarship Program.

Just past the half-way point of my PhD, visiting the OECD felt like an opportunity for me to lift my head up, look around and expand my horizons. The life of a PhD student can be really isolating. Most days it’s just me, the screen and a cup of coffee. I entered the Forum being a little bit unsure if I would ‘fit in’. I’m a social worker and a qualitative researcher that can barely use Excel, let alone have an intellectual understanding about trade and economics. I didn’t feel I had anything to contribute. I wasn’t sure I had a place at the same table.

 Attending the OECD Forum 2019 was enlightening and inspiring. It was wonderful to be immersed in a space dedicated to understanding, developing and sharing progressive ideas, policies and practices with the hopes of inclusive growth towards global well-being: “Better policies for better lives”. This was exactly my motivation for starting postgraduate study. It was almost unbelievable that there would be an organisation on such a level pursuing the same goal. Thanks to the Global Voices networking we had meeting after meeting with OECD staff. From one of the Deputy-Secretary General to a student interning for a few months, all were committed to that same goal. The OECD renewed my faith in multinational organisations.

The Global Voices team achieved exactly what they claim to do: “Connecting young Australians to the world...” But it goes even further than that. I have returned to Perth connected to five other scholars. I have met people with skills, knowledge and experience I would never have: an esteemed law student from Brisbane, a vegan economics student from Melbourne, a passionate future teacher from regional Queensland, an experienced policy influencer in Sydney and a totally talented social media guru from Adelaide. What do you get when you put these people around a table? The most engaging and thought-provoking conversations. I am grateful to them for sharing with me and helping to expand my horizons. I now I have contacts around the nation for life, I know can work together on common goals and support each other.

I also feel more connected within myself. On Thursday 23 May the eight of us sat down with the Tamara Krawchenko and Anna Piccinni, who are policy analysts at OECD. This was one of the highlights of the experience for me. I listened to these two accomplished women share findings on migration research and policy development. Their work had many similarities to what I’ve been working on for the last two years, which I was able to share with them. Yes, I do fit in. I do have something to contribute. Furthermore, we had candid conversations with OECD staff and other diplomats day after day. I felt honoured and respected that people would be so open and honest with us. Thus, this experience reaffirmed the important contribution that myself and other people under 30 can and should make to our society. Now the question is: what will that look like? Thanks to Global Voices I now feel like it could be locally, domestically or internationally.