National Youth Week – It starts with us: A collection of stories from Australia’s youth

14 April 2015
Erin Watson-Lynn

There is an old saying that our lives are made up of three or four days that change our whole lives. It is the same for our careers. For National Youth Week, I was asked to think about who those people were that gave me extraordinary opportunities that redirected my career. Identifying those people is easy for me when I reflect on my working life. What isn’t easy is the realisation that I have never truly thanked them. In writing this blog, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to those people and organisations that have shaped the course of my career.

My mother and father still regularly remind me of my infinite ability to dream, create and achieve.

As clichéd as it sounds, the first people I want to thank are my parents. I was brought up to believe that I can and will achieve anything that I set my mind to do. Ok, so I didn’t sail around the world, but I have travelled around the globe working, studying, and adventuring. Every single opportunity I have had in life goes back to my parents’ philosophy that we (my brother and I) are only limited by what we can imagine. I am creeping my way to 30 this year, and my mother and father still regularly remind me of my infinite ability to dream, create and achieve.

The second person I want to thank is a University Professor that handpicked me to work with his team as an Industry Based Learning scholar during my Bachelors degree. The IBL program meant that I would add one year to my undergraduate, but it also meant that I had the opportunity to publish in both Australia and China. This publication record led me to enrol directly into the Doctor of Philosophy program at Monash University. Rather than applying directly to the University, I was selected for interview through the non-traditional route of networking. Navigating the system in this way is an example of the importance of alternative pathways and the power of thinking outside the status quo.

During my time as a Ph.D. Candidate, I wanted to look for opportunities outside academia that would enhance my career and contribute to personal growth. I searched for internships within the United Nations system. After approximately 100 applications and emails, I started to send printed letters to try and catch the attention of my preferred supervisors. It took some time, but eventually the former Resident Head of the United Nations in Nepal replied to my snail mail. The advice he gave me was short but powerful. He said to search where my skills would be utilised to their fullest. Within a month, I was offered an internship with research-intensive United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. This internship led me to change the trajectory of my Ph.D. thesis, and inspired me to launch my company, Generate Worldwide. I also developed life-long friendships with my colleagues at UN ESCAP along with other people I lived with during my tenure. For this, I am eternally grateful to the entire UN system for the people within it, as well as the opportunities it provides for young people to get out into the world and engage with the organisation.

Finally, I want to thank Margaret Quixley of Young Opportunities Australia. In the last year, she has given me an extraordinary amount of support to help me build my business. We’ve spent many an hour exchanging ideas and being each others sounding board as we rise to meet the challenges we face as infant entrepreneurs. There is an incredible caliber of young women in Australia who do extraordinary work including Hayley Bolding, Holly Ransom, Steph Woollard, and so many more. Margaret, I count you among these women, and particularly those who are changing the narrative for young Australians.

Inspired by National Youth Week, my goal this year is to thank people more often, whether it be a small gesture or a life changing opportunity. A little thank you will go a long way to remind us of what we have to be grateful for and those who support us to realise our potential.


Nicole Echeverria

Change is inevitable. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of change…it scares me, but with all the events life throws at you, sometimes you just need to embrace it. My story isn’t exactly about how I managed to get to ultimate career destination; rather it is a story without an end at the moment. I’m currently studying in my last year of my university degree and as expected I am freaking out about what I’ll do next and what is yet to come. One of the things I can begin to be thankful for is being given the chance to experience the world of research as part of a summer internship… so thank you to my university for providing me with that little bit more of inspiration that I need.

I look back to almost four years to where I am now and realize that change is a big part of life. When I graduated from high school, I was so set upon this one university course, yet when I started studying I realised I wasn’t enjoying it as I had hoped I would. My mum and sister would always tell me ‘You should be doing psychology! You love that!’, but I didn’t want to give up and leave something half complete. After two years of giving it a chance and comparing myself to other people on how passionate they were, I realised it was time to move on. It freaked me out big time, but I changed into a psychology course and it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. As most of my friends are graduating or have already graduated already I think to myself how did they know what they wanted to with their lives?

Without realising it, watching them as they achieve their goals has inspired me to keep going until I am just as inspired.

I have many people in my life to be thankful for, but as I reflect on my journey so far, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my family for their continuous support and love no matter what, and for them to know that the sacrifices that they have made for me have not gone unnoticed. I’d like to thank my close friends, they know who they are…your friendship and support over the years has shaped who I am and allowed me to aim to be the best I can be.

I guess my message that I’d like to share is that it is okay to not be sure of what you want to do in life. The events that occur as part of our journeys will lead us somewhere eventually, so it is okay to stray away from the norm. Not only that, but the people that we hold close to us can influence us in ways that can help us realise our inner potentials, so we should make sure that we in turn can also be there for them when they need us.


Pamela Soto

Day one: entered Earth. Now flash forward to day 8137 where my 22 years old self is about to reflect the times in my life and on those who have helped me reach my goals during the highs and lows. For as long I can remember, the difference between buying a Christmas card or making one was a big deal. In fact, as a teenager there were times when I would spend a huge amount of my printer’s ink experimenting with different ideas for Christmas cards. All throughout my childhood and teens my imagination was my creative outlet, and today that still resonates with me, if not stronger. High school was a whole new scenario where I needed to start thinking and choose pathways for my future. I really wanted to have a creative profession, but had little idea what careers existed. No matter the outcome, I always had the full support and love of my parents who always repeated, ‘Do what you love and makes you happy’. Dad also reminded me to do something that I love so I can share with the world. I remember asking him what he wanted to do in life, he said he wanted to be an actor but migrated to Australia instead in the 70s with mum so they can provide a future for their children to prosper and live comfortably. Knowing their sacrifice for us has a special place in my heart, as a huge part of me wants to succeed for them.

Being dedicated to my studies without any distraction meant I would not have a part-time job until I finished university as my parents preferred, which did help in the end but a part of me did feel as I though I was missing out on gaining independence in the work field and socialising. Nonetheless I got my first foot in the industry when I got accepted at a design studio through my university’s industry placement program. I was so nervous! In fact I missed out on the first round to apply for this program because I lost confidence in my abilities. I remember feeling so gutted that I missed out on this opportunity that I decided to tell my parents but in a slightly hopeful version; that I will use this as motivation to strive ahead in life. I knew there was a second time to apply, but again I was too nervous to take the shot. But thanks to my parents and close friends who boosted my spirits, I went for it. After a handful of nervous and insightful interviews, I found myself designing logos, illustrations and graphics for TV, digital and broadcasting identities. It is was real eye opener mixed with excitement and also stress because I wanted to do my best. Had not taken this opportunity then who knows where my path would have led me. So if you’ve nothing to lose, then go for it. The only person who is stopping you is you.

I found having a family and friend support system throughout my academic years allowed me to pursue my creative dream.

Having my close friends there as well was therapeutic whenever I needed to give them the latest episodes in my life. So when I enrolled into a Communication Design course, I knew I had to make the most of this opportunity as I heard the creative field was highly competitive and fierce. Sounds like I may have landed myself in the episode of ‘The Last Survivor’ where I need to compete against others with my portfolio, but at the end of the day I needed to stay positive and treat each day as a new opportunity to learn and rebuild. Whenever I come across a quote or something inspiring in Pintrest, Instagram or design blogs, it hits me like an adrenaline rush. It feels refreshing, especially when your feeling down or stressed to find some quotes or even watch some inspiring YouTubers who have made it big in their careers and stay true to who they are. It gives us that comfort knowing that ‘Behind every successful person is themself’. Which reminds us that everyday is a stepping-stone and reminder to believe in what we are capable of. I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes. ‘Ask yourself if what your doing today is getting you closer where you want to be tomorrow’. Each year is filled with 365 days, that is 365 opportunities there for you to take.


Allen Chen

My name is Allen, an undergraduate student at the Australian National University and during my first year of University, I was elected for a one year term as National Treasurer of UN Youth Australia.

Now I’m near the end of my degree, I can look back and say that my time with the organisation is undoubtedly the most exciting, educational and beneficial experiences I’ve ever had. I loved being part of an organisation that was doing something real. At every event you could see the joy that our events brought to hundreds and  thousands of students all over Australia. I also learnt so much during my term! I think there is substantial difference between what we learn at university and what is useful in workforce. However when you’re working for an organisation, you can be confident that you’re gaining real skills and useful knowledge. I was also able to make invaluable connections during my term, which have helped me endlessly since finishing in my role.

For me, it showed that the youth, with determination and hard work, were just as able to make valuable contributions as any experienced professional.

Despite all this, the biggest thrill came when I was nominated by my successor for Westpac’s Community Leaders Awards. I was shocked to find myself short-listed amongst qualified CAs and treasurers with decades of experience and ecstatic when I found out that I had won the award. For me, it showed that the youth, with determination and hard work, were just as able to make valuable contributions as any experienced professional and that corporations like Westpac acknowledged the difference we are able to make. It’s simply a matter of making the most of all the opportunities available!