My Australia Awards Story: The Ambassador by Chance

When I was young, I used to hear my big sister say that when she grows up, she wants to become an ambassador of the Philippines. I never cared about it or even bothered to know the meaning and spelling of the word “ambassador”. I would just stare at her and laugh. What’s with the serious stuff about the future anyway? I was too young then to even care and think about my own future.

Emylin_Severo.pngI never had a dream of my own because for all I know, I can just be exactly what my sister would like to be. Little did I know that someday, in the very near future, my sister’s dream would turn out into a reality through me.

Exactly a year ago, I embarked in one of the most memorable and life-changing journeys in my life. I became an ambassador by chance. I was among those fortunate Filipino scholars sent to Australia to earn a master’s degree through the aid of the Australia Awards Scholarship (AAS). As ambassadors, we were sent on a mission and that is, to make a difference and contribute to effect positive change when we get back home in the Philippines.

My great Australian experience was marked with both joy and tears. It was a joyful one considering that it was my very first international travel. Getting to see new and exciting places for the very first time often bring so much joy and excitement. However, along with this joy comes sadness since I left behind my loved ones. I never thought ambassadors cry. Oh yes! They do cry. They even weep all throughout the night. However, like what most ambassadors do, they start the day anew, pick themselves up and wipe the tears away.

I would like to share three of the most important lessons that I have learned during my entire stay in Australia. These lessons are:

  • “You are not pigs. You don’t need pens.” As I was listening to my professor in Advanced Recruitment and Selection about office space, he came across these striking lines that made me ask myself: Am I a pig? If given the chance, would I want to become a pig and isolate myself from the rest? Whenever I visit either private or government offices, it would be so easy for me to identify the boss from the rest. The boss is often situated and hidden from the rest of the team, probably for security reasons I guess. The danger of becoming “pigs” is that we hardly get the chance to connect with people and build effective relationships. As some experts claim, one of the secrets to success in any organization is teamwork founded through relationships.
  • “Status and power impede learning.” Up to now, I am still amazed by the fact that I can just address my professors by their first names. At first, it was so awkward calling them “Alan” or “Sandra” since they are well-respected and highly experienced academicians and researchers. However, as I got used to this practice, I realized that as I interact with them, I found myself to be very receptive to learning. It really is an empowering experience when you are able to communicate with people just as you are. Looking back, when I was a student, there was this angry teacher who refused to accept my assignment because I got her title wrong. Instead of putting “professor” in the cover page, I placed “instructor” under her name since I thought that it was the most “generic” thing to do. Expectedly, from then on, I had this bad impression on her and started to get “disengaged” from her lectures. Similarly, in the workplace, we are often bounded by protocols and positions. We can’t blame this practice because “power distance” is definitely high in most Asian countries as what Geert Hofstede claims in his cultural dimensions study. I am not saying that this is a bad thing. I believe that superiors and leaders can bridge this gap by constantly getting in touch with their subordinates and have a casual and “free” talk with them from time to time. After all, leaders are not defined by either status or position but by the good deeds that they have done.
  • “Performance is a product of ability, motivation and opportunity.” For quite some time, I used to believe that when one has the ability and knowledge, one could automatically do great things. However, I was wrong. My professor once told us that no matter how good you are, when you lack the motivation to do things and when you are not given the opportunity to prove your worth, you are bound to fail. As I ponder on this, I realized that this is indeed true based on experience. Some employees may actually be good performers but for one reason or another, they fail. It could either be a case of job mismatch, low morale or poor people management. Thus, it would be pretty unfair to immediately judge employees by their performance ratings.

I believe that this entire journey of being the “accidental ambassador” is no accident at all. I was sent to make a difference and effect change in my own little ways of being a public servant. I just didn’t realize, not until now, that change has to start within me. For it is only through looking at things from a different lens will I be able to make the difference that I was initially tasked to do.

Emylin is currently the acting chief of the Policies and Systems Evaluation Division (PSED) of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Regional Office No. 5. She is given the responsibility of demonstrating and applying the learning that she has earned from her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management (HRM) at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia by taking an active part in promoting the HRM programs of the CSC.

 


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