Tenille is an alumni of International Studies and now the managing director of social enterprise For Change Co.
Hi there, my name is Tenille Gilbert. I'm the Co-Founder and Managing Director of For Change Co. We're a non-profit social enterprise that works with young people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.
So I studied International Studies at RMIT. During my studies, I volunteered with an organisation, which at the time was called Crepes For Change. And now today, it is called For Change Co because we've grown a little bit since then.
I started volunteering because I saw other young people in my networks, starting up this social enterprise. And I was pretty inspired by that, I thought it was really cool to see other people just, you know, going out there and having a go, taking an idea and wanting to give it their best shot and kind of seeing that there was a social issue of youth homelessness that they weren't happy to just let be, and that they wanted to take action against. I jumped on board.
And actually, the founder there was really excited that I was studying International Studies at RMIT because he knew that was a really great course, and he met some great people from that course, s he brought me on as a volunteer very quickly. And I got to use a lot of my skills, really some jack-of-all-trades skills, but really around, you know, communication and organising projects, getting people involved and rallying people, I would say, into our organisation. So I volunteered for about four years until we finally were able to get someone to back us and to start paying us to do what we do. So today, it is my full-time job.
During my time studying International Studies, I joined the International Studies Association, which is kind of, you know, this really great welcoming community of students who are studying that course. And it seems to be the association that everyone in the course joins, which is really cool. Because it is a small group of people, but it's a group of people with really similar values and ideas and interests. And for me, that was a time when I actually found my people, so to speak, I really felt like we did that course and meeting those people and being able to be a part of it. Because of this particular community, I could connect with a lot of other people my age who also wanted to make a difference in the world, and were keen to kind of put themselves out there and do that. So that was a really great experience for me. And that was something I continued with for the three-four years that I was doing my undergraduate degree attending the events and being a part of the community as well. And that's kind of continued to be a link for me to a lot of my other international studies, post studying.
During my studies, I also got to do an exchange in Mexico, which was a six-month, one semester exchange, something that's really highly encouraged in the International Studies degree, because obviously it's a chance to get overseas to get into a different culture to meet new people to experience new things. So I really found that I was able to find this new and more confident version of myself and I was able to improve my Spanish skills. And to look at things in a different context as well.
That was a great opportunity, which I don't think I would have taken on so freely if it wasn't for the fact that, you know, RMIT really encouraged that, International Studies made that a really easy pathway for you to get involved in.
So one of the really kind of practical elements of the course was one of the subjects where we're able to come up with our own social enterprise and go through the whole process of actually understanding, okay, how do we market this? How do we find our customer base? How do we ensure there's revenue generation there, but how do we also make sure there's really good impact and sustainability. There are so many elements, and I think that, you know, at the time, I was already volunteering for a social enterprise. And I understood there was a lot to it. But this allowed me to kind of actually take, you know, some academic learning and apply that both to a project that I was doing, but also the work that I was doing externally.
I have begun my MBA at RMIT, I began that last year because I realised that in my role as a managing director of For Change Co and other social enterprise, there's a lot of work that I currently do day-to-day in the business side of things, which I've often had to learn on the job and I really wanted to build my confidence and my decision making up in that realm.
So I decided to go back to uni and being able to kind of thoroughly go through some of those business areas would be something really important, both to my role now and potentially in the future.
The advice that I would give to anyone who's thinking about studying International Studies at RMIT, is to get in there and do it, to join ISA (International Studies Association) to connect with the community there. I think that was really a huge benefit for me in coming out of my shell, connecting with people, seeing how my interest and my passions could translate into actual action.
And I think that you'll find people, both in our students, but also tutors and lecturers who are really going to help you to work out what you want to do, what your goals and your dreams might be, but also just to get them started and to do things whilst you're at uni, maybe volunteering or joining clubs which will help to connect with your passions and interests straight away.
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