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Keeli Cambourne
23/04/2019
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Graduate thrilled to study at prestigious Swiss institute

Spot at The Graduate Institute a dream come true for Monique Rafton. 

Monique Rafton is proof that dreams do come true.

In September, her own dream will be realised when she takes up residence in Geneva, Switzerland, to complete a Master in Development Studies at the prestigious The Graduate Institute.

The Institute boasts alumni such as Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, and to be admitted to its hallowed halls is the equivalent of reading law at one of the United Kingdom’s top-notch universities.

Monique, who graduated from the University of Wollongong (UOW) with a double degree in Arts/International Studies (Dean’s Scholar) on Tuesday 23 April, said working at the UN is her ultimate goal. Being able to live, and study for two years in Geneva, the organisation’s hometown, will not only allow her to learn from the best in the world but hopefully make important connections to help her realise her goal.

“Geneva has always been a place that I have wanted to go to. It’s the centre for all major international organisations for international and development studies,” Monique said.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was accepted to the Institute. It is a stepping stone for the potential future career I have always dreamed of.”

International studies has always on Monique’s radar as a career pathway but when she enrolled at UOW she at first saw herself doing a Master of Education and becoming a teacher.

“I think I have always been focussed on social justice. I had one teacher in Year 8 who really inspired me to get into social justice and after that I wanted to become a teacher,” she said.

“But during my degree I fell in love with politics and international studies and decided to go in that direction instead.”

Monique grew up in Blacktown and said she chose UOW as it not only had the double degree she was interested in but also because of its reputation “and I fell in love with the campus”.

“Growing up in Blacktown gave me an interesting perspective on life. It is very multicultural and you do see some struggle there,” she said.

A passionate advocate of volunteering, Monique wanted to give something back to her community and in February 2018 began working with the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning (SAIL) program, a volunteer-run, non-profit organisation that provides free tutoring and educational support to the Sudanese Australian community.

“I wanted to invest in my local community and when I started looking for volunteering opportunities I came across SAIL,” she said.

“Every Saturday morning I tutor students mainly in Maths and English and learning skills. It sounds clichéd but I learn a lot more from the students than they learn from me because the program broke down a lot of stereotypes.”

Monique said she hopes to one day be able to work in the educational space of international politics, especially in developing countries.

“Education is my main passion and using it as a means of development, especially for groups to whom education has been denied like women, Indigenous communities or refugees,” she said.

“Education has such an impact on local development which can turn into national development. I also am passionate about the importance of sustainability for the environment and the power of listening to grass-roots campaigns and local community rather than change trickling from the top down.”

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