Trying Anything, At Least Once

When you read about what Sarah James (2011 Frew) has done since leaving Girton, you get the distinct feeling that she will try anything once, so long as it’s something she is passionate about and entails taking opportunities as they present themselves.

Her philosophy is that she could end up anywhere and so long as she keeps beating a path towards work that genuinely interests her, which is international development, she will end up somewhere interesting at the least, and possibly somewhere that she loves.

Her fatalistic attitude is perhaps partially influenced by Mrs Robyn Kurrle, Sarah’s Head of House and Geography teacher, who she cites as a strong and interesting female role model.

“Mrs Kurrle was pretty strict but I learned a lot and she really pushed us to do our best and try everything.

“I think she is one of the reasons I’m so determined and persistent in my work today,” Sarah said.

Sarah has recently completed a Bachelor of Arts at The Australian National University with a double major in International Communication and Development Studies. Whilst in Canberra she had a range of part time jobs and immersed herself in volunteer work, as well as in internship with a (then) Shadow Minister and with the Labour Attaché at the Embassy of Timor-Leste.

“Whilst working with the Labour Attaché I was focused on their seasonal workers program and policies.

“Many of the policy suggestions I made have been implemented, which is exciting,” she said.

As if that were not enough activity in her spare time, Sarah also became the ACT Director of Oaktree Foundation and in her last year of university worked for The Australian National University as their Aid and Development Learning Community Coordinator.

Sarah is now on placement in PNG through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. AVID is an Australian Government initiative delivered in partnership with Australian Volunteers International, Scope Global, Australian Red Cross and 400 partner organisations.

“Currently I am working as a Stakeholder Engagement Adviser at Oxfam in PNG.

“I work with their Ending Violence Against Women’s partner organisations and am fortunate enough to travel a lot around PNG.

“Among other things my work involves sharing resources and learnings between partner organisations as well as negotiating corporate partnerships and media relations,” she said.

Sarah said that she sometimes questions some of the scarier decisions she has made, such as living in PNG but that it is beginning to feel like home.

“The apartment I’m currently living in overlooks the South Pacific Ocean and is my first real place of my own.

“Port Moresby’s high security level can make it difficult to cultivate hobbies however there are some excellent snorkeling and diving sites.

“I’m convinced I’m the youngest expat in Port Moresby who is not living with their parents but I do have a fantastic boyfriend who, for whatever reason, puts up with me and my nomadic life choices.

“I’ve always been an avid traveler and I have now been to over twenty countries and hope to go to many more. Timor-Leste, Russia, Mongolia and of course PNG are my favourites so far,” she said.

For someone who claims she’s likely to never really know where she might end up, Sarah is a great example of someone prepared to go where the needs of international development might take her and we wish her all the best as she tries anything and goes anywhere.

Pictured: Sarah with a friend in PNG who is a survivor of domestic violence and has just won a scholarship to go to university in the hope of becoming a lawyer to prevent other women from going through what she has. 

Sarah James with PNG friend