Where are they now? Issue 22 – Jasmine Nguyen
A Young Alumna making her mark
For the first time this edition looks at one of our Alumni-funded Stipis. Jasmine went to Boppard on exchange in 2014, proudly funded by SAGSE Alumni donations. Since her return she has leapt into public life, running for local elections in the western Melbourne LGA of Brimbank last year. Not only was she successful in these elections, she was appointed Deputy Mayor at the ripe old age of 23! And now she is applying the lessons learnt on exchange, on matters such as recycling, to her public life. Read on!
Damals – Back then
Year of exchange: 2014/15
Group Leader: Mark Rowe
Sponsor: SAGSE Alumni
Town in Germany: Boppard, Rheinland-Pfalz
Jasmine's memories / anecdotes from exchange:
There are so many great memories! Here’s a few:
- The massive joint birthday party between my host sister Laura Hillen and me – our birthdays are one day apart.
- Eating cake with the waiters and Omas at Café Hillen (we lived above the Konditorei).
- That time when I got lost on a bus with an American exchange student.
- Trying to impress my host family with a home-cooked Vietnamese meal: rice paper rolls. I think I cooked the wrong noodles but what they don’t know won’t hurt them.
- During free travel, my group spontaneously took a ride on the Düsseldorf ‘Wheel of Vision’. We had a scenic view of the Rhine River at sunset and then out of nowhere, there were fireworks in the sky! Magical!
Studies on return from exchange:
Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Economics at Monash University. I majored in marketing, economics, and philosophy and politics.
Und jetzt – and now
After interning at various marketing agencies and the Department of Premier and Cabinet, my first full-time job was as a graduate at the National Broadband Network (NBN). After completing the graduate program, I was recently promoted to the role of Business Enablement Specialist.
Last year was a rough year for everyone. Especially for the Victorians during the state’s second lockdown. More broadly, I had friends who lost their jobs and many young people were worried about their future. My friends prodded me and asked, "Have you thought about running for local Council?”
I thought they were funny… until I saw the lack of diversity in Brimbank City Council. “Gee,” I thought. “No one’s under 30 and there’s not enough people of colour.” It was time to shake things up.
With no political party endorsements or preference deals, it was a challenging campaign. Thankfully, I had the support of my family, friends, and the wider community. Thankfully again, the people of Harvester ward voted me in to be a Councillor of Brimbank City Council. The democracy gods must have smiled down upon me because I was also sworn in as the Deputy Mayor at the first Council meeting.
At the age of 23, I didn't know where I was going in my life (we're going nowhere in this pandemic, let’s be honest) but being the youngest Councillor in my hometown is quite humbling. I hope to be a voice for the youth and bring sustainable change for future generations to come. Will I be "Bürgermeisterin" one day? We shall see!
What are you doing now?
I am living the double-public-servant life! During the day, I work at NBN. After work and on weekends, I’m engaged in my role as the Deputy Mayor / Councillor of Brimbank City Council. This includes attending council meetings, strategic briefings, as well as meeting up with different local clubs, communities and organisations. Residents call me at random hours about all sorts of things – usually it’s rates, rubbish, and roads.
For all the time and effort, I feel extremely privileged to be in the position to serve, represent and advocate for the Brimbank community. Last month, we’ve passed $225,000 in the annual Council budget to introduce a youth grant and mental health services review - outcomes I’m quite proud of!
There are other perks too: I recently met Councillors from all over Australia at a national conference in Canberra, and you get invited to many cool events e.g. a beauty pageant for married Filipino women.
How the SAGSE exchange experience influenced your life's journey:
I developed a sophisticated taste during my time in Germany: a thirst for sparkling water, Rotkohl (sauerkraut is basic) and a strong desire to host Raclette grill parties.
Furthermore, my SAGSE Exchange experience has also taught me several life lessons:
1. Apply yourself again and again – and grow by getting out of your comfort zone: If you don't get it the first time, give it a go again. But on your next attempt, learn from your previous experience to identify what you will try differently and don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. By going out of my comfort zone and talking to different people, I was able to exchange different ideas and perspectives. Leaning into new experiences leads to growth because you would’ve achieved something you’ve never done before. Someone might follow your path and need your guidance in the future, so it’s also important to pay it forward.
2. The power of language when it comes to self-expression and connection: With my limited German vocabulary, I didn’t always have the right words to express myself and by extension, to be ‘the true Jasmine’. You kind of just build the grit and resilience to hang in there. It really makes me respect migrants and refugees who are starting their lives in a different country and learning a new language. When you speak the same language as someone, it cannot be denied that there is an instant connection on a deeper level.
3. Be Global so you can Think Global and Act Local: When you go to other countries, you build a global view. Then you can channel those global experiences into making a difference locally. We’re currently talking about implementing a 4-bin system and recycling bottle vending machines in Brimbank. Just saying... I’ve seen things and that Germany is years ahead!
Jasmine is really hoping the international borders open so we can travel again. She needs to go back to Germany and tick the exclusive Berghain off her list!
If her story has inspired you to contribute to the next Alumni Scholarship, click on SAGSE Alumni membership / donations.
Join us next month as we head to the USA to visit a 1997 Stipi from Haileybury. He now lives in Austin, Texas, but word has it that when he used to live in New York he was a mean full forward for the New York Magpies!