Gian-Luca Gasparini (Master of International Studies)

After my Bachelor in International Development and Cooperation at the University of Bologna, Italy, I obtained my Master of International Studies in the field of International Relations at the Saint Lucia campus in Brisbane.

After my degree, I went back to Italy and I was lucky enough to be hired by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Liaison Officer. Our assignment involved assisting foreign delegations from their arrival in Italy until their departure, effectively linking the Italian Government with the visiting parties. Such a job was required for the Presidency on the Council of the European Union, a role that rotates between EU member states every six months. Italy’s Presidency was in the second semester of 2014. Therefore, we were involved in several ministerial meetings involving EU countries.

Moreover, in the same period, the ASEM Summit in Milan[1] took place, where delegations from more than 50 countries from Europe and Australasia gathered to discuss topics ranging from economic collaboration to common social and political challenges[2].

Thanks to my studies in Australia, I was assigned to the Australian delegation and had the chance to meet and work with the former Foreign Minister, Ms. Julie Bishop. While it was only for a couple of days, I was impressed by her charisma, work ethic and professionalism.

Indeed, it was quite an incredible couple of days, as my colleagues and I were able to be in the same room with people such as the Prime Minister of Japan, the Chancellor of Germany and the President of the Russian Federation - for a graduate in International Relations, it was a dream come true!

Perhaps the epitome of the whole summit came on the evening of the 16 October, when the President of Italy organised a gala dinner for the guests, held at the Royal Palace in Milan, next to the Duomo. There, as we climbed the stairs, we were greeted by the corazzieri, the Italian President’s Honour Guard[3].

For my next job, I landed the position of Project Manager in an Italian firm promoting socially and environmentally responsible endeavours.

This job allowed me to vastly broaden my knowledge, as I was lucky enough to meet people from many walks of life and just by talking to them I was able to learn a lot. The projects covered a wide range of areas, from IT to international development and cooperation.

A very enriching aspect was the chance to travel to different parts of the world, from Europe to Asia, Africa and the Middle East (unfortunately not Australia!). Going there and working with people who have a different take on the same field of work, as well as life in general is something that I would advise anyone to experience in life.

One example that sticks with me refers to a work trip to Lebanon a few years back. We were based in Beirut, where we spoke with local financial experts to better understand how to provide financial support to sustainable entrepreneurs in Lebanon.

One such exchange went so well that our interlocutors invited us to visit their hometown of Bsharri, in Northern Lebanon. Perched on top of a ravine at 1,500 metres above sea level, it was a very dramatic landscape.

After a delicious lunch, we continued further and we visited the museum of the famous poet, painter and sculptor Khalil Gibran. The museum is located in the former Monastery of Mar Sarkis, dug in the mountain. This particular layout and the tortuousness of the building set the stage for a very intimate visit, where I was able to learn more about this polymath.

Our final stop was another stunner, the Cedars of God. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it guards the last remnants of the cedar forests which once covered the country and are now the symbol of the country.

It is incredible to think that all this came from a business meeting. It is always important to try and keep the mind open to life experiences that may present themselves in unexpected ways.

University is a great place for honing one’s skills, as well as to keep developing as a person. I firmly believe that my experience at the University of Queensland prepared me for work life, both in terms of knowledge and personal skills.