Karlya Parnell

I try to live by a quote “faber est suae quisque fortunae” which means that every person is the architect of their own future.

Karlya’s path to ANU has been more diverse than most. From the streets of London to finding a calling in Tanzania, MAAPD online at ANU offered Karlya a way to pursue study wherever she is in the world.

If there’s one theme that defines Karlya’s path to ANU, it’s people. Meeting people, and later helping people. It’s a theme evident throughout Karlya’s story, a story written across many continents and with many twists and turns. A story of changing priorities, shifting expectations, and an unexpected calling.

Leaving School, Karlya pursued engineering at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She was eager to prove she could leave home and define her own image, the image of a perfect student. But seldom is the path in life a straight and predictable one. For a variety of reasons she changed degrees, graduating in business instead. She yearned to learn more about the world. A day after her final exam, she booked a one way ticket to London, and set about travelling to as many places as possible over the next two years. It was in the East African country of Tanzania that Karlya found a calling.

“When the two year visa was up, I wasn’t quite ready to come back to Australia so I detoured via a volunteering program in South Africa and then Tanzania – the plan was three months, but after two days in Tanzania, my heart was stolen and I was determined to find a job and stay, which I did.”

Her work experience by that time, across human resources, community development and real estate, led her to joining the Migration Support Program of the Red Cross. From there, she joined the United Nations Development Program in Tbilisi, Georgia.

During her time in Tanzania, Karlya began looking for further study. She wanted to better understand the participatory approach to developing community programs.

“I could see that the practices we were carrying out weren’t empowering the local people we were working with and I felt a need to learn about the intersection of Western culture being ‘given to’ traditional tribes and expecting to be thanked.”

The unique and flexible Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development (MAAPD) course at ANU, which can be studied online, allowed Karlya to pursue this study from many different places in the world.

“ANU has a reputation for providing quality education and the MAAPD course really ticked the boxes of what I wanted to study, which wasn’t offered elsewhere. When I started the course, what became evident was that the lecturers at ANU have such a huge breadth of real hands on experience in the areas they are teaching which makes such a difference. I only moved to Canberra in July this year, having done the course online for 3.5 years from a few different places around the world, but I have felt a connection to Canberra from those locations so it was kind of like coming home.”

Moving to Canberra only in the last six months of study, she continues to work in the community sector and with a focus on people.

“I am given the freedom to implement programs that will truly benefit the people in the community. I don’t think I will ever stop studying – I’m about to enrol in a French course at ANU because apparently I can’t keep away! Long term, however, I definitely plan to get back overseas – Tanzania will always hold a special place in my heart – to work with communities at a grass roots level and hopefully support them to have opportunities that a lot of us take for granted here in Australia.”

To the students of tomorrow, and even those today who may be feeling a little unsure about their path, Karlya offers some advice from the road now well-travelled.

“I try to live by a quote “faber est suae quisque fortunae” which means that every person is the architect of their own future. I know we all have roadblocks and challenges that are unique to us, but we are the expert in our own lives and whichever way we choose to manage challenges and opportunities is going to be the correct way, by virtue of our own knowledge of ourselves. If it feels right to you, it is right, and there are always ways to make it happen – you might just have a push yourself a little harder.”

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Updated:  14 June 2019/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications