Learning life lessons
FLYNN Murphy was the top student in his high school class and in 2005, he was accepted to Sydney University, the top university in Australia.
But when it came time to leave for school, Murphy decided to trade in his books for a backpack. He left Australia behind and ventured towards China and Southeast Asia. And the decision changed his life.
"There is a lot of pressure even in high school," said Murphy, who is now a second-year student majoring in Media and Communications. "That's why a gap year is becoming increasingly common in Australia. I have done some research and students who take a year off and relieve some of the stress tend to do better in university."
Murphy decided to travel to China mostly because of its proximity. "China is right next to Australia," he said. "So that was convenient. But I was also attracted to the differences between the two countries. I wanted to challenge myself."
The challenge paid off. Murphy returned a year later, a more confident and independent person. "I don't want to sound clichéd," Murphy said, "but traveling forces you to make friends quickly. It also teaches you not to judge anyone.
"Spending time in some poor areas really made me appreciate Australia," Murphy continued. "It kind of makes you feel guilty" because the quality of life in Australia is higher than for people in poor countries. However, "it also makes you want to do more".
Murphy doesn't just talk. He puts his words into action and is now involved in a wide range of voluntary activities. While he has no set schedule, he volunteers whenever he has free time, which can be many hours per week. Murphy participates in the Glebe (an Australian town) Basketball Association.
This league tries to help financially disadvantaged children in the inner city develop discipline and focus by playing basketball. And Murphy acts as a counselor helping kids learn basketball but also lending them an ear if they need to talk. "Basketball is a cheap way to use up a lot of your energy," Murphy said. "It really helps these kids learn self-control because in basketball if you get angry and hit somebody it's a foul."
Murphy also works as a Red Cross volunteer to help with fundraising and public relations. But he is always a low-profile guy. "I couldn't give you a reason or motivation behind my voluntary work," Murphy said. "It just seems like the right thing to do."
"I still remember my experience in China. Once, I was on a packed minibus in Yunnan and there was a little boy crying in the front seat. I reached into my bag and gave him a clip-on koala I'd brought with me. He stopped crying, and in an instant the whole mood of the bus changed. Everyone was smiling and trying to speak to me.
Describe yourself in five words:
What do you do for fun?
I like surfing. There are some great beaches in Australia. But I also like swimming and fencing. When I was young, I saw fencing on television and I wanted to play with swords, so I figured it would be the perfect sport.
What do you want to do after graduation?
I love English and I love writing, so I hope to be a foreign correspondent or a translator.
There are many words to describe "being poor". We list some of them here. All of them are polite and won't cause offence.
financially disadvantaged: 经济上处于劣势的
The national scholarship helps some financially disadvantaged students continue their college education. 国家奖学金可以帮助部分家庭困难学生完成大学学业。
economically challenged: 有经济压力的
He works hard so he can help his economically challenged family have a better future. 他努力工作，希望能够改变家庭的经济状况。
Taking a flight back home for the winter holiday is a luxury for cash-strapped students. So they have to take the train instead. 对于经济困难的学生，坐飞机回家过寒假太奢侈了。他们只能坐火车。
relieve 减轻, 解除