ISLP International Relations and Diplomacy delegation: South Africa v. China

Last month I spent nearly two weeks traipsing around China as part of the International Scholar Laureate Program’s International Relations and Diplomacy delegation. For those who remember, last year I went on this same delegation, but to South Africa.

As I’ve previously written about my experiences in South Africa as part of the International Scholar Laureate Program, I thought it would be worth comparing the my experiences in both China and South Africa for any future scholars.

China

My goodness, the China delegation is so tightly packed that you will be exhausted by the end of it. But it is absolutely worth it. You get to explore three Chinese cities – Xi’an, Beijing and Shanghai – and see past, present and future China respectively.

We had some really interesting talks from NGOs, government officials, think tank researchers, university lecturers. We even visited the Polish Embassy in Beijing! As someone who wants to break into diplomacy, this provides valuable insight into the world of international affairs.

I do however recommend critically analysing the content that government officials say, as you would in any country. But keep in mind that China adopts the culture of “saving/keeping face” – so consider the language you use if you feel like voicing your opinions.

Then there was the fun stuff… we visited the Great Wall and took sweaty selfies, the terracotta warrior army of Xi’an (which is still being excavated!), we attended a cheesy kung fu show and intense acrobatic show in Shanghai. There are also multiple additional excursions that you can choose to opt into at an additional cost, which isn’t really touched upon in the pre-departure information.

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A different angle of the Forbidden City 🇨🇳

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The Diplomacy delegation to China is one of the largest programs run by Envision. In 2017 we had approximately 80 scholars, with other delegations (nursing, engineering, business etc.) there were 210 of us in China at once. That means no time for dilly dallying or you’ll get left behind.

 

South Africa 

If you prefer a more relaxed approach to your study tours, the South African delegation is definitely the way to go. Fewer people choose to attend the South Africa delegation (there were about 20 of us in 2016), meaning that there is a greater chance of flexibility in the schedule. For example, I was super interested in visiting the International Criminal Court, where crimes committed under apartheid were trialed. This wasn’t in the original schedule, but I mentioned it to our guide and he arranged a visit – we just had to start the day half an hour earlier.

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Constitutional Court, Johannesburg

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A large portion of this trip is focused on learning about the historical context of apartheid in South Africa, its implications and moving forward to seek justice and reconciliation. This is a really moving topic, and can really affect you if you’re empathetic to hearing about these stories. Visiting the apartheid museum puts things into perspective and will probably make you cry.

One thing I found really refreshing about South Africa is how aware everyone is of current affairs and the political climate. Everyone seems to be well-versed in these issues and have really interesting conversations and debates about them.

A big bonus if you choose to head to South Africa is the optional cultural extension – you’ll spend two days on safari searching for the “big five”:  the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros.

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The watering hole outside our rest stop to Kruger

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In short, both the China and South African International Relations and Diplomacy delegations are incredible experiences and they are what you choose to make of them. You’ll meet a lot of interesting and passionate people – whether they’re speakers, university students, members of the delegation or even people you meet on the street. Each delegation will teach you about a different area of international affairs and you’ll learn an incredible amount in such a short period of time through experiential learning. While no study abroad tour is 100% perfect, I would still absolutely recommend experiences such as these – textbooks and internet searches can only teach you so much.

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Lovebirds: exploring Chinese farmer painting in Xi’an

Nansuo Village in rural Xi’an is famous for Chinese farmer painting – a unique art form that utilises a calligraphy brush and ink to replicate natural images such as bamboo, peonies and lovebirds. As this artform doesn’t involve erasing any mistakes, each painting must be perfect from start to finish and takes artists many years to master.

Today, myself and 70 international scholars from the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Latin America have been invited to Nansuo Village to learn more about the intricate details involved in traditional Chinese painting.

An elderly farmer leads us down the dirt roads to his courtyard. This man is Mr Jiang, a Chinese farmer and renowned painter in the Chinese farmer painting circles.

As we walk the streets, we pass multiple colourful murals depicting smiling children and village life.

We enter through the large traditional Chinese gates and line the path of his courtyard to watch as the local villagers put on a traditional welcoming ceremony.

First comes the crashing of symbols; a group of three women set the scene with great gusto. One woman steps into a dragon boat costume, pulling the straps up over her shoulders and makes her way down the path, swaying in time to the music.

Next, two smiling papier-mâché masked characters dance down the aisle, twirling and curtseying to the audience.

As the performance continues, I notice a group of villagers and their young children have gathered at the entrance to the courtyard and are clapping along to the familiar rhythm.

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Nansuo villagers perform a traditional dragon dance


The music ends and soon five young women dressed in the same green silk suits pick up the sticks of a five-metre-long dragon puppet, ready to impress their international guests. The symbols start up again, this time with the addition of a large hand drum. The women run up and down the aisle, twisting and turning the body of the dragon to give the illusion of flight. The red and gold dragon is restless, and snaps its jaws at the crowd. One girl in front of the dragon is startled, until she remembers that it’s being controlled by the five women, and laughs it off.

The drummer speeds up his tempo, the symbols crash together even louder, and the dragon moves faster and faster, doubling back on itself to create a red figure-of-eight.

Finally, the performance comes to an end, and the scholars are invited to the second floor of Mr Jiang’s house, which serves as his art studio and showroom.

“So, the performance just now we performed in my courtyard is for the big holidays, traditional Chinese holidays or the occasions when we are welcoming distinguished guests from far away,” Mr Jiang explains with the assistance of an interpreter.

“I feel very happy and honoured for you to come and visit my farm, the village, and my family,” he continues.

“Our village has a population of 900 people and the agricultural area is more than 1000 mu” (which equates to approximately 666 square kilometres).

“Our people grow a lot of wheat and corn. Some of the families grow fruit and vegetables. In the agricultural seasons, we all work in the farms but in our spare time we will go and work as the labourers.

Mr Jiang explains that Nansuo village was established during the Qing dynasty from 1644 to 1912.

“This area was the back garden of the Qing emperor and with the growing of the populations, more people moved to this area and we filled the pond so we could start to grow things in the farms.

“There are four villages surrounding the four sides of the garden. Our village is on the south side of the imperial gardens and we call it the South village.”

When asked how long he has lived in the village, Mr Jiang replies: “my family always lived in this village and for so many generations it is hard to remember”.

Mr Jiang begins to paint – dipping his calligraphy brush into pigmented ink and dabbing it on the page repeatedly; creating delicate pink flower petals.

As the calligraphy brush moves across the page, the pink flower petals receive stems and leaves.

Mr Jiang explains that he is painting peonies, as they are renowned in China as being the favourite flower of Chinese emperors because they symbolise prosperity and happiness.

china2.jpgMr Jiang’s first strokes

Mr Jiang sets down his calligraphy brush and explains how he got into the Chinese farmer painting movement.

“I’m just a local farmer and I have worked in the farms for a long time. I’m a farmer but also an artist. Painting is my hobby and since I was a child I loved painting so much.

“At that time, I had a big wish that I would go to college and have further education and become a professional artist.”

But Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 had severe consequences on Mr Jiang, and many other aspiring artists.

“When I graduated from junior high school, the Cultural Revolution burst out. As a kid of a low-ranked official in the national army I had no chance to further my education.”

The stated goal of the Cultural Revolution was to eliminate existing traditional influences and replace them with Mao-ist ideologies.

“At that time, the students needed to be recommended to continue their education. But as a kid from this background I had to drop out,” Mr Jiang explains.

Despite the Cultural Revolution, in 1973, Mr Jiang had the opportunity to join a farmer’s painting club and fulfilled his dream of creating traditional art.

“At that time, a lot of professors and painters from universities of Xi’an came to this village and I had a chance to study and learn from them.

“Through years of study I created so many different artworks and many of my works had won a lot of prizes in domestic and international awards and some of my paintings were collected by public exhibitions.

“Now I’m the vice chairman of the committee of the Pu Shen farmers painting and in my spare time I like to teach the students too.

“I had two exhibitions in Minnesota in the United States in 2000 and 2009. My exhibitions there were very successful.

“I made a lot of friends with Americans and they love my paintings very much. I’m very happy to see my paintings collected by them and hung on the wall or given as a gift to their friends.

Mr Jiang picks up his calligraphy brush and paints two grey lovebirds perched on the peony branches. As he does so, Francis, our interpreter, provides us with some background on traditional Chinese painting.

“In China, there are four treasures for artists – the first is the brush. Normally it’s like a bamboo stake with the fur from a wolf or goat, or sometimes the whiskers of a mouse.

“The second is the rice paper. The Chinese invented paper – it’s one of the four greatest inventions invented by the Chinese. The best paper for paint and writing calligraphy is rice paper. The best rice paper can last for thousands of years, and the rice paper holds the ink very well – that’s why painters like to use the rice paper.

“The third and fourth things are the ink and the ink stone. Of course, we don’t use ink stones anymore – just liquid ink,” Francis explains.

Mr Jiang changes to black ink and leans over the rice paper, carefully writing the Chinese characters for ‘lovebirds’ in his elegant script, as Francis continues her explanation of traditional Chinese artwork.

“If you look at a Chinese painting there are four elements. Firstly, you need to look at the painting itself – the contents. Second, in the corner of the painting you will see a sentence written in Chinese calligraphy. This sentence tells you the meaning of the painting. A second sentence will tell you where and when it was painted. The last thing will be the artist’s seal.

“Chinese oil paintings try to paint a scene to replicate nature – just like taking a photograph. Chinese paintings try to absorb the feeling of the thing.

“The artist will observe the subject, for example bamboo, for many years so he starts to know the growth of bamboo in four different seasons. After so many years of observations, suddenly the artist will become enlightened and come back into the studio to finish the painting within five minutes with no corrections.

The students watch silently as Mr Jiang holds his stamp up to the light and rotates it to the perfect angle, before firmly pressing the seal onto the rice paper, leaving behind a perfect red character.

In less than 15 minutes, a scene of two love birds sitting on a peony bush has been recreated on rice paper.

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Mr Jiang’s final artwork

“Mr Jiang can finish the painting quickly now, but it took him many years to get to this point. He doesn’t like the sketch work where you can use erasers to remove your mistakes and repaint again. You don’t do that – you just finish the painting in one time,” Francis tells the awestruck group.

Mr Jiang’s self-discipline is evident in his artwork – each stroke is intentional and adds to the beauty of his work. It seems that years of perseverance and hard work has lead him to this point.

In the age of emerging digital artwork, there is something intrinsically simple and beautiful about this traditional approach to art.

If art is intended to replicate the complexities of life, perhaps we can learn something from Mr Jiang.

By carefully considering what is around us and learning to be intentional with our actions, we can create a beautiful life that we’re proud of.

Sharing the dignity: how Rochelle Courtenay inspired a movement to help disadvantaged Australian women and girls have a healthy and hygienic time of the month

“You have no idea that I’m standing here in my cupboard with no clothes on.”

Those are the first words I hear as I make out the blurry image of what seems to be a bedroom ceiling on my computer. I’m video calling Rochelle Courtenay, founder of Share the Dignity, a not-for-profit charity which has helped thousands of Australian women and girls experiencing homelessness or other socio-economic factors that prevent them from buying pads and tampons. And I seem to have caught her running a few minutes late.

Five minutes later Rochelle, fully clothed in an off-the-shoulder black shirt, calls me back and shows off the picturesque view she has of the ocean from her patio in Sandgate, Queensland.

In February 2015 Rochelle read an article about female homelessness on news website Mamamia and decided to make a difference. By March she had set up a Facebook group to collect pads and tampons to pass on to homeless shelters. Her eldest daughter, 19-year-old Aleesha created the original graphics and edited the early videos of Rochelle calling for action. In the two years since its inception, Share the Dignity has raised approximately $10 million in physical donations and boasts over 93 thousand Facebook followers, but Rochelle isn’t satisfied just yet.

“There’s 19 million people in Australia on Facebook so that’s just a small drop in the ocean. I would have hoped that we would be further [by now]. I hoped that more women would know about the fact that it’s a massive issue”.

 

Share the Dignity holds sanitary product collection drives in April and August of each year, or the “angel months”, as Rochelle playfully calls them. “I literally chose them because they were always called the angel months. That’s the whole “science” behind it. It doesn’t really make any sense,” she laughs.

The charity is run by 1500 volunteers across Australia, so collecting twice a year risks burning them out and relies on the collection boxes as a “call to action”. While Rochelle is keen to collect once a year, she acknowledges the logistical difficulties surrounding this.

“It would be amazing if we could only collect once a year, but I don’t think it will work that way. If we collect 200 thousand packets of pads and tampons in April this year, if you do the maths that’s only enough for 25 thousand women for four months for their period.”

 

Aside from the sanitary item collections, Share the Dignity raises money through their “DigniTEA” high teas in May and hold other fundraising initiatives throughout the year. This year over 3000 women across Australia will celebrate World Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May by attending DigniTEA events in capital cities. In Brisbane tickets for the DigniTEA sold out in three days, which Rochelle states “sold out faster than an Adele concert”.

 

Last year Rochelle was named Cosmopolitan’s Humanitarian of the Year for her work with Share the Dignity. The glass award holds a special place both on the mantelpiece and in her thoughts.

“I was really chuffed. There are some fabulous charities out there and some amazing women doing fabulous stuff,” she beams.

“I take that award very humbly. Honestly, Share the Dignity is not about me, it’s this amazing movement of women who said that’s not ok, I’ll help – it doesn’t happen on your own. When I get an award or I get nominated for something, it’s not mine. It’s for all of us. I just happen to be there with my hair done and makeup on,” she continues, fastening a silver chain on her right wrist.

 

2017 marks an exciting year for Share the Dignity, with the rolling out of their new initiative, the “Pink Box” – a vending machine that dispenses sanitary products to those in low socio-economic areas. The two prototypes were installed at Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Victoria and the Bracken Ridge McDonald’s in Queensland. The fast food restaurant offers clean toilets, police security and relatively affordable food, making it a common destination for domestic abuse survivors.

Twenty vending machines are scheduled to be rolled out across Australia in 2017, with hopes for another 30 to follow. At $9000 each for initial costs and an additional $2.50 per packet dispensed, the charity needs to ensure the money continues to come in through fundraising.

 

Suddenly, we’re on the move. Rochelle is on her way to a meeting with Soroptimist International, a female-led global philanthropy organisation aimed at helping women in need. “You’re coming with me” she chirps as she walks to the car and props her phone up near the handbrake.

“Sorry you have to look up my nose”, she apologises with a laugh, putting the car into gear. She continues to answer my questions on the ten-minute drive.

As she drives, Rochelle tells me that she attributes the success of Share the Dignity to Facebook.

“We wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for social media. What would I have done two years before – put an ad out in the local paper? You just couldn’t have done it. It never would have happened”.

The ongoing support of Share the Dignity from her family, particularly her two daughters Aleesha and Hayley, has warmed Rochelle’s heart.

“My girls have counted more packets of pads and tampons than any person in the world I think. We’ve all thrown pads and tampons at each other at some stage.”

The self-proclaimed “crazy pad lady” admits that although there is some irony in her nickname, she embraces it fondly.

“I don’t even get my period anymore, so it’s quite funny that I’m the pad lady. I suffered so badly with endometriosis and I had a merina coil put in 10 years ago. It completely changed my life. I was down for two days every month not being able to work, huddled over in pain. It took me five years to fall pregnant with my first child. The best day in my life was the day that Aleesha was born because I never thought I would have children. So, crazy pad lady I am. I wear that label very proudly.”

Could Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why promote better mental health initiatives in schools? [opinion]

The controversy surrounding the Netflix Original Series 13 Reasons Why has blown up over the past couple of months, with thousands of Facebook users taking to their keyboards to either praise or condemn the show.

For those who have yet to see it, 13 Reasons Why explores the events leading up to the suicide of 15-year-old Hannah Baker. The series includes a graphic scene of Hannah painfully taking her own life in the bathtub.

13 Reasons Why is far from a perfect representation of mental illness – many argue that the show glosses over or even glorifies mental illness and suicide – but whether you love it or hate it, the outcome remains the same: people are talking about mental health and suicide prevention.

By promoting conversations about mental health, and exposing viewers to the harsh realities of ill-equipped school counsellors, 13 Reasons Why has challenged existing stigma surrounding mental health issues.

By introducing these types of media into pop culture, the existence of mental health issues become acknowledged and de-stigmatised within communities.

Why is this important?

According to a joint report from Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute, nearly 1 in 4 Australian teenagers meet the criteria for “having a probable serious mental illness”.

A recent study from Headspace and the National Union of Students has also found that 1 in 3 Australian tertiary students think about self-harm or suicide.

By acknowledging and de-stigmatising mental health issues, we as a community can open the floor for educated discussions, learn to recognise signs of depression, and save more lives.

High schools and tertiary institutions can use media as a tool to engage students and staff when discussing mental health, disprove stereotypes and highlight the importance of seeking help if needed.

In 13 Reasons Why, the failure of the school counsellor, Mr. Porter, to reach out and provide help to Hannah when she sought it should provide current and future counsellors with an understanding of how not to treat a teenager battling depression.

Students can also be encouraged to educate themselves on mental health awareness, learn to look for symptoms, and find out how to ask for help.

In response to research indicating that teenagers prefer to share their problems with peers, Mental Health First Aid Australia developed a course specifically aimed at teenagers to encourage them to support their peers.

After completing the course, participants had reduced stigmatised attitudes, improved knowledge of mental health problems and their treatment, increased confidence in providing mental health first aid to a peer, and increased help-seeking intentions.

So, it’s up to schools to decide whether they should force their students to analyse Macbeth’s soliloquies and memorise Pythagoras’s theorem, or teach staff and students to potentially save lives.

I know which I’d pick.

How unpaid internships benefit the rich [opinion]

I’m having difficulty adapting to the end of university life. For the past four and a half years I’ve been able to focus on assignments and blocking out the real world. It wasn’t until my final year that I realised the importance of gaining work experience through internships and volunteering.

I was so focused on getting decent grades and completing all my assignments that I forgot that university was a pathway to get to a desired career goal. I think that a lot of people fall into this trap, and we come away from university with our degrees and minimal job prospects because of it.

I heard the other day that it takes a graduate an average of four years to get full-time work related to their study field. That’s longer than most of the degrees out there.

Most workplaces won’t hire you without experience, which makes sense because they don’t want to hire people who may not be able to perform well. But how are you supposed to gain experience if no-one will hire you?

That’s when unpaid internships come into play. In the international relations sector, majority of internships are unpaid and go for several months at a time. If (like me) you come from a city that doesn’t offer internships in your field of interest, you need to relocate at your own cost – either interstate or internationally.

This is where things start to really irk me. If you’re working full-time for several months away from home, it’s going to start getting expensive. Accommodation, food, transport, work-related expenses… it all adds up. Full-time unpaid work doesn’t leave a lot of time for paid casual or part-time work, so you need to prepare to save a lot of money beforehand or go into debt. If you don’t have the money, you can’t afford to live.

This means that only people who are financially well-off or have saved like crazy can afford to take part in these initiatives. Intentionally or not, these unpaid internships benefit the rich, further widening the gap between rich and poor graduates. If you can’t afford to work for free to get experience then it seems like you might be waiting a while for that graduate-level position.

Archives: 2016 wrap up

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2016 was a big year. I started off readjusting from my Japanese exchange, and learning to live with less money. 2016 was the year I started reading about minimalism and feminism and was inspired to live a more meaningful life with less. I must have decluttered over 1000 possessions, and it barely made a dent. It continued to look the same.

This was the year I pushed myself to get involved in more extra-curricular activities. I joined the UNITE Leadership Program and became an e-pal mentor for the first semester. I became involved with the Community Connect club and participated in the Vinnie’s Community Sleepout where I was educated on the issue of homelessness in Australia. I organised a pad and tampon collection drive across the university campuses to donate to women in need via Share the Dignity. I became the project manager of a panel session called She Speaks: the power of an educated woman, where four panelists and our MC discussed the importance of educating girls and women, promoting leadership and the benefits for the community overall. These projects sparked a new interest – women’s wellbeing.

As a member of Golden Key, I was invited to participate in the International Scholar Laureate Program’s Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy in South Africa (which I assure you is not nearly as pretentious as it sounds). As I didn’t have any significant income, I took up jobs through an agency involving event cleaning, serving food and drinks at functions and working on production lines. I also raised money through crowdfunding, scholarship applications, writing to my local council and applying for a student loan. My family could not have been more shocked at how my determination pulled through to afford this experience. Travelling to South Africa was not only an incredible experience, but provided me with a base for one of my papers on reconciliation and my 4500 word international relations research paper. I’m currently eyeing up the 2017 delegation to China, but I expect that would require real grown-up loans with lots of interest, and I’m not sure I can justify it (side note: I definitely am justifying it).

I applied for a place for the 2017 Journalism Professional Practicum with the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (again, not as pretentious as it sounds!) and amazingly, was offered a spot. They arranged a four-week internship at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in January and February. I’ll also be learning Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) and learning about Indonesian culture and media in the two weeks beforehand.

I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

 

An open letter to my younger self

Dear 15 year old Milly,

If memory serves correctly you’re in year 10 and it’s the happiest year in high school you’ve had so far. You’re probably wondering what the future holds for you: you didn’t get into a law degree, which is completely fine as you had no interest in law anyway; you’ve figured out that you can get university credit for travelling; and you’ve learned that being single is actually really enjoyable.

Here’s a collection of advice to prepare you for the years to come: 

Do not let peroxide get anywhere near your hair. It is a terrible idea and you will look like an old woman but no-one will tell you. Also, every single time you cut your hair short you will regret it. A lot.

Delete your Formspring account. It seems like a joke, but anyone who sends anonymous questions about your non-existent sex life online is harassing you. You have some friends with unsavoury ideas about the role of women and you should educate or cut them out of your life now.

Your high school crushes are just that, crushes. They change about every 3-6 months. You’ve been watching too many school-life anime series – you are not in love with them and therefore you do not need to confess that “love”. And don’t go out with anyone because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings by turning them down. It only makes things more difficult in the long run.

On that note, someone will love you for the person that you are, even if it is temporary. It feels incredible, but don’t let that compromise your principles or force you into doing anything you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with.

If you have a problem with the way your friends are behaving talk to them personally and leave social media (especially anything public) out of it. Also, call or visit the person you’re dating when your relationship takes a turn so you don’t have to sheepishly admit that you were broken up with over Facebook Messenger. Or better yet, break up with him first.

Learn how to save money and budget. In your early twenties you’re still struggling, and regret spending a lot of money on extravagant presents for and dates with your (now ex) boyfriend years later. Save that money up for travelling, as it’s something you’re passionate about.

Finally, the next few years are going to take a serious toll on your mental health, which will extend to your physical health. Visit a GP when you feel like you’re drowning and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is no shame in asking for help, and your true friends will stick by you even if they can’t understand what’s going on in your mind.

You’ve got a lot to look forward to kiddo, so get out there and make the most of your life!

 

FAQs: my university pathway

Last week when my parents admitted they weren’t quite sure how my studies all tied together, I was forced to admit that my study pathway seems confusing from the outside. As a result I’ve created this cheat sheet with my friends and family members in mind, so they don’t have to sheepishly ask (again) what the hell I’m doing. If you want to get into the really fine details, get a snack and visit my LinkedIn profile.

So, what exactly are you studying?

At university I’ve been working towards three undergraduate programs: Diploma in Languages (Japanese), Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of International Relations. I’ve completed the requirements for two of these, and all I need is to complete a semester of journalism subjects to complete my undergraduate studies.

How did you manage to reduce your time spent at university?

These programs were supposed to take five years to complete (four for my double Bachelors and another one for the Diploma), but I’m on track to complete it in four and a half. How? I’ve utilised summer school opportunities and taken on the maximum number of subjects per semester. I was also able to transfer credit for the equivalent of two subjects for the Japanese in-country course I took in first year.

How can you travel so much as part of your university studies?

Long story short, as a communications student (particularly international relations and languages) I’m encouraged to undertake in-country study. In my case, instead of completing four international relations subjects, I opted to study overseas for a semester; undertook an in-country language course and extended my student exchange for my language diploma; and found an overseas internship for my journalism internship requirement. I’ve calculated that by the time I graduate, approximately 30 per cent of my university courses will have been fully or partially completed internationally (adding up to 13 accumulative months).

From day one at university I was actively seeking out opportunities to incorporate travel into my university studies. Every few months I search for and apply for many programs (and scholarships to cover the cost of these programs), of which I’m only accepted into a small percentage. Since I’m always asked where I went/for how long/what I got credit for/what scholarships I received, here’s a comprehensive list:

  • Japan 2013/4, 2015
    • 6 week intensive Japanese course at Waseda University – 2 subjects equivalent (international relations and languages) – JASSO monthly scholarship, Global Experience scholarship
    • Spring semester of Japanese at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies – 4 subjects equivalent (international relations) – New Colombo Plan scholarship, JASSO monthly scholarship
    • Autumn semester of Japanese at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies – 4 subjects equivalent (languages) – OS-HELP loan, JASSO monthly scholarship
  • South Africa 2016
    • 2 week ISLP Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy to South Africa – part of one subject (international relations) – OS-HELP loan, ISLP $500 reduction scholarship
  • Indonesia 2017 (upcoming)
    • 6 week ACICIS Journalism Professional Practicum – 1 subject equivalent (journalism) – New Colombo Plan scholarship

If you want ideas of how to raise money for uni-related travel, read my previous blog post entitled How to fund your study overseas despite being a broke uni student.

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What extra-curricular activities are you involved in?

In addition to studying full-time, I’ve been involved in a number of extra-curricular activities since starting university. I completed the Global Experience program (which was discontinued in 2015), the UNITE Leadership Program, the Student Ambassador program (as a Global Experience ambassador). In 2016 I was involved in several activities through the Community Connect club, which promotes volunteering and community engagement. These included: participating in the Vinnie’s Community Sleepout; organising a university-wide sanitary item collection for Share the Dignity; and raising funds for the International Women’s Development Agency through managing a panel session that focused on the importance of educating girls and women and the importance of getting them into positions of leadership.

What are your plans after you graduate?

Honestly, the thought of graduating slightly terrifies me, as graduates are expected to undertake a number of unpaid internships to gain practical experience before they are hired. Ideally I’d love to get into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Graduate Program, be sponsored to undertake a Masters degree by coursework in International Relations or related field, and eventually end up working as an Australian ambassador, at the United Nations or helping to combat women’s issues.

Homelessness awareness campaign

As part of the UNITE leadership program my team of big-hearted and talented individuals have been working on organising a homelessness awareness campaign at the University of South Australia campuses during August and September 2016. We’ve been working with two organisations that work tirelessly to assist people in need: the St Vincent de Paul Society and Share the Dignity. Read more about our work below.

Share the Dignity sanitary items collection drive

Share the Dignity is a not-for-profit organisation that collects and distributes sanitary items for women in need. From 19 August to 30 September the USASA counters at each of the four University of South Australia metro campuses (Magill, Mawson Lakes, City East and City West) will be designated collection points. Donations will be counted weekly at each campus and posted online to promote healthy competition among campuses to see who can donate the most. These products will be taken to Share the Dignity where they will be packed up and distributed to homeless women and other women in need of these items.

Adelaide fashion designer and UNITE participant Belinda Zanello will be making a dress out of pads and tampons to turn heads and raise awareness of one of the issues that homeless women have to face regularly. Thank you to TSUNO for providing the materials to make the dress. The final product will be revealed at the International Women’s Development Agency #SheSpeaks panel discussion on Friday 30 September to conclude the collection campaign.

An exciting addition to this campaign will be the use of a hashtag #bloodyhell to raise further awareness on social media. Anyone can get involved – let’s end the stigma associated with periods and start a discussion on how to make things easier for homeless women during “that time of the month”.

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Community sleepout for Vinnies

On 19 August a number of students from the University of South Australia will be sleeping outside at the City West campus to raise awareness of homelessness. Leading up to this we will be collecting donations for the St Vincent de Paul Society (SA) online and through pop-up food stalls throughout August. On the night the team will be organising a number of activities, stalls and guest speakers, some of whom have personally experienced what it’s like to be homeless. All donations will go to Vinnies to be used to provide supplies to those who are homeless in South Australia.

Donate to the campaign here.

Two weeks in South Africa

In May I travelled to South Africa as a part of the International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy (it’s not nearly as pretentious as it sounds!). Thanks to the generous donations from family, friends and the Mount Barker District Council, a partial scholarship from ISLP and utilising the OS-HELP loan system I was able to pay tuition fees and air fares.

I spent two incredible weeks visiting universities and organisations working towards making South Africa a better place. The trip included a number of visits, including: the Apartheid Museum; Constitutional Court (at my suggestion); The Valley of 1000 Hills; the US embassy in Pretoria; the Afro-Middle East Centre; and ACCORD. When the main program was complete we travelled to Kruger National Park and spent two days on safari – which has been on my bucket list for ages!

I thought I’d share a few things I learned while on my journey:

  • Australia is really behind in the equal rights movement.
    Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 1994 and no-one blinks an eye at it. We are twenty-two years behind South Africa in this area.
  • Some people are over Nelson Mandela.
    When we visited universities, we met students who claimed they were sick of the way that Mandela has been hailed as a messiah figure in media. At the end of the day, he was a very good politician who knew how to rally the people.
  • In SA it is acceptable to use the terms black, white and coloured…
    This felt really weird to hear on a regular basis.
  • Durban is beautiful, but the beaches are covered in debris.
    Litter is a big problem 😦
  • Bunny chow does not contain actual bunnies.
    It’s just a quirky name for a delicious curry-filled loaf of bread. Mmmm

If you’re interested in the International Scholar Laureate Program, click here.