Why we need to educate ourselves about service animals

Today at my local shopping centre I overheard a conversation between two strangers which got a little heated. One lady was going about her business with her assistance dog and another woman came up and started talking to the dog. The woman with the assistance dog explained that the dog is working as a service animal and pointed out his harness that indicated this. She tried to explain to the other woman that distracting the dog while he is working means that he will not pick up on when she needs help and she could get seriously injured or die as a result. She also explained that this is the same as guide dogs. She asked the woman to speak to her and not her animal for that very reason.

Rather than apologise for her mistake and acknowledge that she wasn’t aware of this, the other woman proceeded to argue that she addresses and pats guide dogs all the time and that all dogs need to be socialised. She then started accusing the owner of not being able to control her dog, completely missing the points that the owner had made in the first place.

I ended up talking with the owner after the exchange and she was rightfully upset about the exchange and confided in me that she was so sick of having to explain to ignorant people not to pat her dog or otherwise distract it while it is working. For dogs who alert their owners to medical issues, such as people who have epileptic fits or have insulin related issues, it is integral that they stay focused as any distraction can literally be a matter of life or death.

For people who don’t use service animals, I believe that it is important that we make sure to educate ourselves about what is or isn’t appropriate when we encounter working animals. Until a few years ago, I personally was guilty of smiling at working dogs because they’re ridiculously cute and the dog lover in me just wants to pat every dog I see. It’s an understandable reaction, but we cannot put people’s lives at risk by distracting a service animal while it is working.

Long story short: if someone asks you not to pat or talk to their dog as it distracts them from their work, don’t do it. And don’t start arguing with them. I guarantee they know more about their dog than you do.

In case you are interested in learning more about why you should never pat or distract a service dog while it is working, I highly recommend the following video from Molly Burke, a YouTuber who is blind and uses a guide dog. The video is a few years old now, but everything she says remains incredibly relevant.

(She also has many videos on her channel about living with blindness and what it’s like having a guide dog. I have honestly learnt so much from watching her videos and have evolved from my own preconceived ideas of blindness. I encourage you to subscribe to her channel if you aren’t already.)


A realistic morning routine [satire]

I am convinced that YouTubers are lying to us. I don’t trust anyone who claims to wake up ready for the day, equipped only with a kale smoothie and a yoga mat.

Here’s what a realistic morning routine looks like for a twenty-something with fulltime work.

6:45 am alarm goes off for the first time. Alarm label has been changed to “Get up. You’re an adult with responsibilities now”. Bills by Lunchmoney Lewis is the appropriate song to wake up to. I don’t wake up – instead I hit snooze.

After pressing the snooze button multiple times, I look at the time – 7:20. Shit, not again.

Fling the covers off, half sobbing at the prospect of being out of bed. There’s not even an attempt at making the bed – the doona will remain crumpled in a heap until I get home.

The dog needs to be let out. Quickly, quickly now… waddle out to the kitchen in a daze to get his biscuit. Spread peanut butter on the biscuit and hide his medicine. Silly dog. Let him outside and watch him crunch happily for a couple of seconds.

What was I doing again? Shit. Power walk to the bedroom and put basic makeup on. Concealer, eyebrow gel, mascara, maybe lipstick if I feel like tricking people into thinking it’s taken me longer to put myself together.

Run the brush through my hair and throw it up in a messy bun. Put some dangly earrings in so no one notices the lack of effort put into the hair.

Throw open wardrobe to find my black dress – no not one of those 3 other black dresses! The other one! Rummage through clean laundry piled up in the other room, locate it and pull it on quickly, while stepping into ballet flats with so little support that a podiatrist would cringe over.

Grab bag, rummage through fridge and cupboard to find food to take to work. Throw in some fruit and resign myself to the fact that I have to buy lunch…again because I didn’t think ahead.

Back to the bathroom for a teeth brushing. The electric toothbrush battery runs out not even halfway through the cycle. Quickly, brush up and down manually. Spit. Check. Good enough.

Fast walk to grab keys and bag looking like a woman on a mission. Then leave the house, gravel crunching under the tyres as I quickly reverse around the driveway’s roundabout. Then just battle with waking up and dealing with people who can’t remember how to drive on the 50 minute drive to work in peak hour. Yay!

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.


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”.


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.

What can I do for YOU?

It has come to my attention that the language used in my fundraising campaign may come across as a purely taking relationship, and for this I apologise.

It was not my intention for this to be a one-way transaction. 

For any one who has donated or plans to donate in the future I offer the following services:

  • Japanese-English translation (up to JLPT N3 equivalent texts)
  • Proofreading and editing documents
  • Reception/administrative services
  • Retail/sales work
  • Freelance writing

Please message me to arrange what I can do for you in return for your generous contributions.

Donations can be made at the first link below until March 31st 2016.


Current fundraising campaign

Information on the Delegation to SA

Previous campaign


South Africa update


In February I asked for support from friends and family to help me raise funds to pay the deposit for an International Relations and Diplomacy Delegation to South Africa as part of the International Scholar Laureate. My goal was $900.

An unbelievable $1000 was pledged to my campaign – thank you to Ally, Kay, Dee, Pauline, Blake, Andrew and Nick … for donating.

I have successfully registered my application and paid for the trip deposit. I could not have done this without the support of these generous people.

I am currently raising funds to help cover the cost of the rest of the trip – broken down into:

  • Tuition: USD $3395 /AUD $4750
  • Air fare: approx. AUD $1500

I understand that it is not fair to expect to receive financial support from others. That is why I only ask you to consider donating if you are able to financially. I plan to approach organisations in my area to request sponsorships, apply for travel grants and sponsorships and, as a last resort, take out a personal loan to cover the rest of the expenses.

I truly am so grateful to the people who have helped me with this fundraising campaign, or shown me support even when they are unable to contribute financially.


Current fundraising campaign

Information on the Delegation to SA

Previous campaign