Geoffrey: ROAD LESS TRAVELLED BY

Hello Everyone!

This is my final blog post for this exchange! Unfortunately, this entire exchange has been online, and I won’t get to share my post-lockdown life on here. But you can follow me on Instagram @gywchen for future updates! I will share some thoughts I’ve had about this exchange and life and some advice to future exchange students.

Robert Frost said

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”.

Ever since starting university, I always wanted to go on exchange. I had planned meticulously two years in advance what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. But those plans were all cancelled when COVID hit the beginning of last year. When I got notice from the university this year that a possible exchange for Australia was on the cards, I got a little excited as going somewhere is better than not going anywhere at all.

However, as soon as I arrived in Australia, lockdown was imposed for both Sydney and Melbourne. Life always throws surprises at us, and the most important skills one can have during this unprecedented time are adaptation and resilience. We cannot change things external to us, but we can make the most of what we have. Although I am unlucky, I am still grateful that I’m here and able to experience everything that I have experienced and going to experience. Life is short and unpredictable. COVID has taken the lives of some but changed the direction of many.

My only advice to future exchange students going to Australia or anywhere in the world is to be grateful that you get to go on exchange and make the most of what you can. Do everything you can because lockdown could be just around the corner. Although it seems the world is finally transitioning out of lockdowns, you never know what the future holds. Just like COVID in 2020 and Delta in 2021 was unexpected, we don’t know what 2022 holds.

So go out, explore, be silly and take the road less travelled!

off to explore!
had a lot of pistachio gelato in Melbourne
more pistachio gelato…
sunsets and palm trees
croffles at Bakemono
on one of my regular walks at Southbank. Found a nice spot and just started to read.

Sasa : It wasn’t meant to be an online exchange

I think my last blog post was definitely too optimistic, no we did not get to go back to university but on the plus side, I still can’t say going on exchange was a bad idea since Auckland is also in lockdown and the University of Auckland is going to be online for the rest of the semester anyway. Is it awful to take comfort in that? I’d argue it’s only human 😉

It’s almost a heart ❤ 😉 Don’t worry I only took my mask off for the photo

However regardless of only having had an online relationship with the University, I have still learnt a lot so let’s dedicate this blog post to the academic side of things while I work behind the scenes to make my life more exciting, just for my 3 readers xo

The courses I’m taking this semester consists of a tissue engineering & stem cells paper, numerical algorithms, a biosystems project paper and a pysch/neuroscience paper. Some of the content is really interesting and the tissue engineering paper I was especially excited to take as it was so relevant to my degree and what I potentially want to do. The content is varied and we have quite a few guest lecturers coming in to talk about their respective fields (ie orthodontics, orthopaedics) where they are doing really amazing things – kind of ground-breaking actually, which is a privilege to learn about. It’s also a post-graduate paper but you are allowed to do one as part of your exchange program so I highly recommend taking it for anyone coming to University of Melbourne interested in medical engineering – it’s one of the few papers I’ve taken that actually feels really relevant to the field and one that you wouldn’t have the opportunity of taking back in Auckland. It’s still been great to learn a lot of interesting things without that GPA pressure which is a huge weight off. I’m still about 2 weeks behind though- old habits die hard.

Note that I’m speaking from my own experience but one of the first things I noticed when I was putting together my timetable is that there are far less lectures per paper (which is referred to as a ‘subject’ here) mostly only 1 a week!! However, there’s a catch in that each lecture is two hours long…

Still, the workload is definitely a lot less than my previous papers in BME ( nod to ENGSCI 314 which had 4 lectures a week). There are also less assessment/deliverables, only 3-4, including the exam for all of my papers except one. I’m infinitely grateful I got to escape the hell that is Part III second semester that is BME especially as I struggle massively with engaging in online learning when there are no physical places to go to.

The student association here is also bigger and better and there is a lot of support for students – I think we’re due to get a care package soon which is really cute and they give out free meals and fruit and vege boxes for students along with online events that are actually kinda fun- like virtual escape rooms

Also lockdown here is pretty much level 3 so you still get to experience Melbourne through your stomach – and the food here is to die for

Ate this all by myself and felt really bad but oh god it was so good

I actually love Melbourne. It’s such a great city and I’m definitely open to coming back and living here and either working or doing post-grad study here.

Until next time 🙂

Sasa

GEOFFREY: THIS IS MY CANVAS

I’ma paint it, paint it, paint it, how I want…..2014 Forest Hills Drive on repeat during this lockdown. What can you do during a strict Melbourne lockdown? Well, not much, feeling déjà vu daily.

One of my favourite things to do when I’m alone is to ride around the city on my bicycle. Exploring new sights while covering a lot of ground is one of the many reasons why I love biking through a new city.

As soon as lockdown was announced, I immediately shared my biking thoughts with Alan. He shared the same sentiment as me, so we both hit up Facebook Marketplace and got whatever available bike. Even if we weren’t living in a COVID environment, I would be biking through the graffitied streets of Fitzroy or down the Yarra River. With everything locked up, this is now all I can do.

Bike

And wherever we go
And whatever we do
And whatever we see
And whoever we be
It don’t matter, it don’t matter
I don’t mind cause you don’t matter
I don’t mind cause I don’t matter,
You’ll see in the end
Alan & I on one of our many bike rides
ridin’ my bike down the Yarra listenin’ to Cole

Walks

Other than biking, I also love to go on walks. I try and leave the hall at least once a day to get some fresh air and to get the limbs moving. I would find a place to go to everyday, and along the journey, I would discover and see new sights and might even encounter something unexpected! It’s also a great way of getting more familiar with the city!

spontaneous ice cream runs
I want my dreams to rescue me
On the road to riches
woke up early to go to Lune to try out their Almond Croissant which according to the New York Times was the best croissant in the world..

Study

II went on exchange to study less, not more. But with the whole semester under lockdown, I’m studying a lot more than expected. With the entire semester online, it is difficult to make friends. So desperate times calls for desperate measures – Alan told me he selected a few people from his zoom classes and hit them up on FB. I went and did the same but also directly hit some people up on zoom during our lectures. Surprisingly, most people responded, and some even helped out!

Baillieu Library – the only library open during lockdown
I like to write alone, be in my zone

So biking, walking and studying sums up what Alan and I have been up to during the past month or so!

This might be the routine for a while, but hopefully not!

Sasa: Expectations vs Reality

Expectations Vs Reality so far

I think I jinxed all of Victoria when I said in my ambassador bio ‘assuming there isn’t another lockdown and the borders close’ …

Because I have been here a little over three weeks and we have had 2 lockdowns and honestly it’s tragic enough to be funny. At least I had mentally prepared myself for Melbourne not being the same as it was nearly 4 years ago when I came.

Nevertheless I was really excited to meet my new flatmates, attend all the re-o week events at my student village and at the university and make friends everywhere in a fresh new place. However as I arrived at 11 pm, the RA showed me to my flat and it was ..completely empty. I was a little disappointed as I’m not usually one to want to live alone but I thought it might even end up being better as long as I made friends in the village to visit and invite over. Two days later we went into lockdown.

Ahhh

The view from my balcony – can’t wait to swim in that pool someday

I’ve never really thought I was that extroverted until I had to do a two week lockdown basically on my own and I learnt that I really like being around people. Honestly though I think I have really made the most of the situation and despite all the covid-19 issues, Melbourne is still an amazing place to be in. The city is so vibrant and interesting with fascinating and historical architecture whereas I’ve always thought Auckland was too grey.

The Yarra River, taken on one of my walks.
Some really nice church

I’ve also really appreciated how the university has welcomed us and hosted a zoom call to go over some things and check in on us. I’m really excited for when we can finally have the welcome day in person and go back to university in person. It’s such a beautiful campus. The exchange club at the university (MUSEX) have also saved my social life and I’ve met some lovely people (in the ~1 week between lockdowns).

One of the residential colleges on campus. It’s like $800/wk but has a real Hogwarts vibe

I feel like a first-year again walking around campus because everything is brand new again and I love that feeling – it stops you getting in a rut and time goes by slower because it’s all new and you’re taking it in. If you get the chance to go on exchange, even if it’s not the best time for it, I still really recommend it, especially if it’s your last semester you can take on exchange like it was for me. You’ll make the best of it, you may only get this opportunity once and unless you believe in reincarnation, you won’t get a second life.

Stay updated to see whether we get to go back to university in person soon (fingers crossed)

Sasa

Me and two of my BME classmates that also went on exchange:)

Geoffrey: ONE WEEK OF FREEDOM

Hello Everyone!

I am currently writing this post as we enter lockdown VI in Melbourne, Australia. It has been one week since we last exited the previous lockdown, which means I have only had one week of ‘freedom’ since arriving in Melbourne (as I also had to self-isolate for two weeks coming from NSW).

Straight out of isolation, my roommate ‘Alan’ and I ventured to Melbourne’s most famous street art destination, ‘Hosier Lane’. I have been involved in art my entire life and was super excited at the prospect of visiting the infamous lane and visiting it without the usual loads of tourists. Alan brought his camera, and we took many photos of each other immersed in the art and the art itself that was on display.

Processed with VSCO with se3 preset
Processed with VSCO with se3 preset
Processed with VSCO with se3 preset
Processed with VSCO with se3 preset

Luckily Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, was open during Victoria’s lockdown. Strolling through the busy markets took my mind off things and gave me the feeling that life was actually ‘normal’. Store owners were shouting, customers hustling, the atmosphere overall was lively. We stumbled across a small doughnut van that had a very long queue during our scout for cheap produce. After some small chit chat with one of the locals, we found out that ‘American Doughnut Kitchen’ had been trading since the 50s and was Melbourne’s most iconic Hot Jam Doughnut. The doughnuts were super hot and delicious. The seagulls also seemed to enjoy them!

As soon as the lockdown had ended, I was lucky enough to make it to the ‘King & Wood Mallesons Contemporary First Nations Art Award 2021’ exhibition a day before it ended. Melbourne is a city known for its rich artistic culture, and getting to see in person the art and stories of the indigenous artists was an absolute honour and privilege. As an artist myself, I understand the power of art to connect, learn and grow from different communities.

Classes have started, but only on zoom. This was extremely unfortunate as I was eager to meet new people on campus and immerse myself in campus life. Melbourne Law School is ranked highest in Australia and consistently ranks in the top ten law schools globally, so I was also keen on exploring the law building and attending the high calibre lectures that it has to offer. I was looking forward to the in-person lectures as I had heard that they were particularly engaging, given the small class sizes. The classes so far have felt more like ‘discussions’ rather than the standard lecture, which makes it a little hard to stay focused on track. I am also still adjusting to Australia’s federal v state system, which I was not very exposed to back in Auckland. The JD load of work has meant spending a lot of time in the library. The State Library of Victoria is a great place to study and has an amazing aura to it!

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Alan didn’t bring many clothes over from Auckland as he wanted to freshen up his wardrobe. As such, we went shopping one afternoon, and because of the large sales going on due to the lockdowns, I even bought a shirt.

Finally, on our way back home one night, we passed through ‘Federation Square’. There was an enormous pink structure called ‘The Knot’, which is the work of French artist Cyril Lancelin.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Until next time,

Geoffrey

First Week in Brasil

One week down, where do I start? Despite having only been on this trip for a quarter of its total planned time, I am already hugely overwhelmed by how much I have already been exposed to. This does not mean to say that I am in any way finished though, and in fact this first week has only made me eager for more. I feel like this is mostly because I haven’t really travelled internationally to this extent before. There were many things that happened during our first week here, but I would like to focus on two things I felt were the most interesting. 

Firstly, I have taken a huge interest in learning Portuguese while I am over here. One major thing I have learnt straight away here in Sao Paulo is that there are barely any English speakers. This makes it difficult to do the things that we would take for granted back home such as order food, ask where the bathroom is and even introduce yourself. Although difficult, one of the best parts of this trip so far has been being forced to learn their language. Furthermore, there is a certain feeling that comes with connecting with people in another language, something you aren’t able to do back home so much. 

Another highlight for me this week came in our trip to Ubatuba for three days. Going from Sao Paulo to here was a very contrasted move. Sao Paulo very much feels like a busy city in which you are constantly surrounded by amazing architecture and skyline, whereas Ubatuba feels like a town planted smack bang in the middle of a jungle and next to over 50 different beaches. Highlights from Ubatuba included going to the beach and meeting many Brazillians who were up for a good time in the heat. But perhaps our most interesting part of our time in Ubatuba was our visits to the Boa Vista Guarani indigenous community and also to a Quillombos community who had a very impressive sugar cane processing plant. 

It was amazing connecting with the Boa Vista community, getting a taste of their culture as well as how they live. We were able to go for a walk through the rainforest to their community buried within. We were guided by a man named Alex who showed us around his community and told us of their various practices. They welcomed us through waiata, much like we would do back home in Aotearoa. 

I am very much looking forward to the rest of our time here, especially the community visits we have planned for next week!

Rhieve Grey

Akshaya Patra: What India Can Teach the World

Before completing a four-week study tour in India, I had barely considered India’s role as a global leader. India’s influence was not taught at school and hardly touched upon in my degree of Development Studies and Cultural Anthropology. My knowledge of Asia taught at school as the Vietnam War and Edmund Hillary being first to scale Mount Everest in Nepal.

With 1 in every 4 people in the world being Indian, why is India given little weight in the education, media and business sectors?

India has the fastest growing economy in the world and it is predicted to become the biggest economy by 2050. Not only that, it is one of the few countries in the world to have more than 50% of its population below the age of 25. An aging population is a challenge which many countries in the global north will face in the coming years. For example Japan’s average age is 48, compared to India’s who sits at 29 years.  A young population means opportunity. Whereas aging populations come with challenges such as decreasing numbers in the workforce. India will have the advantage of their population entering the workforce.

Nick, one of the leaders of Indogenius, was effective at drilling this fact into our heads: for every problem there is a solution in India. From rickshaw drivers to CEO’s of start-ups – so many Indian’s seem to possess a spirit which drives them to do better for them and their families. This creates an environment perfect for start-ups. Passionate people with an idea and the drive can bring their to life which may not be realistic in places such as New Zealand. We interacted with many people who had successfully turned their vision into multi-million-dollar companies, from Delhi to Pondicherry.

This is not only limited to the world of business in areas such as tech which India is gaining a worldwide reputation for. NGOs such as Jaipur Foot and Akshaya Patra are touching the lives of millions of people in an extremely practical and productive way.

Akshaya Patra Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in 2000 which feeds 18 million children in schools daily. It is the largest school lunch programme in the world, which believes that “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.” We had the privilege of touring the kitchen. Their kitchen holds the title of biggest kitchen in the world which produces 1.4 million meals a day. One cooker could fit 2500 kilograms of dhal.

Making Dahl for 1.4 million people

Not only are meals an initiative for students but parents themselves as it takes the financial pressure off them to provide a meal. An article published by Education New Zealand (2019) says that between 150,000 and 250,000 New Zealand children are in poverty, depending on the measures used. Jacinda Ardern has announced that Year 1 to 8 students in thirty schools will be provided with a free school lunch, it is projected that 120 schools and 21,000 students will be provided with lunches by 2021. I think that the New Zealand government would benefit from looking at a system like Akshaya Patra has perfected. A child is fed a nutritious meal five times a week for a school year for only twenty dollars.

A simple but effective initiative that Akshaya Patra Foundation has introduced is including a sweet within the one of five days meals are served. They keep this day random as they have seen attendance increase to 100 per cent for the day including a sweet only. By switching this day weekly, attendance has increased throughout the week by five percent. When operating at such a scale this is an amazing accomplishment in attendance.

Akshaya Patra is only one example of what can be achieved in India. Good people are changing peoples lives domestically and international. With 1.4 billion brains India is a gold mine of potential that the rest of the world can learn from.

Annalise O’Sullivan-Moffat

JCB – the underbelly of an emerging India

India’s recent development is often attributed to the tech revolution or government driven initiatives such as the construction of 60 million toilets. What often goes unnoticed is the machines (literally) paving the road to India’s success in a local and global sphere. JCB was founded in England by Joseph Bamford. JCB India Limited was founded in 1979. We visited the Ballabgarh factory near New Delhi, which is the Headquarters for JCB India.

Infrastructure is vital in every society around the world. Buildings, roads and food are central to peoples everyday lives around the world and can be the difference between life and death. Governments can introduce policy to develop infrastructure and farming, but it is the people and machines which deliver their vision.

Within development I feel the focus is often on the contrast between rich and poor. This narrow focus overlooks the people in the middle. People which are often driving development, working within construction with machines such as the ones that JCB develops and distributes. The motto of JCB is simple but effective: “always looking for a better way”.

Our tour of the JCB factory provided an insight into these people’s roles in the factory and society. Along with these machines, they are transforming the landscape of India. From that moment on, during every bus ride we never failed to spot a JCB tractor, digger or backhoe.

Within the factory itself, there were hundreds of workers on a vast and precise construction line which transformed parts into yellow, shiny machines which were to be shipped off around the world.

The businesses we were exposed to were producing high quality products with an emphasis on worker safety and wellbeing. One of my highlights of the JCB tour was seeing the ‘employee of the month’s’ photo proudly displayed in the middle of the factory.

Visiting the JCB factory and many other businesses producing products made in India such as Hidesign and Fabindia developed my understanding of what ‘made in India’ means to a consumer. It’s beyond the sweatshops commonly associated with Asia. Made in India is a label which Indians take pride in and consumers should be proud of.

Annalise O’Sullivan-Moffat