Yamanashi Summer Program

The Yamanashi Summer Program for Japanese Language and Culture was an amazing experience which allowed me to learn and make friends while being away on a holiday! I applied for the course because I wanted to further improve my Japanese language skills first-hand, be absorbed in the Japanese culture and have a productive holiday. The program ran for 20 days at the University of Yamanashi in the city of Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. It provided a wonderful opportunity for me to experience everyday life in Japan in a smaller city, away from all the tourist attractions.

The program put us up in hotel accommodation by the main station in Kofu, which was a 20-minute walk away from the university. At first I was annoyed that our accommodation was so far away from the university, however after living there I began to appreciate the fact that our accommodation was so close to central Kofu, allowing us to conveniently enjoy the city during our free time.

The course also put us in a buddy system, assigning each of the foreign students with 2 Japanese buddies to become acquainted with. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement which saw the improvement of my Japanese conversation as well as the English conversation of my buddies by the end of the course. I also often met up with my Japanese buddies outside of university time for meals or karaoke, where I was exposed to elements of the Japanese lifestyle and entertainment.

Although, I am usually the opposite of a morning person, the schedule of the course however had fixed my sleeping pattern for the better for the duration of the 3 weeks. The course generally consisted of Japanese language class from 9am to midday, a lunch break at midday where we mostly met up with our Japanese buddies for lunch in the cafeteria and a culture class after lunch. The culture classes consisted of a range of traditional and modern activities such as ikebana (flower arrangement), tea ceremony, tofu making and judo. Furthermore, the course also took us on multiple exciting and scenic excursions by bus to Mount Fuji, lavender fields by the lake, peach picking and more. The range of Japanese cultural activities allowed me to truly understand and value the depth and complexities of the Japanese culture.

The course was a truly magnificent experience and I had a lot more fun than I expected. I was enjoyably busy for the entire 3-week period with the schedule of the course keeping me busy during the days, and hanging out with the other students and exploring Kofu city and its activities during the nights.

 

– Alice Guo

Saga University 2017

 

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This was a short three week program at Saga University in Japan. Although it was a short period of time we still learnt a lot and made many unforgettable memories. The first day involved meeting all of the group members. As everyone came from different backgrounds and spoke different languages, it was very interesting for our first few conversations.

For the three weeks we explored the surrounding areas including Saga Castle and Saga Shrine, traveled to Ogi and Ureshino, took Ofuro (a special type of Japanese bath), joined a Japanese tea ceremony and traditional Yosakoi dance, and of course we attended Saga University for some study.

We became friends with our Japanese partners and other university students. At the farewell party, we did not want out trip to end, so we organised to meet each other either in Australia or Japan. This trip was so special as it was definitely a once in a life time experience.

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–  Hsin-Lun Chan

Check out some more short-term Language and Culture programs

Sydney to SODA (Drishtee Feb’18)

Through UTS BUILD, I participated in the Drishtee Immersion Program (February 2018). The program facilitates empowering immersive experiences in rural India. I was based in Soda Village, sixty kilometres from Jaipur in India’s desert state of Rajasthan. It is a sprawled-out community whose residents share a rich culture and a way of life so unique and vastly different to one I have in Australia.

My Drishtee immersion was raw, deeply humbling and inspiring. I will never be able to truly describe what I experienced or the emotions I felt and ultimately the cherished memories that will have a lasting effect on me. The incredible people I met helped me learn and discover more about myself and what I would like to accomplish in the future. The program focused on developing empathy and cross-cultural ability through authentic encounters and assisting in creating innovative and sustainable positive impacts. The experience had 3 phases: firstly, entering the community and participating in village life, then secondly participating in workshops and thirdly, the innovation stage where we took part in co-creation with the village partners.

I thought the best way to describe my experience was to share my favourite memories and highlights from the trip. First of all, every day was unique whether it was visiting a school or hospital, or witnessing a religious festival, chopping wheat in the fields with the farmers, or just walking around the village all of which made for a very dynamic and intense three weeks.

 

One highlight was our first day where we were welcomed into the village and greeted with traditional customs, loud music, decorated horses and dancing women. The ceremony gave me the opportunity to meet children, mothers and many influential community leaders. The cultural customs and generosity of the welcome was incredible, and I have never felt so overwhelmed by positivity and love. Despite the language and cultural barriers, I was able to connect with people purely by building story-telling techniques or simply by sharing a moment together where words were not necessary. Some of my favourite memories are when I was simply sitting in people’s homes, sipping masala chai talking and listening about their families, work, experiences, their hopes and dreams or telling them about my life and where I came from.

It was from these conversations I was able to build authentic and meaningful connections with people. Simply walking around the community and observing daily life was fascinating and I felt thankful of the opportunity I was given. Watching men huddled in groups played cards, children running and yelling playing cricket, women herding their goats and cows to the fields or cooking fresh chapati over a fire or even watching the sunset on the rooftop were some of my favourite memories.

 

Another highpoint was during the final phases where we began workshops with our village partners exploring and producing exciting ideas. The specific area I focused on was women’s empowerment, a very broad, complicated and sensitive issue which proved to be quite a challenge. However, my passion for gender equality combined with village collaboration created a journey of understanding of this multi-layered issue. It involved talking many different women in the community, visiting schools, hospitals, spending a day with a family or going out into the agricultural fields. The root of many community issues is entrenched within historical, environmental and cultural foundations. Consequently, we needed to create ways of slowly releasing empowerment and independence for women whilst preserving culture and livelihood.

 

My partner Anastasia and I closely examined women’s needs such as earning an alternative income, building self-confidence, creating social support and breaking down of firmly entrenched gender roles. Our idea was an all-women’s sewing group which utilises a skill which is already within the community and is easy to learn for the untrained. This would give them the ability to earn extra income which is directly given to them. The sewing group would also assist in preserving and enriching social bonds and give a sense of community to these women.

One of the inspirations for our project was a lady who faced many problems and challenges which we decided to address in an initial proto-type. The lady owned a shop but had recently become a widow and expressed to us that she now needed extra income and wanted to utilise her sewing skills with other women in the community. We also came across many other hard-working women eager for extra income, particularly those whose main source of income was working in the fields.

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Finally, another highlight was sharing these experiences with other UTS students and the Immersion Facilitators. Although we had not met prior to the Immersion, we all bonded and gave each other support either through our projects, laughing and exchanging stories at mealtimes or playing a quick game of frisbee in our spare time. I was so impressed and inspired and by the work everyone was involved in. I will never forget the friendships and the connections we made together. My time in India and my Drishtee Immersion experience was a very special opportunity which I would highly recommend to other students. I would like to say thank you to UTS BUILD, Drishtee Immersion, the Facilitators and Organisers and the UTS students who joined me for making this experience one I’ll always treasure and will never forget.

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Timor Trek

 

Over January I went to Timor-Léste with the group Project Everest. The main purpose of the trip was to work with a team on Project Everest’s Timor Energy Assessment project whose task is to establish a sustainable solution to energy problems in Timor-Léste. However, this trip was about more than just the project, it was an opportunity to jump into a brand new situation, navigate through and challenge myself. Throughout the month we were given the opportunity to plan our own days and work schedules. Although we had group leaders to guide us, we were expected to work independently to achieve the goals we set ourselves.

The first week in country had some of the most stressful moments. On my first day I learnt about the microlet transport system around Dili, dealt with taxi drivers trying to rip me off and learnt how to set my phone up with a local sim card. I met some very nice people including Robby the Scotsman; Kyle, the woman running the backpackers at the time; and Chris, a fellow Project Everest trekker on my team. We began project with an introduction day and some workshops setting goals for the month.

The next few weeks went much smoother, with everyone in the team getting more used to each other and what we needed to do. The previous team had established connections with a supplier in Timor-Léste and we were worried at the start of the project that we would just be sales people. In actuality we ended up solidifying the arrangements with our supplier and forged good connections with customers. Although we didn’t make any sales we were confident in where the project had progressed.

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The month wasn’t all work, there was plenty of time for socialising. Most evenings after dinner we played cards, either with normal playing cards, UNO, or Exploding Kittens (I won the first 3 games of Exploding Kittens I played and became a little infamous for it). The leaders also had activities organised for us some afternoons. We visited the Resistance Museum to learn about the history of Timor-Léste and the long running conflicts that have shaped the country. We undertook an amazing race around Dili which involved completing tasks to gain points. Some things we did included: doing yoga in a milkshake shop, running to the top of Christo Rei and finding a concrete frog. As well as the in-week activities we went on three amazing weekend journeys. The first was a trip to Mt Ramelau, the highest mountain in Timor-Léste. Incredible views and the surreal feeling of standing in 7ºC weather in the tropics. Our second trip was a drive from Dili to the eastern most point of Timor-Léste then spending a day on Jaco island for plenty of beach fun and reef snorkelling (we needed a lot of sunscreen for this day, I managed to get through with only a small sunburn patch, others had sleeve tan lines). Our third trip was to Atauro island, off the cost of Dili. For this trip we trekkers had to organise the logistics of getting to the island and staying there for the weekend. This was personally a leadership development exercise for me as I managed to get everyone together to work out what we wanted to do to get there and stay there. The initial accommodation we planned fell through but fortunatelly the best place to stay on the island, Barry’s Place, had a large group cancel soon after we arrived.

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I feel that this has been an amazing and unforgettable month. I’ve had such wonderful experiences from living and learning about this new culture through my experiences here. I’ve made new friends, learned new skills for leadership and public speaking, and had a month I hope to never forget.

By Carl Hemsworth

Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronic Engineering) Bachelor of Science (Applied Physics)

Tschüss to Travels in Berlin

My BUiLD abroad trip was my first time to Europe it was definitely an awesome way to wrap up five years of hard work on my undergrad in law and business (economics). In January I went to Berlin to study ‘Introduction to International Economic Law’ at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (I’ve been told that the name isn’t translated into English normally).

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Three weeks flew by much too quickly with classes, cultural programs and meeting people from all over the world. In my class there were 6 Australians (5 from UTS) as well as people from Indonesia, Poland, Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil and India. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and by the end of the program we were definitely very sad to part ways.

Classes ran for about 3.5 hours four times a week with a break during each class. Despite the limited time, the classes were well paced and did not feel rushed. The instructor, Hanno Meyer, was excellent and very knowledgeable and created a very open and welcoming classroom atmosphere. The class covered a broad range of international content and included basic economic principles as well as the law. No prior knowledge was needed for this class. It was especially interesting learning about how the civil law system operates. One thing I found extremely surprising is that international laws are binding in Germany and many other civil law countries and is actually higher on the hierarchy than domestic laws.

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The program at Humboldt also included a range of cultural activities including a day trip to Potsdam, ice skating and tours of museums, galleries, the Bundestag (Parliament) and the German Chancellery. As a bonus, Hanno also threw in a trip to the German Historic Museum for us during class time. The cultural activities were a great way to get to know our class mates and learn about German history and culture.

I also got a chance to experience the famed German rail network with a weekend trip to Prague and day trips to Dresden, Hamburg, Erfurt, Hannover and Leipzig with a fellow UTS student. Each and every trip was memorable filled with UNESCO world heritage sites, mediaeval towns and snow (though sadly not as much I thought there would be). Although speaking of snow, it was definitely fun telling ‘horror stories’ to my European class mates about regular 35C+ weather and Sydney recently being the hottest place in the world.

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For anyone concerned about the language and cultural differences, Germans are very friendly and willing to help out a lost tourist, just don’t forget a friendly ‘danke schön’ (thank you) afterwards. A friendly local once noticed that I couldn’t understand the train announcements while I was on the high-speed ICE train and translated them for me. The classes are also taught entirely in English and while travelling I was able to get around with English and only a limited grasp of German. In saying that, enjoy the fact you’re in a different country and embrace all the differences you will encounter. There is also no better way to learn a language than being immersed within in it so take advantage of it and expand your horizons. However, I do have to warn you, public toilets invariably require payment and in Germany, as well as some other European countries, unleashed dogs are allowed in most places including inside shopping centres, restaurants and on public transport. Personally, I loved seeing all the dogs but take care if you have any allergies or are scared of dogs (though every dog I met was extremely friendly and obedient).

My experience at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin was amazing and unforgettable and I highly recommend the program. The university also offers a range of other programs in both the winter and summer school for anyone who would prefer something other than Introduction to International Economic Law.

Sodamn Sentimental (Drishtee Summer 17/18)

My Time in Soda

“It was these little flashes, those little instants, that will forever stay in my heart.”

My experience of India throughout my three-week program with Drishtee Immersion was – trying not to exaggerate – almost indescribable. Whether it was the team I met up with at the airport, the people we learned more about during our journey, to simply the culture of India itself. At times it can be overwhelming, like a torrent of information bombarding and drowning my mind with thoughts and memories. I’d often have to take a step back and pause for a moment just so I could digest everything being thrown at me. From the differing cultural norms, the stories and experiences you would hear that can break your heart, or just the environment. But without this challenge, I wouldn’t be where I am now, a much stronger mentally and emotionally prepared person with the clear understanding of what true empathy can bring.

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The Drishtee Team

We started our journey in Delhi, where we met two of the best organisers you could hope to ask for, simply the best captains to control the ship which was the Drishtee team. From there we drove through the organized insanity known as Indian traffic to Jaipur and passed out at the hotel in the early hours of the morning. Once we woke up we stocked up on some Kurtas and other pieces of Indian clothing then drove onto Soda, a rural village housing approximately 7000 people near Malpura.

As an aside, I’d love to point out how outstanding the leader of Soda was, Chhavi Rajawat. Listed as one of the most influential young Indians by GQ magazine, and honoured by multiple Indian presidents in her time, Chhavi was an individual with an amazing presence. As the youngest person to hold office of Sarpanch, and the first woman Sarpanch in India with an MBA degree, she would often control the room and the flow of conversation in subtle yet friendly ways. Chhavi helped us tremendously throughout the project and provided us insights which we simple never would have attained during our time at Soda.

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Attempting to learn sanskrit at the primary school

From there we spent the next week getting to know the people of Soda with the help of some amazing translators, one of which provided us with some early morning yoga sessions that I plan to continue doing for many years. Each day the group would focus in on an area, whether that be education, health, sports, and a few others. In these days we would do some basic investigation into the area with the focus being on slowly building connections and friendships with people. Some people latched onto an area and some villagers relatively quickly. I felt like I was one of the last people in the team to do this, with this causing me to feel like I was a little behind the rest of the group despite this not being the case at all.

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Working hard or hardly working?

The area which interested me the most was in leisure and sports, essentially what do people do for fun during their spare time. This came about during the Indian Independence Day, which happens to coincide with Australia Day (January 26th). One of the local schools in Soda invited us down for a special assembly which celebrated this day. During the festivities I became transfixed by the Judo portion which consisted of many students doing some basic judo drills in a very militaristic manner. This was the moment which piqued my interest.

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We had to do a speech at the end. Enjoy the view.

One major aspect of Drishtee Immersion program was the notion of empathy. Although we can come into a place such as Soda, travel the village and identify a problem, then come up with a potential solution, the issues arise when this solution is implemented. More often than not, the solution is introduced and simply does not work, or only worsens the problem. This is usually since the people coming up with the idea do not understand the people affected by the problem and the little nuances a person not from the situation could find through basic investigation. This is where empathy comes in. Empathy bridges that gap as the person takes their time to connect to the groups or individuals directly affected by the issue. Thus, creating a potential solution that not only solves the problem at hand, but also considers the people related to the issue and alters the solution accordingly.

After spending the first couple of days doing general investigation in areas of the village, we then focused in on an area of choice and investigated that further with another team-mate who shared the same interest. This comprised of further, more in-depth interactions with individuals directly connected to the area of choice.

One of the people I decided to spend more time was one of the people who worked as helping hand for us at the place we stayed known as Ganesh. The man, constantly wearing either yellow or a pure white jacket with the Bosche logo emblazoned on the left breast, was noticeably friendly and would go out of his way to make sure that we were okay at all times. He was also known as the guy who would be one of the last three people in games of Uno but never took it to heart and was always eager to play.

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Photo after spending time at Raju’s farm

We were taken to his village, a fifteen-minute motorcycle ride away, and given a guided tour of the hamlet by Ganesh himself. From here we learned how entrenched and important family values were for not only him but for Soda at large. Major slights like running away, stealing land, unknowingly selling off property, were forgiven simply to ensure that the family was kept together. We also learned how much Ganesh has sacrificed for his family, who left a steady job at Jaipur and came back home to tend to his ill parents. He spent much of the savings too on private hospital care for the parents.

If there was only one person I wish to meet again from my time in Soda, it was Ganesh. His generosity, friendliness, and father-like watch over us during the trip was something I rarely find in the people I meet back home. I hope to one day at the very least emulate some of the elements Ganesh displayed and spread his positivity that he always brought.

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Ganesh rocking his classic yellow shirt

For my friend and I, we decided to get into further contact with the judo teachers of the village and soon discovered how important the sport was to the village. One judo teacher we spoke to had major success and climbed all the way to the national level, and multiple other students had reached the state level. However, we noticed that the equipment available for the students although adequate, were only accessible from one school and only during school hours.

It was also at this point in the program that we noticed how segregated the genders were in the village. The boys would only hang out with boys and the girls stayed with the girls regardless of the situation. This even included the husband and wife, where during our interactions with people would rarely – if at all – interact with each other except when they needed the significant other to do a task for them. This is a stark contrast from Australia where there can be groups of just ‘the boys’ or ‘the girls’, but both genders would often and inevitably interact in social gatherings.

The final stage of the trip we created a program or potential solution for a problem that we found during our investigations. Our solution was a sports center located in the middle of the village which stored and provided access to sporting equipment for several sports such as Judo, cricket and badminton. This was then combined with a sporting program similar to external sporting programs in Australia, where teams would be formed. Students could then play and practice a sport against each other. Outside of a few high contact sports, all training and some games are played with boys and girls together.

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Translating English to Sanskrit

The sports centre and program idea were formed using the method of co-creation. This method is a variant of prototyping where you create the outline and details for the idea then work hand-in-hand with the stakeholders directly connected to the problem to refine the solution down. We found out quickly how important co-creation was for the program as certain features of the solution would not have been included had it not have been for us showing the idea to some of the judo teachers. They pointed out areas of concern in the early forms of the project and we adjusted accordingly, creating a program that would solve these issues.

The goal of this program was to not only help cultivate and create sporting success within the village but to also encourage interaction between both genders from the youngest age. By increasing contact between genders from a younger age, the barriers and stereotypes which might start to occur over time are slowly broken down and removed entirely. This leads to these kids treating each other as friends rather than something they are not allowed to communicate with. Moreover, this also can help end gender stereotypes around sports and that only men can play. This stereotype has already ended in Soda at least for judo, where there are also female judo students, with one competing in the state level.

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Chhavi Rajawat on the left

Reactions to the program were positive by each and every person we had the chance to show the idea to regardless of their age, including the main presentation to the village at the end of the project. Although my team-mate and I will not be present for when the program gets pushed further into development in a months’ time by someone else, from the bottom of my heart I hope the program is a major success.

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Post-cricket selfie before they tried to do a judo take-down on me

My time in Soda was something that I will never forget. It wasn’t the big moments such as the presentation to the village, nor the Independence Day assembly at the school which made my travel worth it. It was the small moments. The kids calling out your name on the street as they spot you walking around the village after spending a day playing hand games with them earlier. The reactions you would receive from people when you would say “Ap ke se ho” to them during your introductions. When someone in the village who was shy and reserved at the start of the program, slowly came out of their shell and even started learning my language and speaking it back. It was these moments, though small in comparison to the big picture, were special in their own manner. Although I could talk to people in Australia about the program and the great things we achieved during our time in India, it was these little flashes, those little instants, that will forever stay in my heart.

Written by Rhojan Viloria

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300 years old!

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Berlin 2018

I really enjoyed my time in Berlin at Humboldt University.

The course ‘Introduction to International Economic Law’ was extremely interesting. Our teacher, Hanno, delivered the content in a very enjoyable and understandable way. The classroom atmosphere was relaxed and open, and our classmates gradually became our friends. There were students from all over the world including Indonesia, India, Poland, South Africa, Switzerland and Brazil. In a class of 15 students, there were 6 Aussies and 5 of them from UTS (easily could have formed a voting bloc with these kind of numbers). It was educative to listen to economic issues from the perspectives of different countries and highly entertaining to listen to personal stories of people who have lived such different experiences. I really hope we have a chance to catch up one day and see if our dreams and aspirations have been realised.

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I also enjoyed the cultural aspects of the program including the tour to Potsdam, tour of the Chancellery and the Bundestag, and outdoor ice skating at night. It was a fun way to get to know our classmates better and students in other courses. Of course, we also learnt a lot about German culture and history…and German humour.

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Germany is very different to Australia in many ways and the most obvious one was the weather. I got to escape the series of heat waves of the Australian summer as it was winter in Germany. It’s easy to ‘brag’ that Australia was the hottest place on Earth when you’re far, far away. Watching the snow fall through the classroom window was a simple but mesmerising pleasure on the dew days we were lucky enough to experience snow. One thing I did not enjoy was that you have to pay to use the public toilets in Europe. Also, do not assume that ‘office hours’ means Mon-Fri 9am-5pm because it might mean 8am-9am Tues-Fri (yes I’m looking at you, Janitor of student accommodation).

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I highly recommend this program to anyone who is looking to do a short exchange overseas (or is just looking for an excuse to get away). The program is well structured with classes (3.5 hour classes x 4 days per week) with many cultural activities that you can sign up for if you are interested. You have plenty of free time to go out with your new friends and also travel to neighbouring countries during/ before/ after the program. I travelled with another UTS student to the top of Germany, Zugspitze, and saw some really cool dogs!

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Overall, the BUILD program has heaps of different programs on offer so definitely take the opportunity to get out there!

By Theresa Duong

Adventures in Berlin

Guten tag!

In January, I was lucky enough to study abroad at Humboldt University in Berlin, thanks to BUiLD. It was an incredible adventure that I wouldn’t have experienced if I had just travelled there for a holiday.

At UTS, I study forensic biology but the course I chose to complete in Germany was “Human Rights: Gender, Racism and Social Justice”, which was definitely challenging considering how different it is to science. However, I don’t regret it at all – in fact, I learned so much and I feel far more aware of the issues relating to human rights which I would have otherwise been unaware of.

Humboldt University also organised cultural activities for all students and it really exposed us to Germany’s history and culture. Our timetable allowed us to learn and explore without any stress, which definitely made this trip extremely worthwhile.

I would highly recommend students to participate in a study abroad experience when given the opportunity as it’s a great way to become more independent and learn about different cultures. If you are curious as to what kind of places you can visit in Berlin, click here to watch a video I made about my experience.

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FOGGY DAY IN BERLIN
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BRANDENBURG GATE
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VIEW FROM THE STUDENT APARTMENTS AFTER A NIGHT OF SNOW

 

Tschüss!

Posted by: Veda Raman

Judicial Internship in a Frozen Tundra

A grand adventure is about to begin

I left Australia after having been offered a position as a Judicial Intern with Judge Mark Gundrum, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge and Ex-Wisconsin Lawmaker, who worked on the infamous Steven Avery murder case. I understand a lot of people, including myself, caught themselves binge watching the Making a Murder true crime series in the recent past.

Without giving it a second thought, I set off on an adventure…

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Haneda Airport, Tokyo, from the Sky Lounge

On transit at Tokyo, I walked into Haneda airport feeling soulless. At 4 a.m. the transit hotel was booked out and I was sent into the digital jungle to fend for myself.  At 7 a.m. my destitute carcass stumbled into the Sky Lounge in search of life. It’s amazing what a shower and a coffee can do for morale.

Twenty-eight to Zero

When I left Australia the temperature was hovering around twenty-eight degrees Celsius. When I arrived in the USA, twenty-seven hours later, it was zero degrees Celsius.

I initially believed that the Wisconsin weather would negatively impact my wellbeing, but it has not been an issue at this stage. I say ‘at this stage’ because it’s likely to start snowing soon and as an Australian I’m not acclimatised to the cold weather.

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It went from zero to snow quickly. I watched the phases of Wisconsin’s winter, in awe,  from the back window.

Court and Self Doubt

Week One at Court

The key events in the first week of internship included pre-starting jitters, trying to remember all the new names and faces, and being thrown in the deep end. On my first day, I had a quick orientation with the district attorney (Clare). As Clare was showing me around the office and introducing me to each judge and assistant, I had two thoughts: “How am I going to remember all of these names” and “sometimes it sounds like she’s speaking another language”. I was unfamiliar with some of the legal terminologies, but Clare was nice enough to give me a run down on the court structure and some unfamiliar terms.

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Day one at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals was challenging, to say the least, and by the end of it I was “bushed” (my new favourite term for tired, as the Wisconsinites love to use it).

Accordingly, I presumed that the judge would ease me into the internship in the same way Clare eased me into the workplace with her friendly introduction. I did not consider that the workload and content would be too overwhelming in the beginning (especially on the first day). However, Judge Gundrum loaded me with tasks from day one. At that point, I was cool as a cucumber on the outside, but on the inside I was flailing about like a fish in a net. I was concerned about my capacity to handle the workload. I could also hear other in-house judges yelling out, “if she’s free, I have some work for her to do”. I hit the internal panic button and took a trip to the bathroom. I stared into the mirror for a short while, collected myself, and went back into the office. One of my biggest challenges this week was trying to grapple with my self-confidence. I have always struggled with this and have consistently worked hard to prevent my lack of confidence standing in the way of success. I achieve this by reminding myself, in these moments, of the power and influence of positive thinking. It has been helpful that Judge Gundrum provided immediate positive feedback regarding my work.

Going into the internship I considered that the differences in the legal jurisdictions would be the most difficult aspect of learning. As I mentioned earlier, the differences in the legal systems is apparent, but not too cumbersome to navigate. I am learning the US laws quite rapidly and I am able to transfer my Australian university knowledge without difficulty. Judge Gundrum provided legal research tasks early in the week and I was able to use my Australian university knowledge to navigate LexisNexis and Westlaw USA to fulfil the research tasks. I was concerned that my university research skills were rusty and I wondered whether I had learned all that was necessary in order to research at this level. In these moments, I often try to remind myself that “…worrying means you suffer twice”.[1]

Upon reflection, and at this stage, I would consider the length of days and work tasks to be more tiresome than navigating a foreign legal system. Being seated for long periods of time and looking at a computer screen is tiresome and I quickly realised the importance of taking short breaks and packing lunch. On the first day, my anxiousness prevented me from asking the menial question of, “when may I take a lunch break?”. I didn’t want to disturb anyone, because the staff were busy with their own work, so I didn’t ask to take a lunch break. I was sitting at the computer for seven sorry hours without a break and by the time I arrived home I was completely “bushed”.  I questioned how I was expected to complete four weeks of the same gruelling legal tasks.

The second day was much easier than the first. I managed to overcome my main issues with a few simple questions. I brought lunch with me, I asked about lunch hours from the get go, I had more time to build relationships with the office staff, and gained an understanding of how they operate on a day-to-day basis. I was able to have some less formal conversations with the district attorney and Judge Gundrum’s legal assistant, which made the workplace seem much more light-hearted. When it came to ‘casual Friday’, I got to wear jeans, I was less stressed, and I started to enjoy the legal tasks. I’m beginning to feel my professional identity develop, along with my knowledge and understanding of the legal profession from a foreign jurisdiction.

Week Two at Court

Week two of the internship has come to an end and I am slightly more settled in the role of being a judicial intern, but I am constantly anxious about working at the appellate level. I have become a lunch time regular at the diner next door where I order breakfast for lunch everyday.  The weather has taken a turn and snow has started to blanket the land. I am challenged by my professional identity, especially in terms of self-perception versus the perception of work colleagues.

The workload in the office is not too heavy, but it is stressful. The tasks require intense analysis and I usually feel lobotomised by 5 p.m. Judge Gundrum is incredibly busy and unfortunately I don’t see too much of him. We meet in the mornings and afternoons to run through the days work. In fact, he is so busy that when I visited his office I was afraid I would never find my way out through the sea of paperwork. On Monday, I was given a brief and asked to produce a memorandum on a point of law. The issue involved US municipal law, which is referred to as an ordinance. I worked on the memorandum over a couple of days and on the third day, after becoming goggle eyed from staring at the computer screen, Judge Gundrum walked into my office and suggested that I begin collaborating on judgments (insert dramatic Alfred Hitchcock scream). Since I have not worked under these conditions before, as a judicial intern, I am not entirely familiar with the tasks and expectations. Prior to this internship, I had some experience working at a community legal centre in Australia, but that was entirely different to working at the court of appeals. The legal centre was focused around telephone interviews with clients, and it mostly involved superficial analysis of legal issues, whereas the judicial internship involves in-depth legal analysis. I thought I knew what tired was after working at the legal centre, but there is nothing to match the tiredness of working at the court of appeals.

In the second week, my face broke out into a blistering red rash, this could have been due to stress. After a week of non-remission I thought that the rash was taking permanent residency on my face, but I managed to get it under control with an expensive visit to the doctor. Which brings me to the point of the woeful state of the public health care system in the United States. I paid one hundred US dollars for an antibiotic prescription and then paid one hundred and sixty US dollars for twenty-four pills. I knew the health care system in the States was bad, but I did not realise it was this bad. This is unheard of in Australia!

It has started to snow and contrary to my initial belief, the cold weather is having no negative impact on my wellbeing. In fact, it is peaceful to watch snow fluttering in the wind from the warmth of the office. The only exposure to the weather is my treacherous one hundred-metre walk for lunch at the diner next door. Australia doesn’t have any diner similar to American diners, which renders it a novelty. The plain and greasy oversized portions are always welcomed after a tough day of brain gymnastics.

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Winter in Wisconsin is brutal and magical. A snow flake that landed on my car.

I am constantly second guessing the quality of my work due to my lack of experience in the role. I am also noticing additional differences between legal systems in the United States and Australia, notably elements of statutory interpretation and certain terminology. I am managing work related stress by focusing on my state of awareness and stress levels, and then by refocusing on my work step-by-step. I am also constantly challenged by my professional identity, especially in terms of my self-perception versus the perception of work colleagues. I find it almost impossible to understand someone else’s perception of my professional identity. I communicate my professional identity to others through my conduct, which I maintain at a professional standard. I am punctual, maintain a tidy appearance, keep colleagues informed of my schedule, meet deadlines, and keep up to date on work tasks. The way that I dress forms a part of my professional identity and I deem it important to maintain a professional level of dress.

The perception of my professional identity is posing challenges, because I am concerned about how others perceive me as a professional. I do not want to be perceived as unprofessional and I certainly don’t want to be perceived as boring or uptight. The fact that I have had minimal experience working in the legal profession creates internal challenges. I am managing these challenges by trying to stay true to my own personal identity and maintaining professional self-expectations. Until I gain more experience working in professional environments, and further develop my sense of professional identity, I am left to navigate the minefield alone.

Week Three at Court

The Christmas and New Year have been and gone like a flash of lightning in the clouds. I made sure to get an authentic Christmas tree in Wisconsin, because there are just so many tree farms. The Christmas week was wonderful, as usual, and my parents even visited from Australia.

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The Chosen One

As Christmas was nearing, the office was decorated with lights and cheer. I gave Judge Gundrum a Christmas basket to say thank you for having me intern with him. Soon after, it was New Year which always brings a feeling of solace for me, but this shortly ends after the year is in full swing. It’s time to keep excelling and what’s more exciting is that Judge Gundrum agreed that I can continue working with him in order to complete my Practical Legal Training in the USA.

Two weeks do not constitute enough time to determine any significant or exact developments in my professional attributes. The nature of the work has been so intense that I simply do not get the time to interact with other staff members. I have noticed that the thirty people working in the offices of the court of appeals are isolated in their roles. They are a quiet group of people who are extremely absorbed in their work. Although I have a great deal of independence at work, I do enjoy learning by observation and I haven’t participated in any court observation as of yet, but there is a hearing in March of 2018 that I will attend.

In terms of the workload and feedback, I have had a similar workload to the first couple of weeks. I asked Judge Gundrum for feedback on my performance and he responded with news that I am doing an “excellent job”, and he thanked me for all the help I had provided thus far. This news was a relief and nursed my insecurities about my capability of working in a foreign jurisdiction and at the appellate level.

The weather has warmed up again, and when I say warmed up, I mean it’s been ranging between zero and minus seven degrees celsius. That’s warm for this time of year in Wisconsin. I have not been negatively affected by the cold but I am starting to feel a little bit of cabin fever, which I haven’t been able to combat. I think I will need to ride an indoor bicycle or something of the like.  Sadly, I’m already looking forward to the sunshine in Australia, or anywhere. I went to north Wisconsin for Christmas and it was minus thirty-five degrees. It was so cold that when the wind hit my face, I felt breathless. That type of wind chill is suffocating and, if it weren’t for the warm clothing in this part of the world, completely unbearable. It became so cold at one stage that it froze the engine of my car, which then had to be defrosted with a hairdryer. This kind of lifestyle is for very special cold weather babies and probably not Australians. I also received news that it had been fourty-three degrees in Australia. So, I’m not really sure what is worse?

Week Four at Court

This is my final week of interning with Judge Gundrum at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, USA. It feels as though a long time has passed since I landed in Chicago two months ago. In that time, I’ve learned things I can’t yet comprehend, I’ve battled with ailments, feelings of hopelessness, home-sickness, a Christmas and New Year flew by, I welcomed my parents to Wisconsin for a visit and waved them goodbye. This international experience has been the most rewarding of my university life. I feel as though I’ve developed personally and professionally, again, in ways I’ll be uncovering for a long while to come. I am experiencing more clarity about which path to take when I am admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. My fiancé is from the USA and, for a while I contemplated staying here, although it would be challenging to transfer my degree I’ve decided that this will be my post-UTS direction. I have not yet decided whether I will continue my legal studies in the USA, work, or both. The Wisconsin cold has lulled itself for the time being and I’m enjoying the warmer weather of ten degrees Celsius as it reminds me of Australian winters. I won’t be saying goodbye to the court of appeals yet, as I will be continuing my practical legal training there, which is fortunate.

Although I haven’t yet participated in court observation, my work responsibilities have increased markedly. I was able to work with other judges and their clerks to establish an even deeper level of learning and interpersonal communication in this field of work. I moved from researching cases, to writing memos, and was later given the responsibility of collaborating on judgments. One judgment that particularly stands out was the three-judge felony involving the life sentence of a seventeen-year-old male. I found this challenging in many ways, not only was I challenged by learning the criminal laws of Wisconsin State, but I was challenged by my moral conscience, as this judgment would essentially decide the young mans right to a retrial and sentence with the omission of incriminating evidence. I experienced first hand the important work that occurs at the appellate level and the importance of accuracy in research and a conceptual understanding of the law. The final practical semester at UTS formed the foundational knowledge I required to understand and complete the work at the court of appeals, particularly the writing of memos in ‘litigation and estate practice’ and former subjects that formed the foundations of legal reasoning and understanding. I think I often underestimate the knowledge I’ve acquired through university, but I am beginning to understand that this knowledge is readily accessible and waiting to be put into practice.

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A magical perspective – the road to work. 

Prior to starting at the court of appeals I assumed it would be a high stress environment, but my beliefs were challenged when I arrived and discovered that it was in fact relaxed and informal. I’ve learned that my perceptions are skewed by what I know of Australian courts, television, word of mouth, and anxiety! It reminds me to always rely on experience rather than assumptions when forming my opinions. Initially, I questioned my ability to fulfil this role at the court of appeals, but experience has taught me that my will and determination to achieve will be an asset. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Judge Gundrum in the USA. My future legal practice will be shaped by this experience and it allows me to venture into fields of work I never would have imagined. It gives me confidence to seek jobs I would not have sought before this internship. It has given me the desire to explore new areas of law I hadn’t considered. This life altering experience and the personal connections that I have developed will enhance my professional career, self-perception, and job seeking ability in the USA and Australia. The knowledge that I’ve gained being an intern at the court of appeals will be useful to me as a practitioner because challenging oneself is essential for developing a personal-professional self. It has inexplicably enhanced my self-perceptions and resilience, and specifically how to manage time and stress adequately while under pressure and in my field of work. I always strive to be a better person and employee, and the more I reflect the more I learn about my position in my residing environment. The skills I have developed, such as practical, analytical, interpersonal, reflective, stress-management and resilience, self-perception and self-appreciation, are essential life skills and will guide me throughout my future practice.

Joy and Relief

The internship was done and all was right in my world. Judge Gundrum’s appraisal was fantastic and I received news that I could continue working with him, but I just couldn’t shake that winter cabin fever.

After all the complaining about the cold weather, I managed to conjure a great plan to visit the sunshine. Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii, I was going to Hawaii. After ten hours of air travel and some wicked turbulence I was in Hawaii!

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Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
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Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii

The warm weather gave me a new-found appreciation for the cold and on return I immersed myself in the snow. It begs the question of whether we’re ever really satisfied and I respond to that question with: more than we probably care to realise.

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The aftermath of Storm Mateo that swept across Midwest, USA.

[1] Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, (Directed by David Yates, David Heyman, 2016) 2:13:00.

Live Long and Prosper

 

Singapore Heritage Adventure

Over the summer break of 2017, I decided to go on an adventure in Singapore for one of my core subject. In this trip, I have explored Singapore heritage through Chinatown, Little India as well as Kampong Glam. These areas are fascinating, beautiful and it is amazing to learn their heritage and their architectures are breath-taking.

 

Chinatown

We walked through Chinatown and explored their temple and heritage centre. The design of the temple has shown the Chinese Identity and you can see a lot of people worshipping the Chinese gods such as Buddha. Taking a walk to the heritage centre, in here, we learned a lot of the traditional career choices and lifestyles including their home interior designs and backgrounds. Also through one of the computer, you can find your last name’s origin however it only targets at Chinese last name. But if you are really interested, you can search up a last name and look for it in the system.

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Temple
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Inside the temple

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the origins of my last name
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Inside the heritage centre
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Learning their traditional Lifestyle

 

Little India

Inside the Little India area, you can see a lot of Indian citizens as well as tourists walking through the streets looking at fabrics, food and walking towards a temple. The temple has kept its unique India identity designs, you can see people sitting in the middle of the ground praying in the form of song and words. Walking around, you can smell the woody incense and the little Indian god designs at the top of the temple are fascinating art and definitely worth the trip. These little trip helps to identify and understand the Singaporean Indian culture.

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Inside the temple
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Sweet Factory
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Inside the heritage centre

 

Kampong Glam

This is where I get allocated to for my group project, Kampong Glam is an area of Singaporean Malay citizens live and where most of the heritages are find (maybe). The heritage centre used to be a residence and they reused the place for exhibitions purposes. This allows people to walk through in a better setting and helps them to understand the histories better as they are right in the place. Walk to the right side of the heritage centre, you can see the Sultan Temple which tells you that the mix heritage of Malay, Lebanese, Turkish and Arab. The gentrification of the area can be seen easily in this area, as the development of Haji Lane which is more of a hipster lane with graffiti on the walls. This has indeed attracted a lot tourists but it also helped Kampong Glam to lose its Malay identity.

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Kampong Glam Heritage Centre
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Sultan Temple
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Haji Lane

 

This adventure helped me to explore three important heritage places of Singapore and also allows me to analyse Kampong Glam as research for my group project. I am very thankful for being this part of the studio and would definitely encourage students to take Lab B.

Jing Yi Sun