Golden days in Spain

I have had one of the best trips of my life in this winter of 2019. That’s all because of a 2 week program in the University of Navarra, Spain. My project was learning how to run and function basic robots using programming. It was essential to know about Python (programming language) to operate the robots. Our classed started from 8:30 AM and ended at 2 PM with a 15 minute break in the middle. After class, there were cultural activities which were very entertaining. In the first week, the professor of the university gave lectures on robots and the importance they will hold in our future. When we acquired knowledge about the robot industry, we were taught how to use python to operate the robots. In the second week, A professor from Denmark presented to us on advanced robotics and the way coding is used like a language.

During the project, aside from exploring the beauty of Spain I learned a lot about new gadgets and how they’re impacting our lives. I have gained vast knowledge about the robotic world and acquired programming skills from this brilliant course. From this project I can now perform efficiently and constructively in a professional event. I also got to know in detail about the work ethics that are required to be a good engineer. Plus, I had a great in-depth discussion with the professor on ROS and how the Artificial Intelligence can be used for the benefit of human beings. ,

 From learning Mobile Robotics to exploring the culture of Spain, I had many precious experiences throughout the course. I made new friends, experienced surfing for the first time, learned how to thrive in a foreign country by myself and most importantly, gained knowledge about the differences in work environment of Spain and Australia. I earned confidence to work globally and got familiar with the engineering workplace. To conclude, this course was a great learning opportunity for me and boosted my confidence to become a good engineer to work for the welfare of this world.

Rafiel Hisham

The creation of an International Family – Abroad in Austria

What happens when you gather 32 girls from 21 different countries? It’s simple, it results in an international family being created as a result of one amazing and priceless experience.

For the majority of July I spent my time in Austria, exploring the culture and history while being a part of the International Summer Academy in Engineering for Women (ISAE4W) at the university of Applied Sciences, Upper Austria. This program ran for two and a half weeks and covered a variety of topics that focused on exploring applied sciences, women in engineering, new technologies in medical science and gave us the opportunity to network with other women who are currently in the field.  

The other participants of the program were from all over the world. Spain, Turkey, Ireland, Japan, China and Canada to name a few. All of us shared the same passion for engineering and natural sciences and it was a chance to not only connect with people from other countries, but also to make long lasting friendships.  

When I first heard I had been accepted into the program I was excited to learn about all the other cultures that would be present at the program; I had always wanted to travel abroad so that I could experience living in a foreign place and have the chance to learn about different ways of life. Not only did Austria’s culture amaze me but hearing everyone’s stories about how they got to Austria was inspiring. None of us had the same story and we were each able to pass on bits of advice to our friends across the globe.  

I would highly recommend completing a program abroad because it is an insightful experience that gives you the opportunity to make international friends and increase your understanding of the world we live in. It is true what they say about going abroad, you are forever changed by it; you bring a little piece of where you went home with you. 

Madison Dias

Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Mechanical and Mechatronic)/Diploma in Professional Engineering Practice

Nepal 2019

The start of my self-discovery journey began in early July, and led me on an unimaginable adventure that involved becoming lost for hours in winding dirt roads after eating dal bhat for the third time that day, crossing knee-high flood waters to get to our next accommodation location, living with a family that had not the slightest clue of what I was saying when I asked where the bathroom was, and haggling with locals when trying to buy a skirt because it was only when I arrived did I realise jeans in a monsoon season did not dry overnight.

Did I expect any of this? Honestly, yes. Was I expecting to be nervous in the back of a taxi when I realised road rules did not exist in Nepal? Definitely. Did I expect not to go to the toilet for the first three days because I was scared of falling backwards in the squat toilet? One hundred percent. However, I did not expect the feeling of triumph and satisfaction after I accomplished each of these small challenges.

Before leaving for the Global Challenges International Study Tour in Nepal, I knew that I was in for a tough two weeks. I knew that I would be facing obstacles that one could only ever imagine in western culture, and I expected to feel only relief when I hopped into bed each night. Surprisingly, the only relief I felt was when I was able to escape the heat after walking up a mountain for an hour while carrying a 50 kilogram backpack. I realised after each obstacle I overcame that I was becoming mentally stronger, and I was shocked that I felt such a strong determination to participate in each and every aspect of the Nepalese culture, regardless of how daunting it seemed.

I was also overwhelmed by the eagerness to share by the Nepalese people I spoke to. Whether it was locals working at markets wanting to share stories of their experiences living in Nepal, the homestay families wanting to share their limited amount of food with visitors, or the farmers in the local village wanting to share their knowledge regarding the traditional ways of living, I was constantly surrounded by sharing. This willingness to give was completely unexpected, as I assumed the less someone had the less they were eager to share. On reflection, I could see that this was not the case for many of the Nepalese people I spoke to. In the words of Mother Teresa, “The less we have, the more we give”. I found that even though so many had so little, they were so content with what they had. I know now not to pity those that have less than me, as in some ways they may actually have more than me. Many appeared to be so content with both themselves and with what they owned, and had a smile planted on their face, regardless of the situation.

During this program, I had the opportunity to create an innovative physical product that benefited the rural village of Dhulikel. I worked collaboratively in a small, multi-disciplinary team with other Australian students while partnering with both local ‘design for development’ experts and the community to develop a project with a focus on Nepali farming.

My team noticed that in the Dhulikel village, automatic tractors had replaced traditional ploughing methods within the farms. Based off research, we had expected to see traditional ploughing techniques to be utilised, such as using the land effectively, ensuring rainfall was sufficient before planting seeds, and undertaking tillage methods.

After speaking to the local farmers with the aid of a translator, I was able to understand the reasons behind replacing traditional ploughing methods with modern tractors. Traditional methods of farming were considered to be very labour intensive, less efficient and required strenuous man and animal labour hours. Surprisingly, it also cost more to feed and care for working animals than it did to buy a tractor upfront and maintain it.

However, it was through the discussions with both the farmers and also local community members that we were able to understand the negative environmental impact these modern tools were having on the land. While miniature tractors are very time efficient, the ploughing tool connected to the tractor overturns the soil, resulting in microbes and minerals from deep soil being brought to the surface level. These nutrients are then destroyed by direct sunlight exposure. Consequently, the quality of the soil in the Dhulikel village for farming has depleted. Thus, this method of ploughing with miniature tractors should not be continued.

My team decided to focus on this and create an innovative ploughing tool to address the issue of soil depletion. While addressing this issue, both the productivity of the product and the level of labour required had to be considered. To ensure we were meeting all the requirements of all stakeholders, we had the chance to interview both farmers and local residents. We were then also given the opportunity to test our prototype on a local farm and receive feedback from these stakeholders to improve future iterations of the model.

I found it quite challenging to ensure the criteria given to my team was met within the one model, especially as there was only five days to design and develop a prototype. As a student that has lived in the city her entire life and studies a subject that does not even scratch the surface of agriculture, I was very unfamiliar with farming methods, tools and techniques. As a female within a group of males that lived on farms as children, I felt almost inadequate at the beginning of the brainstorming sessions, as I had little to contribute but a lot to ask. However, upon reflection, I have realised that this was completely acceptable. I was able to learn so much in such a short period of time by asking endless questions while interviewing local farmers and villagers. This then allowed me to develop a new perspective on traditional farming methods that my other group members did not have.

While we were receiving feedback regarding our ploughing tool prototype, I found it very surprising the local’s level of concern regarding the ploughing tool’s impact on the environment in both the short and long term. From my perspective, I had assumed that their main concern would be providing an income to support their family and their community. However, after numerous discussions with the locals regarding the environmental impact of various ploughing tools and techniques, I had noticed that my perception of what I believed their main goals and values were had shifted. I began to understand that their respect for the land that they grew their food in outweighed the need to create a more comfortable life for themselves. This was shocking to realise as I had previously assumed that, like in many western cultures, people are generally primarily focused on their socio-economic status and their level of income. I had taken my experiences from my own western culture and assumed that it was transferable to the Nepali culture.

After considering various viewpoints and perspectives on these values and beliefs, I believe I now understand the reasons behind the people of the Dhulikel community having such respect for the environment. The land they grow their food on is both their entire source of income and is a large percent of the food that they provide their family. If this land was to become nutrient lacking after years of upturning of the soil as a result of ploughing, this income would halt completely. Likewise, they would want to ensure that future generations would have the opportunity to continue working on farms to provide for their own families. Thus, minimising the negative environmental impacts that their farming has on the land is extremely important, and I believe that they are willing to sacrifice some own personal comforts to ensure their efforts are sustainable.

Upon reflection, I now realise the importance of respecting the environment. This is especially important within western culture, where socio-economic status, income levels and power placement are valued so highly. This realisation has influenced the direction of my goals for the future – especially regarding career-related goals.

I am currently studying a Bachelor of Construction Project Management and hope to be working full time in the construction industry by the end of my degree. The construction industry is often generalised as one of the most environmentally destructive industries, with little to no concern regarding the environment.

While this issue has been brought to the attention of many large construction companies, sustainability efforts to create more environmentally sustainable construction methods, techniques and materials have been slow to adopt. This is largely due to the demographics of the industry. The construction sector is a very male dominated environment and comprises largely of an older generation. This specific demographic has been reported to have an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” attitude. Consequently, the longer term negative impacts of the environment is often overlooked by these construction workers as their efforts are often placed into ensuring the project is completed on time and on budget.

After my experiences in Nepal, I have decided that I would like to delve deeper into the sustainability options that can be utilised within construction projects. I have realised that innovation and creative thinking have the potential to change the course of sustainable construction projects in the future. However, I believe it is the implementation of these new tools, methods and materials that will determine whether they are successfully adopted. Similar to those living in the Dhulikel village, I want to ensure that I am respecting the environment regardless of the industry I am working in. To do so, I have realised that I may need to sacrifice some personal benefits and gains to ensure I can play an influential role that will assist in protecting the environment.

2 weeks at Mitsui & Co. Japan ✨🎐

This July I participated in the Mitsui Immersion Program run by Mitsui & Co., a huuuge Japanese sogo shosha (global comprehensive solution provider) with connections around the world – including (most importantly) Australia!

I and 13 other students (6 UTS, 7 UWA, 1 UoN) spent 2 weeks in the heart of Tokyo – a pleasant 10 min walk from Mitsui’s headquarters. During that time, we attended various seminars run by Mitsui employees and managers, allowing us to gain insight into the inner-workings of the company. It was fascinating (particularly from a science-IT background) to learn about how a large company like Mitsui is able to manage its many business units, ranging from natural resources and mining, to lifestyle/health and startup business development. And at the heart of it all are Mitsui’s core values:

  • Challenge and Innovation
  • Open-mindedness
  • Mitsui is people 🙂

Prior to this program, I was admittedly unaware of Mitsui’s involvement in Australia. However, my perspective quickly changed following the seminars which specifically detailed Mitsui’s various business ventures in Australia, such as Shark Bay Salt Mine (100% Mitsui owned).

In addition to the seminars, we also…. visited the Edo Museum in Tokyo, where we learnt about former Mitsui’s beginnings as a family-run kimono store (Mitsui’s logo is in fact the original family emblem or kamon); visited Mitsui’s new incubation hub, Moon Creative Lab, which aims to create and develop new innovative business ideas; and, had the chance to meet-up with students from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, learning about each other over some fun team-building activities and lunch!

At the Edo Museum – a replica of former Mitsui’s textiles store which revolutionised how kimono was sold, making it more affordable and thus accessible.

At Moon Creative Lab located near Harajuku, where we got to meet some very inspiring people!

Group photo with some students from TUFS, featuring our (toppled-over) spaghetti/marshmallow tower in the bottom right.

After some intense learning the first week (including a group presentation), the majority of our second week involved site visits! There were quite a few, so here’s a photo summary:

At the Australian Embassy in Tokyo with the Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Court.
We learnt about Mitsui and Japan’s ties with Australia, and got to network with Embassy members whilst drinking tea/coffee out of super fancy teacups!

At Kashima Port, a little north of Tokyo. We were given a ferry ride around the port filled with massive ships and processing facilities – in particular, a salt processing facility with tonnes and tonnes of salt all the way from Shark Bay! (below)

At Kimitsu Steel Mill – this is a photo of one of the blast furnaces in operation (it was unbelievably huge). It was fascinating to see how iron ore is turned into steel, and a very intense experience watching red-hot steel charge down a conveyor belt.

The view from Umihotaru, an over-engineered rest stop on the Tokyo Bay Aqua-line Expressway, with multiple restaurants, a food court, an arcade and of course, a 7-Eleven.

Early morning buying ‘ekiben’ for our trip to Nagoya via Shinkansen!

Posing at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology after a fun time exploring the museum’s plethora of exhibits. Prior to this, we visited the Toyota Exhibition Hall where we received a tour of the nearby Toyota Factory, seeing the production line for Lexus and other high-end Toyota models.

In true Japanese-businessman style, we ended one of our site visits with after-work drinks at an Izakaya.

But then it was back to work. For the last two days of the program we were split into 2 groups and tasked with creating a presentation showcasing what we had learnt, as well as pitching a potential business venture Mitsui could take that would also benefit Australia. It was a stressful 2 days, between the trials and tribulations of coming up with a business idea, and the pressure of having to speak in front of senior Mitsui executives and Australian/Japanese government officials.

Hard at work >:|

Luckily, everyone was impressed with our presentations and the program ended with smiles all around 🙂 – as well as tears, once we realised it was coming to an end.

At the closing reception – group photo with one of our HRD supervisors, Kaz.

Thank you to everyone at Mitsui and UTS, as well as the Japanese and Australian governments for making this program possible! It was an amazing experience that resulted in life-long relationships, valuable connections and unforgettable memories. It has undoubtedly helped me develop as a business professional through teaching me about Japanese business philosophy – knowledge which will definitely come in handy should I decide to work in Japan one day!

With that said, I encourage anyone who is interested in Japan to apply for this program if you get the chance! 🙂


We were given free time on the weekends to explore Tokyo. Here are some snippets of what we got up to…

Summer in Japan means festivals! This was at Yasukuni Shrine during the Mitama Festival, where people go to honour their ancestors and the spirits of the dead, lighting hundreds of lanterns.

Tanabata Festival at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo.

Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko, which is home to a collection of World Heritage listed Shrines dating back to the 17th century. 

A massive Sakura tree within the Imperial Villa Memorial Park (also in Nikko). Just imagine how it would look in spring..!!

Not the food photo you were expecting, huh? 😏
This was a Magicarp-themed ‘taiyaki’ from Akihabara.

— Sofia Oldman, Bachelor of Forensic Science (Digital Forensics) / BA in International Studies (Japan)

Ein Berliner Aufenthalt – July ’19 BUILD Abroad

Before leaving for my exchange, I was the most excited but also the most nervous I had been. I had wanted to go to Berlin for years whilst learning the German language. I was considering doing a semester abroad but finding about the Humboldt University Berlin in the Summer Program, I knew this would be more plausible for me. It was a rush to organise everything within a matter of 2 months which was worthwhile in the end. I got to spend my break immersing myself into a culture I was so intrigued by whilst receiving academic credit for it.

I was scared because I knew I would be alone there. This was my first time overseas by myself, and I did not know anyone else going, but I knew this was what I wanted to do. In my first week there, I really noticed the rugged nature of the city which gave its own character. Everyone dressed how they liked which I really appreciated, as I love to see people’s artistic expression through their style.

East Side Gallery
Warschauer Straße

I was amazed to meet a variety of people from all around the world on my exchange and in my German class. It fascinated me how one program could do this. It amazed me even more knowing that most of their native languages were not English, yet they were onto learning their 3rd languages.

My class was situated on a quaint street tucked away from the buzz of Berlin, but only a few hundred metres away from some of its most popular nightclubs. Nearby was the lovely River Spree, and delightful bakeries where croissants were sold for only 1 euro. I loved how diverse this city was. Residences, nightlife, stores etc were all mixed together with things spread out in the city.

18 Rungestraße

I was living in Kreuzberg, allowing me to experience the 24/7 buzz of Berlin. Street art decorated the old and new buildings, as well as the array of multicultural cuisine and nightlife. Being on the east side of the city really felt like it had more soul, than the west. However, the west had Tiergarten! A truly beautiful sight.

I got to enjoy Biergartens and the famous Berliner Weisse beer (I recommend the grün flavour!) and of course Currywurst. I saw the infamous Bahnof Zoo for myself as seen in ‘Wir Kinder vom Bahnof Zoo’ which I was surprised by how much the same it looked 40 years later.

Biergarten Golgatha

Apart from the rigorous bike riders, I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the German people. Any stereotype I was informed of them being unfriendly was completely thrown out the window. I saw smiles from bus drivers and even those in supermarkets.

I loved the sense of freedom in Berlin. Apart from the fact that I was living by myself, the city felt freer. Police were hardly seen. You did not even need to pass through gates to get on a train – just present your ticket if a controller comes! No lockout laws, less of a reliance on cars, frequent open-air cinemas, bikes – the city just gave a free vibe to me. I really cherished this.

Hackescher Markt

Having class only 3 times a week, I was able to utilise my long weekend! This meant I got to visit Amsterdam and catch up with some friends whilst also visiting Leipzig and Potsdam one week with my newfound friends.

It was difficult at first being on my own, but experiencing this city and forcing myself into uncomfortable situations was the best thing I did for myself. By the end of the month, I didn’t want to leave (except when the weather dropped below 20 degrees!). I know I will definitely be back to Berlin again.

By Beril Akbulut

SINGAPORE 2019 – A fairytale in the Garden City

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in the future? Perhaps you can visualize a city among a garden? In the winter vacation of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to a country that most other nations consider as the ‘model city’ – Singapore – an enchanting modern metropolis. A city planned 50 years in the future, and I did not believe that myself until I saw it with my own eyes.

Combine this with the opportunity to study an exchange at one of the world’s best universities, the renowned Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and this trip was even more amazing. Over the 4 weeks in June-July, my 5 friends and I from UTS embarked on a trip of a lifetime, discovering every aspect the tiny nation of Singapore had to offer.

NTU has one of the best campuses of any University, it has its own residential dorms, bus lines, gyms, pools and fast food joints like McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks etc. It was also an incredible learning opportunity to be taught by professors with over 30 years of experience in their respective fields of Cyber Security and Project Management.

One of the most interesting aspects of Singapore was the food. Delicious, cheap, abundant and diverse. It makes me wonder how a country with no agricultural space, hot-humid annual weather and a huge population can have such a huge variety and seemingly endless supply of food. I also got to try the highly anticipated Chili Crab but was left a little disappointed.

Travelling was a breeze. Singapore has developed one of the world’s most technologically advanced and efficient infrastructure for the Metro system (MRT), public buses and ride sharing services – GRAB. Automated trains run from sunrise to midnight at an amazing frequency of 3 mins and buses are not a minute late. Singapore may be small but it is hugely dynamic and fluid.

Singapore does not have the natural beauty that many other countries in the world are gifted with, but oh boy do they impress with their modern architecture. Singapore has a vast indoor, underground and vertical infrastructure rivaled by few cities. One of their most magnificent structures and landmarks is the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the heart of the bay.  The huge towers are a symbol of prosperity, art and affluence. At night, water shows, and light shows in the neighboring Gardens by the Bay bring the city to life. It was here I spent a majority of my time exploring and admiring the city. We also spent a lot of our time enjoying the cooler climate in the many shopping complexes around the city which are open till 10pm daily! One of my most favourite shopping destinations were the famous Orchard Road and Jewel at Changi, a new entertainment hub recently inaugurated.

Singapore also has some unique natural attractions to offer such as Sentosa Island and Henderson’s Waves. It was fun to visit the Southernmost part of continental Asia, visiting the largest Merlion on the island and riding on the Luge with friends at Sentosa.

Singapore has a rich history and it was humbling to learn about the birth of a nation through my visit to the National Art Gallery, National Museum and visiting several heritage places such as the Supreme Court, Pulau Ubin, Haji Lane, Little India, Chinese Gardens and so on.

Whether it was attending 8-hour lectures, exploring the city in 35C heat, playing Uno on campus with friends or relaxing at Marina Lighthouse and seeing the city at night, Singapore was a truly fairytale experience and one to cherish for many, many years to come.

If you get the opportunity, do not miss a chance to visit the Garden City yourself!

– Ahnaf Rahman
Bachelor of Information Technology Co-op

Bordeaux in two weeks

7pm, my last exam finished. 10pm I was on my flight to Europe. Crazy right? Two weeks before my flight I didn’t even know I was going to Europe, just the casual weekday leading into the exam week when I get an email from UTS BUILD regarding my application from several weeks back, “Congrats!” it says. An opportunity I would not miss, France was a destination I have wanted to visit since I was 3, when I use to live in Talatamaty in Madagascar. French was the language I had picked up first, as a result of living in Madagascar, although leaving all that behind and 17 years on I am now living in Australia, my love for France is still there.Now, 31 hours later, I arrive in Madrid. I spent a few days here before setting off for the summer program in Bordeaux. Europe lived up to my expectations so far, and the excitement only grew as I was travelling to Bordeaux from Madrid on the 29th of June.

The program was for a duration of 2 weeks, and consisted of daily lectures within the topics of ‘Sustainability within Civil Engineering’ which were eased into with an hour of French before it. Every day commenced at 9am, with an hour of French, a lecture, 1.5 hours of lunch break and then either another lecture or a site visit. Site visits were an amazing experience where the entire group got to experience the practical aspect of the lectures, some visits outside the engineering field were wine tours, these involved learning about the French vineyards and details about wine production.

Amongst the educational aspect of the program, the socialising opportunity was a great experience. I was the only student from Sydney, amongst 10 students from RMIT in Melbourne, few Chinese students and a few Korean students from Seoul. Making friends from different places around the world, yet connected by the same discipline of engineering was a unique experience. The usual day would finish at 5pm, after this the others along with myself gathered and went out to the city to soak up some French culture, either indulging in some French food or going to popular bars where we would meet others who are also travelling, or even appreciating the French architecture which was mind blowing as it was very different to what we are used to seeing in Sydney.

Some amazing work in the city I have captured are presented below.

The city of Bordeaux is a great place for students to study as the city is young, plenty of people out and about even until really late we still felt safe walking around the city. Sun set’s really late in Europe, so that was an experience in itself as we had plenty of day time to explore the city. This was weird at first as we’re use to such an early sunset back home!

Most of the city was covered with old French influenced architecture and it was maintained as such to be the centre of attraction in Bordeaux. However if you were to make a small effort to cross the Garonne river via the cities iconic ‘Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas’ bridge you come to discover this magnificent and alluring portrayal of the youth influence within the city. A location known as ‘Le Hangar Darwin’ where every wall boasts an eye catching piece of art through graffiti. The place is not filled with too many people at once however, you will come across a few locals who spend time with friends and of course the odd tourist like us who come to appreciate the contrasting nature of the city from the ‘left side’ to the ‘right side’ as the locals say.

A few of the works in ‘Le Hangar Darwin’ are shown below.

Overall, this short yet meaningful trip has taught me several things. It has shown me how to get through obstacles that you may face small or big, it has allowed me to gain confidence and step outside my comfort zone and do something out there. Most importantly, something I will keep with me for a lifetime; the new friendships and qualities which have been engraved into my personality from the duration of the trip. I strongly recommend this program for future students who seek something outside the normal university life and want to travel whilst adding value to their degree.

Bologna 2019

In June 2019 I set off to fly across the world to Italy to continue my studies of Italian Language and culture through the UTS BUILD winter program. This intense three-week language and culture course at the University of Bologna allowed me to expand my knowledge of the Italian language in such a short amount of time and immersed me within the culture of the city.

I set off from Sydney three weeks before the commencement of the course to go visit my family who live in Italy. After spending my time travelling around Italy with my relatives I caught the train to Bologna, where I met up with my friend from UTS who I was sharing an apartment with for the duration of the course.

The next morning was the first day of classes, kicking off with a speaking assessment to judge what level of Italian we already had. The first week of classes flew by and the next thing I knew it was our first weekend in Bologna. In true Italian style, my class decided to head out on the Friday night for some traditional Bolognese food; tagliatelle with ragù, mortadella and tortellini.

After sampling the food, wine and gelato and listening to some music across town it was time to start the second week. Although the intensity of the course was sometimes a little overwhelming, the fast pace of the learning allowed me to gain the most amount of knowledge possible in the short amount of time. One of the cultural activities we did during this week was my favourite by far: a traditional cooking class. As a class we made tortelloni (big tortellini) with ricotta, a salad with veal and a panna cotta with caramel.

Before I knew it the last week of the course had arrived and it was time to start studying for the final exam and making the most of the last few days before university in Australia started again. Making the most of the summer warmth, I spent my last days studying in the park and soaking up the sun. Unlike parks in Sydney, the park was filled with people playing soccer, basketball, frisbee, tightrope walking and juggling, with strangers encouraging me to give them all a try.

The last day of class quickly approached and it was time to say goodbye to everyone I had met. We went out in traditional student style watching a band play in one of the many parks of the city on our last night. After many hugs it was time to pack up and leave and head back to Australia. Although I was only in Bologna for a short amount of time, my experiences in this wonderful city improved my Italian language skills to a new level and I now have more cultural awareness of Italian customs and traditions.

International Legal Internship: Hui Ye in Shanghai

July 2019 – one of the most riveting months of my entire life so far… was spent doing a legal internship in Shanghai! I certainly didn’t expect to feel this way when I first started my program.

On the night of Thursday 27 June 2019, I arrived in Shanghai after a 10.5 hour flight from Sydney. As I lugged my huge suitcase into my single-bed hostel room, it really dawned on me that I would be spending an entire month in a foreign city with no one by my side. One reason that I chose a hostel to stay in was so that I could meet other travelers like me – so I could feel a sense of familiarity in what was a month of anything but familiar.

Although I had a decent grasp of Mandarin thanks to my parents, I saw it more a curse rather than a blessing. I wasn’t able to express complex thoughts or string together long sentences. Although I was able to ask for directions or order food at restaurants without issue, ‘Add me on WeChat’ and ‘I want to open a bank account with a debit card’ were slightly outside my vocabulary bank. I also felt distinctly like a ‘foreigner’ – I couldn’t even order KFC at one particular restaurant because I didn’t have WeChat Pay, which unfortunately required a Chinese bank account. Paying for things in cash just wasn’t a thing in Shanghai!

As I started with the internship the following week, I slowly but surely began to find my feet. By that point I had secured a Chinese bank account and was living and paying like a local! At Hui Ye Law Firm, I was introduced to the craze that is ordering milk tea (or bubble tea) using delivery services straight to the office. Can you imagine using UberEats or Deliveroo to send a coffee up to your office! I discovered that napping at work was entirely appropriate given Chinese business culture and the expectation to work long hours.

Progressing with the internship, I began to appreciate Chinese cultural values such as ‘guanxi‘ (the relationship) and ‘mianzi‘ (the concept of ‘face’). This meant not approaching shy colleagues for a conversation until they were ready on their own terms to have a meet-and-greet. It similarly meant not bothering my supervisors for more work until they were ready to provide it. Overcoming these initial barriers in understanding a foreign culture was one of the major successes of this internship.

Substantively, I was tasked with drafting various research papers, presenting on ‘Investing in Australian Real Property‘ to my Chinese colleagues and visiting both the Shanghai People’s Basic Court and the Shanghai Commercial Mediation Centre. In the final week, there was a brief change of scenery with a visit to the Nanjing office! None of it felt like I was doing things for the sake of an internship – it truly felt like each task was provided so that I would better understand Chinese culture, Chinese commercial law and Chinese working habits.

Having stayed in a hostel, I looked forward to chilling out in the rooftop bar every evening after finishing work. Unwinding after a long day with a beer and some international friends – I couldn’t have asked for more! In my spare time, I visited the nearby city Suzhou (the ‘Venice of the East’), did tourist-y things around Shanghai and even sat down for a dumpling class! An honourable mention definitely goes to the unforgettable KTV (karaoke) nights!

Striking a balance between work and play was perhaps one of the most enriching aspects of the internship. In some ways, I felt like I was truly an adult managing my own time, relationships, work and travels. Navigating the challenges, highs and lows of Shanghai, I feel like I have taken positive steps to becoming a Global Leader. I have found mentors from Hui Ye and friends across the world that I no doubt will keep for life.

Jason Wang

Memories of the Alhambra. Universidad de Granada

You know that feeling when you just know that in that moment, you were supposed to be at that certain place at that specific time? Well that’s how I felt after a week in Spain.

Prior to my abroad experience I kept thinking “I shouldn’t be going on another holiday, it’s irresponsible… I need to start saving more money”  and “What if something happens to me while I’m overseas?!”. Of course I knew I was just being paranoid, but I couldn’t help how I was feeling. The day of my departure, I almost didn’t even make my flight as I was running late, maybe unconsciously on purpose.

All this was put to rest as soon as I landed in Spain. Everything started falling into place. I smiled when I thought about how overly anxious I was just a few days earlier. My trip turned out to be one of the greatest summers and one that I will always cherish (lame & generic sentence, I know)!

I did some solo travelling before I arrived in Granada to study Spanish. Hostels played a major role in helping me to socialise. Some are really social while still providing a certain level of privacy, such as curtains, and same sex dorms.

I slowly made my way to Granada, passing through Albufeira and Seville on the way. For two weeks, we studied four hours a day from Monday to Friday. The beginners language course was harder than I expected. Our teachers started speaking in Spanish from Day 1 and pushed us to use as little English in class as possible. They were hard on us but I guess it worked. I picked up so much in such a short amount of time.

What I also love about Spain in summer is the amount of daylight that you get as the sun didn’t set until 9.30 pm. Every day, we would wake up and go to class in the morning, finish at 1 pm, and then go home to either study or have a siesta (nap). When the sun wasn’t as strong, we would start leaving the house again and meet up with our friends to go sightseeing or have some tapas. Here in Granada, they serve you free tapas when you buy alcohol. Needless to say we drank sangrias and beers everyday to get free food!

The city is even more famous for its medieval architectural masterpiece – The Alhambra. In busy months, this Moorish wonder is booked out for weeks in advance. The fortress turned palace is also just as beautiful from the outside as it is from the inside. Every other day, we would climb up the hill to a lookout, to view the iconic palace from afar and watch the sunset. Every time I saw the grand structure, I was just as impressed as the time before. Granada is honestly the most beautiful city I’ve been to so far in Europe. And I am so glad that I chose to spend the two weeks here.

Although everything worked out for me, it was not always smooth sailing. Fires broke out frequently as it was one of the hottest summers in Europe on record. I almost got pick-pocketed and indecently grabbed by an old man (both situations happening within 24 hours passing through Cordoba). Many other people had similar experiences. Some of my friends got pick-pocketed on busy subways, food courts, one even unfortunately got physically robbed and assaulted late at night, however this is a rare occurrence.

As my trip drew to an end, I looked back at my old self, just a few weeks earlier. Although everything didn’t always go as planned, I smiled again, as I knew that this trip was meant to be.