Where do I begin? I’ll start by giving you some context to understand the purpose of this. I am currently studying my masters of Architecture and was taking a studio called Housing in Portugal, in this studio we are to study the existing Bouca Social Housing in Porto, Potugal designed by the noted Portuguese Architect Alvaro Siza and redesign it ourselves.
A group of 16 students, accompanied by our tutor Angelo Candalepas, buzzing in Portugal, Spain and Greece to see everything on our jampacked itinerary in under just 10 days.
We started off in Lisbon. This city blew me away. It was so beautiful, the locals were so welcoming and humble. The streets were paved with white marble pavers over the entire city.
On our first day out we paid a visit to Lisbon Cathedral where we sat and sketched the floor plan, from here we went to the Portugese Pavilion designed by Alvaro siza where we sketched again, this time observing shade and shadow and how it works. We went on from there to the Chiado District Alvaro Siza Housing and ended the day by visiting the Carmo Convent which had an incredible view to the city.
Day two in Lisbon we paid a visit to the Aires Mateus officce where we were lucky enough to meet Manuel Aires Mateus himself and understand how his practice works and how he works. It was quite surprising that he does not use any technology himself and does not even have an email!
From here we went to see Jeronimos Monestary where we did some detail sketching. Then we walked to the National Coach Museum designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha and lastly we stopped at the EDP Head Office designed by Aires Mateus.
On the third day we took a bus to see The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Cabo Espichel where some more sketching happened. This was a historic building studied as a precedent by Alvaro Siza when he designed the Teacher’s Training College in Setubul. A pit stop was made at the Home for the Elderly designed by Aires Mateus. Lastly we rocked up at the beautiful Cascais which is the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Portugal, here we visited the Paula Rego Museum designed by the Portuguese Architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, this builing was by far my favourite (you can tell by the smile on my face).
Amongst all of the amazing food we had in Lisbon, Portuguese tarts were up there! And by up there I mean the best tarts any of us had ever tried! They were mouth watering and sent taste buds into a frenzy.
We continued from here to Porto where we visited the site of the project, went to Santiago in Chile to see the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, flew out to Athens and saw the monumental Acropolis and Agora.
It was a very rich experience and I have learnt so much by visiting the projects and studying them which is such a different experience to studying them from a book.
This picture was taken on the last night of my program with a group of people that had been strangers 4 weeks earlier but now became some of my best friends. I went to Berlin not knowing anyone, so being able to leave with friends from all around the world is invaluable, and highlights what a truly amazing experience it was. The social aspect of the trip was incredible, I was never without people to explore the city with during the day and grab many quality German beers with at night, with the University there setting up many events and excursions for students to meet each other. The only downside of hanging out with a group of foreigners was that I left Berlin having learnt more Italian than German, as many of the people I became friends with spoke Italian.
The classes in Berlin were also incredible, with our professor being very against the use of powerpoint in teaching, each class was entirely discussion based which meant that everyone contributed and learnt from one another. We were also made to do multiple presentations, individually and in groups, which helped everyone come out of their shells.
Berlin has many amazing sites, and strangely enough I don’t have photos of everything I saw and went to even though I was sure I took photos. So my tip for people considering this program is to firstly, definitely sign up!!! But also to take lots of photos, as this is an experience you’ll want to remember for years to come.
Empathy is at the core of human-centered design. This is a fact I knew to be true but did not necessarily understand the importance of prior to the Unbound Fiji program. For this Social Enterprise and Development experience our group chose to focus on gender, encompassing our personal knowledge of feminist movements and women’s rights.
Pre-reading prepared us for the patriarchal culture of Fiji with women having low decision-making power and significant disadvantage compared to men, however we quickly learnt that this would not always be the case. Experiencing their way of life first-hand, we were led to understand that what we saw as a negative result of patriarchal values, had created a culture that celebrated the skills and contributions of women to family life.
In staying in Waivaka and Namatakula we found that many women were more than comfortable in this position, and often enjoyed their caregiving role. Whilst there is action around gender roles in Fiji that advocate women’s rights and push for a voice and power, the forceful nature of such movements can give way for significant backlash, so we wanted to begin to look for solutions that would celebrate and empower these women’s strengths to build confidence and self-worth rather than focus on areas that were lacking. It is always important to challenge your perceptions and expectations!
If it wasn’t for my 30-day visa, I would have stayed in Vietnam for much much longer. My month in this country was one of the most rewarding and enriching cultural experiences in my LIFE!
As a second-generation Vietnamese-Australian, I grew up in a household which embraced our traditions but never have I felt so connected to my cultural heritage until this month. Initially, I had my doubts about travelling alone to Vietnam for the first time without my family but in the end, it proved to be such an enlightening experience!
Old Quarter of Hanoi on film
This July, I was lucky enough to work with the Institute for Legislative Studies (ILS) in Hanoi. VILS is a legislative research agency that assists the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of Vietnam in its oversight and representative functions. My internship involved assisting in research reports focusing on particular policy issues that were on the agenda for the next session of the National Assembly.
This internship was organised through the Faculty of Law at UTS and was such a rewarding and invaluable opportunity to gain work experience in a global context. It provided me with diverse cross-cultural experiences which crystallised my aspirations to work in an international environment where I can contribute as a global citizen.
Throughout my internship, I was supported by senior staff who provided guidance in my work as well as travels. They encouraged me to balance my work so that I would have ample time to explore Hanoi and more broadly, Vietnam.
Ha Long Bay – Phong Nha – Hoi An
I am grateful that ILS has shown me with nothing but generosity and kindness in the workplace and outside. Honestly, to all the UTS students who happen to read this, you should definitely look into BUILD and the many programs that they offer!! You will not regret it!!
This truly has been an unforgettable learning and cultural experience.
Katherine Ho – Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Arts in International Studies
On 2 July, my second day in Warsaw, I went for a single walking tour to have a browse of the place I was going to live in for the next 2 weeks. And honestly, I was shocked by this ‘re-constructed’ city, it did not wipe out the historical breath of the city, but added more to it.
After a little walk around, I had a fine lunch at Old town square, where this ‘beef tartar’ is one of Warsaw’s signature dish. Quite fresh to me, as this was the first time I ever had a raw beef experience lol
On 13 July, almost the end of the program, SGH took us to Krakow for a 3 day trip. This photo was taken from Auschwitz, the concentration camp. I guess the photo can show the color of our feelings on the day.
To be living now in a somewhat more peaceful world and holding great opportunities for a better future is a blessing.
After this 2 week program, I gained not only the experiences from this overseas adventure, but also knowledge and friendships.
Also it provided a great chance to look over myself, to walk out of my comfort zone. Everybody knows it is always easy to stick to a life where everything is repetitively same. Is it the life I wanted?
This UTS BUILD short-term program at Shanghai University was definitely an unforgettable experience. The whole trip was a mixture of feelings as I was challenged to become more independent, but also experienced the amazing culture, people and food of Shanghai. Through this trip I was able to meet and create lasting friendships with different people from not only UTS but also from other countries.
My two week experience in Shanghai was filled with spontaneous trips, eating street food, shopping and lots and lots of walking. Our days usually started off with Chinese class in the morning where I was able to learn basic mandarin which came to be useful during my stay. We would then have our business class where we were taught about the Chinese economy; incubator tours were provided in the city vicinity to further our understanding of how business was done in China. This was an eye-opening experience as we were able to understand the differences in dynamics of doing business. After our tours was when we would be let off on our own to tour the city ourselves. This challenged our skills of language, navigation and planning of what to do each day, where although it was definitely tiring, it was not something I regretted.
Each day after our tours we visited various places which required a lot of walking. With the help of our buddies in Shanghai, we went to the infamous Bund, went up Shanghai tower where we saw the beautiful city and its water and infrastructure from up high. We also went to both East and West Nanjing Road to enjoy the shopping especially at H&M and Zara and also various markets to enjoy the cheap but delicious street food.
With the program we were able to also visit the Yu Gardens and also experience lunch inside a Shanghai family home where we also visited the neighbourhood. We got to see a tea ceremony performance and also try out Chinese calligraphy and watch Chinese opera.
Overall, Shanghai has been an amazing experience! Especially its culture and food, I definitely would love to come back and visit.
For two weeks I was
lucky enough to be a part of the Engineers Without Borders Design Summit trip
to Cambodia in July 2019. We flew into
Phnom Penh and learnt all about the history, language, culture and customs of the
Cambodian people for the first week of our trip. This included workshops with a language
teacher, a cultural lesson, learning about human centred design and visited the
Choeung Ek Genocidal Center and S21 Genocide museum. The second week of our trip we stayed in
remote communities in the Kratie Province to fully immerse ourselves by doing
homestays and living with the families.
We formed groups and interviewed people within the community to
understand how they live and work. At
the end of the homestay we created an idea to better the community and
presented these to the community leaders.
Before my trip I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to think of what it would be like just in case I would get scared or nervous. I really wanted to be able to learn something about myself, but I was unsure how I would be able to do this as I didn’t have an itinerary. Looking back now, I am glad that I didn’t have any expectations before the trip as it meant that I was living in the moment and took each day at a time. I really enjoyed working with lots of different students from all over Australia.
Doing the workshops in Phnom Penh were helpful to be able to understand the country and the Cambodian people as the lessons gave us background to the country. We did workshops with a few Cambodian’s including a language lesson, learning about how to speak the native Cambodian language called Khmer. This became helpful when we did homestays as the families are not able to speak English. A second workshop we had was a cultural lesson with a young woman called Lea Phea who taught us the “Do’s and Don’t’s” of Cambodian culture. She emphasised the importance of family in Cambodian culture and how it is the centre of their lives. Lea Phea also talked about her life and the impact of the Khmer Rouge on her family and she started crying when she talked about how she doesn’t have any grandparents as they were killed during the genocide and she will never be able to meet them. I was really upset when I saw her crying in front of us when she was describing how she wants to meet them but never will.
An amazing Cambodian woman I met was at the Russian Markets while we were doing an empathetic workshop which involved us talking to strangers and asking them about their lives. She was running a bag stall at the markets and was very friendly and approachable and talked to us about how she runs her family’s stall every day from 6am to 5pm. We were astonished and asked her if she has ever thought about going on a holiday and she said no. Her siblings are all older and married, so she left school at 15 to work at the shop and has been doing so for the past 8 years of her life. Her aspiration is to study English as her friends are studying at university and don’t have to work every day like her. Her smile and laugh were so contagious and made me realise that you don’t need to have money to be happy.
Other workshops we
did were on human centred design and taking a strengths-based approach that are
helpful when working on an engineering project.
The most impactful part was when we visited the Genocide Museum which
was solemn and despairing. Seeing the
torture and death that occurred only 40 years ago was confronting and made me
empathise with the Cambodian people. It made me realise that I didn’t know a
lot about their history and their culture, but I now have a new appreciation
for the country and people.
I stayed at Koh Pdao, a small village on an island along the Mekong River and we stayed with different families within the community and interviewed people to understand their values, strengths and issues in the village to create teams. It was interesting to be able to talk to the doctor, who was the most well off in the village as he had a flatscreen tv and sent all his children to University. In comparison, I was staying at the village chief’s home and he had one light bulb and his children were farmers helping him on the rice patty fields. It was also very intriguing to talk to people who weren’t involved in tourism as they were poorer and unable to send their children to high school as they couldn’t afford buying a bike for them to travel. My group aimed at getting more of the villagers involved in tourism that are not currently involved. We created a three day itinerary package for tourists to spend more time and money in the Koh Pdao community with the inclusion of new activities such as ploughing in the rice fields and cooking classes which are aimed to get families who are not currently involved in homestays to participate in tourism to receive another form of income.
I learnt a lot about myself, engineering processes and Cambodian culture. Immersing ourselves within the community proved an invaluable experience as it allowed us to fully understand their needs and lives by sleeping in their homes, ploughing in the rice fields and eating with them.
I learnt how to
take a strengths-based approach which means focusing on the positives of the
systems that are currently in place and concentrating on making these better
rather than fixing on what it is missing.
Taking this approach allowed us to create a solution that the community
would implement, as it is culturally appropriate and builds upon an already
existing system. We realised that
tourism has significantly increased the community’s standard of living, but
there are still a few families who are not involved, so we wanted to work on
this strength so that more people are involved.
I have previously
taken a human centred approach to engineering projects at university, but not
like how we did in Cambodia which was an incredible insight into the importance
of talking to all stakeholders rather than focusing on design and
ideation. I learnt the importance of
focusing on stakeholders and understanding their needs, wants and
concerns. This proved important as we
were able to understand what they wanted rather than what we thought they
wanted to change.
The most important key learning experience was understanding and appreciating another culture. Before the trip I didn’t think much of Cambodia as I had not heard of it much. Living with a Cambodian family and talking to lots of different people allowed me to appreciate their way of living. I want to be able to apply this when working as an engineer so that I can be more understanding and empathetic with stakeholders.
My plans are still the same, but my motivation, mindset and attitude have changed. I want to be able to make an impact on the lives of others using biomedical engineering, but I want to impact those that are less fortunate and living in third world countries. I want to be able to use the humanitarian engineering that I learnt on my trip and apply it to my degree and career to help others. I want to take a strength-based and human centred approach to my work and personal life as it allows me to understand the stakeholders and their needs much better. I want to do more travelling and homestays to immerse in different cultures and become empathetic to other cultures and appreciate what I have at home in Australia.
P.S. If you ever have the opportunity to go on a BUILD trip – definitely go for it and apply! Going to Cambodia has to be the most life changing experience I have ever had and I highly recommend everyone to at least apply. You’ll never know what it’s like until you’re there 🙂
Georgia Kirkpatrick-Jones Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical)/Diploma of Professional Practice
Applications for the Summer 2019/2020 Engineers Without Borders Cambodia close September 1st 2019. See our database for more information: bit.ly/BUILDAbroadEWB
My most memorable experience in Nepal was not seeing the biggest stupa, nor was it the safari trip or boat ride.. In fact, it wasn’t even building the action project that we went there for in the first place. My most memorable experience was my stay in the villages.
During my stay there I was fortunate able to be a part of a close connected community. They were not just individuals who happen to live in the same village, they were a community who talked to one another and helped each other out. During the time there I hardly touched my phone.
In the morning we would sit on the floor in the kitchen and eat together. Then I would go up to abari house and start the day off with some yoga. After that I would go out and say hi to my host brother who was on his way to school. Then the younger children would come over to join me by the hammock where we would play games together.
Next we would go back to the open classroom and learn about human centered design thinking. We would all snuggle together to stay warm under my scarf.
When it was time to work on our prototype for the action project they would go play by themselves and check up on us every once in a while to see if we needed help.
In the afternoon, the group would go for a walk before it got dark then come back for group activities and bonding time.
At night the children would have to go home and our group would learn Nepalese together at Abari house. After that, we’d split off and I would go back to my host family to have dinner and dance with the family until it was time for bed.
My time at Dhulikhel was very simple, but I felt so comfortable. It is an experience I will never forget. I has taught me to be more grateful for what I have and appreciate the time I have to spend with people more.
I participated in the in-country language and culture course in Lausanne, Switzerland. This course consisted of three weeks of French language class from 9am-12pm, Monday to Friday, and was the focal point of our immersion into the everyday life of the unique French-Swiss culture in Lausanne.
On Arrival 27/1/19
Getting to Lausanne was not as easy as I expected it to be. Rowena and I had to wake up at 4am in order to get to flight on time, we then proceeded to miss out train by 30 seconds, lined up in the wrong line at the airport and on top of that I was feeling very unwell making the minor inconveniences seem major. When we finally arrived in Lausanne we were shocked to find that everything outside of the train station was closed but because we needed to get to our accommodation we didn’t end up buying any groceries. At the end of the day after finally finding some groceries our oven broke so we had to get someone into fix it, which was hard because my French was not good enough to communicate what was wrong however I was lucky to be with Rowena who really stepped up and handled the situation perfectly. I am writing this the next day looking out at a beautiful view of the Alps and I am feeling a lot calmer and a lot more hopeful about the rest of the trip here. Just because the first day isn’t what I expected it to be I’m glad I was able to navigate my way through it. I’m optimistic that I am going to have an amazing time in Switzerland.
Mid Course 5/2/19
I am officially half way through my time in Lausanne and I am loving my time here. Lausanne is definitely not what I expected it to be. I have been to many cities in Europe before and the feel in Lausanne is very different. It’s a lot quieter, more expensive and also cleaner than any other city I’ve been to before. I have found myself falling into a very nice routine here. I get up, go to class for three hours, go home, have lunch, do my homework, go for a run, eat dinner, then go out for drinks with friends. I’m somebody who loves routine so being able to feel comfortable enough in Lausanne to slip into a routine has been amazing. As for the course initially I was finding it extremely difficult. I was seriously behind the rest of my class in my ability to speak however I was ahead of most of the class with writing ability. However the more I attend class and the more I am forced to speak, I am finding the class a lot more enjoyable and can see some serious improvements. I am now able to confidently talk with locals in when attempting to buy or order food.
End of Course 15/2/19
looking back over the three weeks I spent in Switzerland, I am very grateful
for the skills it has taught me. For my professional career it has
significantly improved my French, which will make me a greater asset to
multi-national corporations and allow me to work with a more diverse range of
people with a diverse range of opinions. It has also shown me that I can live
and thrive in a different culture, which will allow me to live and work in more
countries, opening me up to many more job opportunities. In my personal life it
has taught me to be more tolerant of others who are speaking in their second
language, to be self-sufficient and to better understand the issue of racism
and the harmful role that communication plays in it. Overall I believe this
experience has really changed me and I am very glad that I was given this
This whole experience came about because my two best friends were going to be overseas in January – one on exchange in the Netherlands and the other on a short-term study trip in the Netherlands as well. I knew that if I were to stay at home I would have serious FOMO, but I knew that I needed to complete some credit over summer to stay on track for my degree. After a quick perusal of the BUILD website, I found the perfect solution – six weeks living in Brooklyn and interning in Manhattan.
I’ve always loved the idea of living in foreign places for extended periods of time. I believe that you immerse yourself more in the culture and have the opportunity to do things beyond the usual tourist checklist. However, if you were to live a whole lifetime in NYC I doubt you would be able to do and see everything. It really is the city that never sleeps.
Interning at the international charity CMMB really gave me a taste of what a career in the not-for-profit space would look like. Everyone at the office was extremely kind and helpful, always giving me new projects and teaching me new skills. My fellow interns were also from foreign countries; Hungary, Spain, Nepal, China and India. So I was really lucky to learn about more than just one culture! Also working on the infamous Wall St. was a pretty cool experience.
The food was also unbelievable. I spent a ridiculous amount of money going around the city and trying anything and everything. But I have no regrets! We were also lucky enough to be in NYC during Restaurant Week which meant we were able to dine at 21 Club, a famous restaurant frequented by celebrities and presidents alike! My favourite food hotspot would have to be Chinatown because most things were incredibly affordable whilst also being delicious. The place I visited most often? World’s Best Cookie Dough. A must do!
We also did a lot of random activities – ice skating in central park, watching a Knicks game, visiting museums, catching the Staten Island Ferry, going to the Top of the Rock, watching a Rangers game and even going to a NY Fashion Week After-party!
So if you’re considering interning in NYC, or even just travelling there – I highly recommend!!!