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.

Huawei’s ‘Seeds for the Future’ in China

New Opportunities Abroad

Never did I imagine that my first trip to China and first study abroad experience would be under Huawei’s awesome global initiative: Seeds for the Future (24 November – 13 December). With the support of the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan, it was an invaluable unique experience of Chinese culture, ICT education and fun — with 28 other selected students from 6 Australian universities, as well as 10 Finnish students.

As an Australian-born Chinese-Korean it was a great opportunity to engage with my Chinese culture and thus understand myself better while expanding my worldview. From the standpoint of a B. Science (Mathematics)/B. Creative Intelligence and Innovation student, I applied for this program online in order to network, gain insight into emerging ICT technologies and Huawei – one of China’s most successful international enterprises.

Climbing to Great Cultural Heights 

From climbing the Great Wall of China in Beijing on day 1, to sightseeing from the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong on the final day, we reached great heights of Chinese culture, immersed in foods, music, education, the language, and cultural heritage sites.  In the bulk of the first week of Seeds for the Future we studied Mandarin and calligraphy at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). But by night we visited Olympic Green and Tiananmen Square via the efficient subways. 

Our language studies were useful when it came to ordering food at the hectic BLCU cafeteria and haggling at the world’s greatest electronics markets in Shenzhen. Even the songs we learnt in class were practical, including ‘Péngyŏu’ (‘Friends’) which we sung at karaoke in Shenzhen and video recorded to send to our Mandarin teacher through WeChat.

Adapting to china and its technologies

Since Google and social media like Facebook are blocked in China unless you have a VPN, WeChat was our main form of online communication and came in handy for translating Chinese text in images like the app ‘Dear Translate’. China’s e-commerce is widespread such that some places are cashless — some vending machines only accept WeChat (pay) or Alipay. For future BUILD Abroad students, especially those interested in bargaining at shopping markets, I recommend downloading a currency converter calculator app.

Huawei Factory Tour

Another way we adapted to China was by drinking bottled water rather than tap water to avoid diarrhoea although Shenzhen particularly and Beijing were cleaner than expected. It was noted how ubiquitous security cameras with facial recognition technology were. We even saw their represented dots dispersed all over a map of Shenzhen at one of Huawei’s exhibition halls. At Huawei’s HQ we learnt more in lectures about emerging ICT technologies (i.e. 5G, Cloud, AI, IoT) from the second week onwards in Shenzhen.  By gaining VIP access to Huawei’s factories and R&D centres in addition to visiting BYD with informative tour guides, we were exposed to a snapshot of Huawei’s business and work environment, the production of technologies, and the future of public transport.

Highlights in Beijing & Shenzhen

Although we consumed much food for thought envisioning the future of Australia’s ICT industry, one thing I’m sure we all miss is the communal dining and buffets offering various authentic Chinese dishes while we got to know each other better. A favourite was a hot pot place in Shenzhen where we ordered noodles, plus an unexpected performance of a handmade noodle dance. Simultaneously, there was a costume clad performer that changed masks to the beat of instrumental music.  Another highlight was the Shenzhen Civic Light Show which was a spectacular colourful light show forming animations across buildings for 15 minutes, ending with the bright phoenix representing the innovative city. Other hotspots we explored included Forbidden City, Oct Bay and Splendid China Folk Village.

Yet what stands out are the small moments of kindness and friendly interactions with the Chinese locals and my fellow Seeds for the Future participants and staff: helping a Chinese woman with directions prior to the Melbourne debriefing although neither of us could speak the other’s language so we used a translating recording device; a couple of Asian-American exchange students showing me how to use a cashless vending machine and shouting me milk tea; the Mandarin teacher translating my given Chinese name to ‘Grace’/kindness/mercy; our group musical performance of ‘I still call Australia home’ at the closing ceremony; and at the hotel watching ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as well as playing cards with peers whom I’ve befriended.

Cheers to hot pot!

Connections make the world go round

Throughout the program I formed new valuable friendships and fond memories with like-minded passionate people I’m glad to have met. Through my cultural and study experiences in China and exposure to Huawei’s business and innovative ICT technologies I have developed skills that I can apply to my university studies and gained insight into the nuances in Chinese culture and capabilities of the ICT industry. Thanks again to Huawei for this amazing unforgettable journey that has opened up more opportunities for me and encouraged me to continue to challenge myself and expand my worldview.

Cassandra Phoon

B. Science (Mathematics)/B. Creative Intelligence and Innovation

Saga University Summer Program 2016



I never expected to fall in love with traveling so easily! This study trip to the countryside of Japan offered not only valuable knowledge that i can use in my study as well as future career, but also unforgettable memories and experiences with strangers who i can now proudly call friends.


Saga University Summer Program (SUSP 2016), or Creating Innovation for Sustainability in Young Leaders was a short term study program that helped a group of students from various countries understand about a diverse range of contemporary issues. The aim was to develop our leadership skills in tackling sustainability challenges, locally and internationally.


We started most days with a Japanese language class in the morning. Even though the content was simple and basic due to the limited amount of time, it was enough for us to appreciate some of the intricacies and beauty of Japanese language. Thanks to the classes, our daily lives during the trip were much more convenient, and we also got a good glimpse into the Japanese mindset.


In the afternoons were excursions to many places, such as Saga historical tour, Institute of Ocean Energy (IOE), Arita Ceramic Museum… We learned so much about Saga and Japanese culture, energy, environment, and technologies through these very hands on case studies. To preserve these heritages, sustain current ways of life and develop solutions for current and future issues, a basic level of understanding of what we have built and achieved is the start. In this regard, the excursions enlightened me and made me become appreciative of what we have accomplished, as well as my responsibilities as the young generation. One particular example was IOE’s innovation on using temperature differences in the ocean to generate energy, which truly impressed me and is something that i would love to work on in the future.


The learning experience was much more beyond what was planned in the program. We had a lot of time outside the schedule to freely explore, and to try living like the locals. Plans and ideas that us as a group came up allowed us to try amazing cuisines, visit unique locations, and experience lively local events (such as the biggest firework show i have ever seen!). As usual the unexpected also joined in the fun, as we stumbled across a wonderful Sake shop while getting lost in the city at night! More than just being insightful regarding the Japanese way of life, these experiences to us were incredibly exhilarating and brilliant.


Often, the people you meet matter even more than what you do or see on a trip. Except one unfortunate misunderstanding incident (taken as another learning experience), the local people we met were brilliantly welcoming and friendly. They were accommodating and patient despite our apparent culture gap and language barrier, especially considering a culture so unique such as Japan’s. Finally last but not least, the students from Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and Vietnam who came together to make a big melting pot of culture. Different backgrounds, different personalities, but somehow we just meshed so well together. We could learn from each other, share our different perspectives, thanks to which every moment was so much more rich and memorable. If i could travel to anywhere in the world with the same people again, it would always be worth it given all the joy and fun we had!


All the doubts i had before the trip were completely blown away, now replaced with new knowledge and mentality. These experiences have ignited me, as I’m eager to go out there again to challenge myself in a new environment. Returning to the beautiful far east country and seeing the friends i have made again are no doubt high on the priority list though!


Jaa, mata!

Nghiem Xuan Hieu


Study Thai Style

Mid exam period, stressed, procrastinating and staring into a barren fridge already rung dry of its precious sugary resources, I needed something bigger than a few Facebook notifications to get me through this study session. I stumbled upon the UTS Build opportunity to study abroad for two weeks under the new Colombo Plan. That was all I needed. Immediately I signed up, only to wonder what I had gotten myself into once Kingsford Smith was but a spec upon the horizon.
Nervous, plunging into an unfamiliar culture, currency with a different set of royals and humidity that could fill a swimming pool, I psyched myself up for the solo, 1am, 30km public transport route from the airport to my hostel. However all these butterflies were quickly subdued when I met the smiles of all the locals on the bus. What a welcome. I am glad to say that this warmth from the local Thai people was a common theme throughout the trip.
The first day I spent strolling through the massive and varied street markets found in Bangkok’s Chinatown filled with everything you heart desires. Rob and myself bought some used Tuk Tuk radiator caps and finished the day with some wonton soup.
Starting the two week climate engineering and science course at KMUTT we were introduced to our Thai peers who we would study with for the whole course. Known as our Thai buddies we all soon transitioned to becoming close friends. The course was made up of ten lectures focused on energy production technologies, future energy demands and transport. Between lectures we also went on some very interesting field trips that put the theory into a real world context. The trip to the All Green Learning Centre was one of the highlights, it is a camp centred around living at one with nature. The concept is to minimise our impact on the environment by harnessing natural processes to replace more unsustainable technologies. We got our hands dirty creating compressed earth bricks from the local soil and dying fabrics with natural dyes (betel nut, turmeric). I left feeling inspired by the positive work being done by people in Thailand to create awareness about energy conservation.
What made this such a unique trip was we weren’t tourists peering in on Thai culture, we got to live it for two weeks. Living on campus and studying at the university with local students I got a glimpse of what real Thai life was like. The students have profound respect for their position to study at university, upon entering the campus each morning they will bow to the statue of their king and everyday is formal dress. I also found the locals were very proud to show of their wonderful culture, a key part being their local cuisine. Street markets are a big part of their food culture, where many people share meals anytime of the day. There was always something new and delicious to try in the markets whether it was fluorescent blue dumplings, slow cooked pork hock soup, blood broth noodle soup, raw paw paw salad or some deep fried insects. My personal favourite was the Tom Yum Goong soup, a fresh and spicy soup with prawns that will zap your taste buds.
This trip went above and beyond anything I expected, I met amazing people, learn’t about very important topics and ate some fantastic food. However this is not something I will leave behind in Thailand. I have brought back new local and international friendships, a more global perspective on climate change and our responsibility in tackling these issues and a greater understanding of the cultural backgrounds in my wonderfully diverse country of Australia.
Lewis Miles
 Snapchat-5388043530627419698Snapchat-7154900658075409798Photo 9-07-2016, 14 51 46 (1)20160716_160418

Summer at the London School of Economics & Political Science

My journey with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) started about 6 months out from my actual travels when I applied to be accepted into the subject ‘Cyberlaw’ as part of their intensive Summer School program. Knowing LSE was in the top 10 law schools worldwide, it was a nervous few weeks waiting for the confirmation email offering me a place on the course.

It did not take long for July to roll around and I was on my way to London. As I set off on my (long) flight, I felt a combination of nerves and excitement – how would I cope with an intensive law subject at one of the world’s most prestigious universities  17,000km from home?

On arrival in London, I was greeted with a typical summer day – cool, wet and cloudy 🙂  It did not take long to suss out the underground Tube network and I was on my way to meet with my friend and roommate (who was also undertaking a subject at LSE) at our Airbnb accommodation in the West London suburb of White City.

The day before classes started, we attended registration at the LSE campus, which is located in the heart of London at Holborn – right next door to the Royal Courts of Justice. It was only a 15 minute tube ride from our accommodation, and very easy to find. The location itself is quite law-focused, with many lawyers and law firms close by due to the proximity of the Courts.

LSE New Academic Building
LSE New Academic Building

The LSE campus is spread out over a few blocks and borders the beautiful Lincoln’s Inn Fields – a great little park to join locals in for lunch. My classroom was located in the New Academic Building, which was modern and well-equipped.



Lincoln's Inn Fields
Lincoln’s Inn Fields

As I made my way into my first day of class, I saw about 50 other nervous, yet smiling faces. It wasn’t long before I was chatting with law students from around the world, including Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Canada and Ecuador (just to name a few). All were at a similar stage of their law degrees and all were just as nervous about undertaking a subject at LSE. In addition to everybody’s friendliness, I was particularly impressed with the ability of many of the students who were undertaking the course with English as their second language.


LSE New Academic Building
LSE New Academic Building

LSE Classroom
LSE Classroom




Professor Andrew Murray
Professor Andrew Murray

Our lecturer, Professor Andrew Murray, greeted the class with his cheerful Scottish accent, and it did not take long to see why he is regarded a world leader in the field of cyber law. He was engaging, knowledgeable and experienced in the subject area and presented the topics in a manner which was easy to understand and able to be applied to real-life scenarios.

The format for the Cyberlaw subject was Monday – Thursday, with a lecture each morning for 3 hours and a tutorial in the afternoon for 1.5 hours. The morning lecture was conducted with the entire Cyberlaw cohort (about 50 people), which was then broken into smaller groups for the tutorials – consisting of about 15 students.  My tutor was Mark Lieser, a PhD candidate who was a wealth of knowledge and engaged the class in insightful discussions, activities and debates. Tutorials were also a great opportunity to get to know my classmates better and discuss the similarities/differences between the legal jurisdictions around the world.

Each day, groups completed a blog which was published on the LSE website – you can check it out here


Oxford Street, London
Oxford Street, London

London Street

Living in London was an amazing experience. I found that staying in an Airbnb accommodation gave me the opportunity and freedom to live like a local and truly experience what it is like to be a Londoner – even if only for a few weeks.

The one (and only) ‘heatwave’ of the summer (32 degrees) lasted only a few days and it was good to have some sunshine in between London’s grey skies.


Dishoom, London
Dishoom, London

The diverse cultures that populate London make it a great place for sampling amazing food from around the world. Their pub culture also allowed for some fun times getting to know your classmates after we had finished classes for the week.

London also has a great suburban scene and each area has its own feel. I really enjoyed Notting Hill, Soho and Shoreditch. London is also jam-packed with historical tourist sites such as Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye – all of which are amazing to see in real-life.

While time for social activities was somewhat limited with the intense workload, being so close to Europe was an amazing advantage. I was lucky enough to find time to get away to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend, which was a great experience. Other students found time to duck over to Europe to places such as France and Spain for the weekend – some even taking in the final stage of the Tour de France.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Old Town, Edinburgh
Old Town, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle









While the study was intense, and knocking out a 2000 word essay by the second week and a closed-book exam in the third week was challenging, it was achievable and rewarding. The subject content was interesting and well-taught, and has allowed me to bring back knowledge to Australia in an emerging area of law.

Overall, travelling to London and attending LSE was an extremely rewarding and worthwhile experience. I have no doubt that attending this course has placed me in a better position to tackle the tough legal job market next year and has given me an experience that I will remember for a lifetime.

Cyberlaw Class
Cyberlaw Class

A big thank you UTS:Build for their assistance in getting me to London.

Cambodian Arts and Culture: January 31st 2015 – February 4th 2015

I signed up for the Cambodian arts and culture BUiLD program because I wanted to learn how to apply the skills I have learned at university in the real world. I also wanted to learn how I could use these skills to make a difference in the world because when I leave university I don’t just want a career to make money, I want to be able to help others. In reality I learnt this and a lot more. The trip involved four weeks of working to develop a social enterprise called Lightbox in the small town of Kampot. Lightbox was developed to regenerate Cambodian arts and culture and provide a sustainable source of funding for a local not-for-profit organisation called Mayibuye that offers free creative education to children in rural areas of Cambodia.

My trip began with one of the most stressful plane flights of my life. Being a nervous flyer I had difficulty getting onto the plane to being with so, the 8 hour flight was going to be challenging. Once I got onto the plane I was seated between two women who were both incredibly friendly. However, the world runs on irony so naturally one of the women was terrified of flying. From the beginning of the flight she was crying, grabbing her seat and swearing. This made me feel a thousand times worse but in my nervous state I knew I had to do something to manage the situation because other customers were looking around rather concerned.

I introduced myself and started to talk to her about my fear of flying and how I dealt with it. I spent the next 8 hours explaining the various sounds and movements of the plane, holding her hand and silently freaking out to myself in my head and hoping I wouldn’t die in a plane crash. Much to my surprise, my strategy helped and while I was struggling internally, the rest of the people on the plane were able to relax. The rest of my Cambodia trip involved many of the same themes as that terrifying plane flight; massive challenges, facing my fears, communication, leadership, learning, experiencing things I never had before and meeting new friends.

The first week involved meeting the group, learning about social enterprises in Cambodia and the Cambodian genocide (which wiped out almost all of the intellectuals and artists in the country), running arts and craft classes with the children from Mayibuye and learning all about Lightbox. Week two was all about market testing. This involved cleaning the Lightbox premises and preparing it for our market testing event, promoting the event and sourcing everything we needed. The event we held was called StepUp Cambodia, it included traditional and contemporary dance performances, dance classes and a bar (which we had to set up because the Lightbox premises didn’t have one). We made flyers, painted, cleaned, launched a crowd funding campaign, bargained with locals, networked and promoted our hearts out. In the end, our hard work paid off as the event was a massive success and was an incredible learning experience for everyone involved. By the end of the week the group was completely exhausted and well and truly ready for our three day weekend.

Our persistence in week two set us up well for week three which was incredibly intense. It was focused on developing a massive (80+ page) business plan, branding for Lightbox and a pitch to sell our idea to investors at the end of week four. The final week (week four) was just as intense as we had to finalise our business plan and we found out we would not only be pitching to investors from around the world but also, to representatives from UNESCO. As the finish line loomed all-nighters became a common theme and with many tired people the amount of tension and conflict increased. In spite of this, our group continued to communicate effectively and produced an incredible business plan and pitch.

What I have outlined above is only a tiny snippet of one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My journey involved everything I have written and a whole bunch more. It’s something that’s so hard to explain unless you’ve lived it, everyone should experience something like it at least once in their life. I left Cambodia a changed person, found a piece of myself that had been missing for a long time and took with me friends, lessons and experiences that I will have for life.


Week 1:

Exploring Kampot for the first time

Visiting Lightbox for the first time

4.jpgOld bridge, Kampot

5.jpgMeeting the kids at Mayibuye

6.jpgCraft time!

Week 2:
Cleaning Lightbox

Our poster

The event

Firefly Cruise

9 people in a Tuktuk!

Week 3:

Working hard

19.jpgExploring Bokor mountain

2021Cooking class

Week 4:

22More hard work

23A group of people I will never forget 🙂

Mia Nestler – 11390061

Cambodia Reflective Journal

3/1/15 – 4/1/15

After over 24hrs of travel due to booking my flights late I finally arrived in Phnom Penh! Upon driving out of the airport my first impression of Cambodia are its crazy roads! Almost the first motorbike I saw had a mother, father and two young children on it. What was most surprising was that the parents were wearing helmets but the children were not. The rest of my first day consisted of visiting the Central market to get a phone charger and adapter. This involved riding my first Tuk Tuk which is so much fun and so affordable! Later that day our team leader, Zoe, arrived as well as one of my other team members Adam. That night we went to a restaurant on the river front called ‘The FCC’ which Zoe said is a bit of an establishment here in Phnom Penh. We also visited the night markets before walking back to the hostel and going to bed exhausted!

Having a proper night’s sleep meant we were all ready to start the day with some more exploring. After a quick breakfast at the hostel, two more team mates arrived. Guided by Zoe, we decided to all visit Phnom Wat, a temple in the city. We were lucky enough to experience traditional music and see the local people make offerings to Budda and pray. After this we walked to the national gallery to view some of the ancient Cambodia sculptures from places such as Angkor Wat. After our busy morning it was time to eat again. We settled on having lunch at the restaurant of a local organisation which trains street youth in cooking and hospitality. Hopefully we can find inspiration from places such as this when devising our own business plan in Kampot.

5/1/15 – 6/1/15

Before we departed Phnom Penh to travel to Kampot, Zoe suggested that it might be a meaningful experience for us to visit the genocide museum in Phnom Penh- the high school that was used as a prison during the civil war. The prison has been left exactly as it was found when it was liberated, creating a ghostly feeling about the place. This was a valuable and moving experience as it helped communicate the magnitude of the death and injustice that happened during that period in Cambodia. We then hopped in another Tuk Tuk and had the privilege of vising the iconic ‘White Building’ (that is now grey) in the centre of the city. It was built in the 1960s as public housing and now is an entire community within itself. We were specifically visiting a social enterprise that is based in the White Building called ‘Sa Sa Art Projects’ who aim to create community engagement and support contemporary Cambodian art. That day we had lunch at yet another social enterprise called ‘Daughters’ which trains and gives jobs to former women sex workers. We finished the day with a 2.5 hour bus trip to Kampot then a welcome dinner and drinks with other Lightbox and Mayibuye volunteers.

The 6th was our first serious day of work. The day started with splitting our project into two parts (marketing and strategic) then brainstorming our objectives for the week. This brought us to lunch at the local social enterprise called ‘Epic Arts’ which employs and trains disabled people in Kampot. We also checked out the space we will be working with at Lightbox for the arts space and bar we are going to make the business model for. The final activity of the day was a team building exercise before making the schedule for the rest of the week.

7/1/15 – 8/1/15

Wednesday the 7th was a day used to gather background information about what is currently in Kampot as well the viability of our idea of a gallery/bar. We started off this research by conducting SWOT analysis’s of businesses and social enterprises in the region. This was useful in starting the critical thinking process. We then decided that gathering primary information would also be useful. We wrote a number of questions to ask business owners and tourists/expats in the Kampot area. I went to other guesthouses in Kampot to speak to guests about whether they would be interested in an art gallery/bar. The response was mostly positive and also gave us some really valuable feedback and inspiration. From that we were able to construct a customer profile which will help shape the development of the business further.

The next day we had the privilege of vising the local state school where Mayibuye (partner organisation to Lightbox) runs arts and culture programs for its students. We provided some craft activities for the kids to do and they performed a few of the dances they had been learning through Mayibuye. It was great to see the impact that Mayibuye is having as well as seeing first why the success of Lightbox is vital for the funding of the Mayibuye program.

9/1/15 – 11/1/15

I spent the last working day of our first week developing our crowd funding campaign. We decided to go with the crowd funding platform Indiegogo due to the fact that their fee structure seems the most desirable. We set a goal of raising $8000 in 30 days, it might be a stretch by I think we can do it! That afternoon we filmed some interviews with Zoe and me to include in the video for our fund raising page. Looking back on the week I can see we have come so far already and are really gelling as a team. I can’t wait for next week. But first a relaxing weekend that involved a trip to the women’s spa and 21st birthday celebrations for one of the girls in our group.

12/1/15 – 18/1/15

This week was all about beginning to make our ideas a reality! We knew on the Friday, Lightbox was having an event which would give the Mayibuye kids a chance to perform as well as giving us a chance to test our initial vision for Lightbox. The week started off researching where we might source the materials such as furniture as well as deciding on a food and drinks menu. However, as the event was on Friday we had to pretty much get straight into it. I had developed a mood board on Pinterest which guided how we decorated the interiors. This included painting the cane furniture white, buying indoor plants and getting a local woman to make us cushions from fabric I bought at the Kampot markets. We also had to do a lot of promotion for the event, mostly in the form of handing out flyers around Kampot. Our biggest challenge was probably the budget as the only money available was the $600 people raised before we came to Cambodia.

The Friday of the event was an intense day as everything had to be put together at the last minute but it was a great night! A decent crowd turned out for the dance performances and most people bought at least one cocktail although the tapas weren’t as popular (despite being delicious!). Holding the event was a really valuable experience as it indicated what worked, what didn’t, and what we could do differently.

As it is about half way through the program, myself and 4 others took a mini break to Kep, a beach village about 30 minutes from Kampot. It is very quiet but it’s great to chill out in preparation for next week!

19/1/15 -23/1/15

This has been the most challenging week of the project so far. The number one aim for this week was to work on and complete the business plan. Whilst we are not yet done, I am so impressed by how hard everyone has worked and what we have been able to achieve. We already had a half completed business plan which the co-founder of Lightbox wrote which has been a useful source of information but otherwise we had to start again! This really highlighted how great it is to be on a trip with people who are from all different University faculties. We were able to utilise the skills of everyone in one way or another. For example, the person who is majoring in accounting did the finances while the girl who is doing design has done all the design work.

Next week is the pitch to investors, so I imagine we are going to be working very hard in preparation for it. But first, we have another three day week which we are using to go up Bokor Mountain and have two nights in beach town Sihonoukville.

24/1/15 – 30/1/15

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more hectic we have managed to move things up a notch! Everyone is adding the final touches to the business plan which we planned to have finished at the beginning of the week however it is continually being proof read and edited. Thankfully, the line was drawn on Thursday afternoon. It was a great feeling compiling all our hard work together and sending it off to be read by investors! That night and the following morning focus turned to the pitch which was scheduled to take place over an internet meeting on Friday afternoon. Three of the most confident speakers in our group were chosen to lead the pitch with everyone else stepping in during question time. Overall the pitch was a success and went very smoothly. Everyone was knowledgeable during their speeches and in answering questions. It was also obvious how attached and passionate we had become about the whole project.
After the pitch we celebrated by having a night out at our favourite bar, listening to live music. This was a great way to round of an incredible experience with incredible and passionate people. It is something I will never forget and continuously look back upon when informing my own life.

Mitsui & Co. Ltd. NCP Program UTS 2015 February Blog

By Neil Li
I, together with 11 other aspiring UTS students were fortunate enough to be selected as the first group of students to visit Mitsui & Co. Ltd. in Japan on a 2 week immersion internship under the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan. The aim of the plan is to further Australian students’ understanding of and links with the Indo Pacific region.

Mitsui is one of the largest companies in Japan; the 10th largest Japanese company on the Forbes 2000 list. Known as a sogo shosha (general trading company), its business areas covers Energy, Metals/Minerals, Machinery & Infrastructure, Chemicals, Lifestyle, and Innovation & Corporate Development, with a sizable global reach of offices in 65 countries

As a trading (import/export) company, and with a strong presence and long history (since 1901, Federation) in Australia, Mitsui is keen to deepen relationships and enhance knowledge between Japan and Australia. This is one of the reasons why Mitsui has been so generous, together with the Federal Government and UTS, in supporting this study tour of Japan.

1 – First Day of Program
For the 2 week program, we learned about Mitsui’s history and values, overall business structure, and its main Australian operations in the first week. The roots of the business stretch back to 1673 when Takatoshi Mitsui opened a textile (kimino) store called Echigoya in Edo (present day Tokyo). Through innovative business practices, Echigoya became the largest textile store in the Edo period, and thanks to sound business decisions over many generations, eventually developed into the modern day Mitsui Group. The modern Mitsui company is composed of trading activities in each of its main business areas, which are also complimented by investments in each business area.
Mitsui has four main project areas in Australia – salt, wood chip, LNG and iron ore.

Mitsui’s salt farms in Shark Bay and Onslow WA, is noteworthy for its 100% ownership by Mitsui, which also means that Mitsui is responsible for the management of its operations.
Mitsui’s treefarms and woodchip production facilities in WA and Victoria facilitate the eventual production of paper, satisfying our everyday need for this commodity.

Mitsui is an investor in the North West Shelf project in WA, which is responsible for more than 40% of Australia’s oil & gas production. The oil and gas is mainly exported to major Japanese utility companies.

Mitsui has joint venture partnerships with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of WA. The iron ore is then exported to Chinese and Japanese steel mills, for processing into steel products.

I had not known about most of Mitsui’s Australian operations until the briefing sessions. It really showed me how much Mitsui’s operations were contributing to the stable supply of raw materials that are eventually used for the production of everyday goods that we all enjoy.

In addition to learning about Mitsui in their Tokyo offices, we were fortunate to learn about Japan in general during our planned field trips. These included the TEPIA museum visit, the Toyota factory and museum visit, the QVCJ TV shopping factory and TV studio visit, and the Kimitsu steel mill visit. We were also invited to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo for a networking lunch. The highlight of these visits for me was the Toyota car assembly factory tour. I was amazed at the sheer speed and synchronised flow of the robotic arms used on the car body frame; with around 8 arms operating on one car in such a tight and constricting area of space. It was very special to have visited the production facilities of a world class company such Toyota.

2- Kimitsu Steel Mill Visit

But in addition to the briefing sessions and site visits, we were tasked with 2 groupwork projects to process what we had learned into presentations. The 1st presentation of graphically portraying Mitsui’s history and Australian operations was good training for the 2nd larger presentation we had to present on the final day of the internship. That involved identifying a business opportunity that Mitsui could take part in, which would best support Australia into the future. We felt even more relaxed when we were told Mr. Takahashi, CEO of Mitsui Australia, senior Mitsui, Australian Embassy and Japanese government representatives would all be witnessing our presentation. Despite the other team gaining an edge for the 1st task, we came up with an impressive 2nd presentation which recommended Mitsui to invest in a solar powered electricity generation farm in Australia, which would also see Mitsui playing a leadership role in dealing with climate change.

13 – Final Presentation

Fittingly, the finale to the 2 week program, the closing reception dinner, immediately followed the final presentation, where we could all celebrate the two weeks that we spent together and what we had achieved with our groupwork collaboration in this short space of time. I believe it was a successful 2 weeks for the pilot New Colombo Plan undertaken by UTS and Mitsui, and has helped establish many new and meaningful relationships between members from each country.

24 – Getting our Certificates

Apart from the schedule organised by Mitsui, we also had free time ourselves during the public holiday and weekends to explore Tokyo. What I came away mostly was just how courteous and civil the general population was in all aspects of life. From lining up, to walking on the street, to waiting for the pedestrian lights, everything was done in such an orderly and responsible manner, with the impact of one’s action on others always on the mind of each Japanese citizen.

35 – Final Group Photo

Lastly I would just like to thank Mitsui, the Australian Government, UTS and all other stakeholders in supporting this amazing program. I would also like to thank Ippei and Chie, our Mitsui internship staff who was with us all the time in these 2 weeks and who were so helpful and supportive all the way through. I got to learn and experience so much of Japan that I could not have done just by reading and watching articles and media about it. What I had expected Japan to be beforehand were many times, different to what I had witnessed. It was such a wonderful experience that I will remember for a very long time.

Reflection on Mitsui Internship Program

Japan’s Culture


Since I have studied Japanese in high school, I had a general idea of what I expected Japan to be prior to visiting Japan for the first time through this internship program. However, there were many occasions where I have experienced this so-called ‘culture shock’, from high-tech Japanese toilets to efficient train systems, you can’t help but compare what you have and don’t have back at home. Just like how I love the train systems in Japan as it was just so efficient that they were always exactly on time, in which I wished we had in Sydney! This just goes to show that Japan’s culture generally have a way of placing systems that just ‘works’ and are ‘hassle free’. Learning about these ‘culture shocks’ was always an interesting learning experience for me because what I see as ‘normal’ back at home is not what is normally done in Japan. In which I sometimes must remind myself that each country has their way of doing things differently and we need to respect them by learning their ways.


I was fortunate enough to have a very unique experience by learning about the ‘business’ culture of Japan. Mitsui’s internship program gave me this very rare opportunity to experience the business culture that I will probably never experience in the future. It was intriguing to see the disparity in the work culture when comparing it to Australia. For example, Japanese workers are known for working extremely hard and long hours whereas in Australia we aim to achieve work-life balance. This was a shock to me as it made me wonder how the Japanese workers are able to achieve work-life balance, while staying motivated, when they are always working long and hard hours? Another aspect I noticed in the business culture would be the formalities and deep respect portrayed by the employees. The workers tend to demonstrate lots of respect to their colleagues, even more so when speaking to their seniors or bosses. It is also part of formalities to bow when greeting and exchange business cards when greeting each other for the first time. Japanese workers have admirable work ethics from what I have experienced while staying at Mitsui’s office.

Understanding Japan’s diverse and rich culture was one of my most pleasant and memorable learning experiences while in Japan as the more I learn about their culture the more I could understand the people and their ways.

Mitsui and Co.’s Philosophy and their Role


One of the most lasting impressions I left from this program was mainly Mitsui’s role between
Australia and Japan, and its business philosophy, Mitsui’s business philosophy as ‘Mitsui is people’,
‘Challenge and Innovation’, ‘Open-mindedness’ and an invaluable quote “Avoid infatuation with immediate advantage. For enduring long prosperity, harbour grand aspirations” from the founder of

Mitsui, Takashi Masuda, which basically means that we should not be greedy and look for short term profit, as by looking at longer term and thinking ‘bigger’ will ensure profits will just come through achieving great aspirations. These core values have left a lasting mark within me because I found that their values for the business was so much more then gaining profit and dominance over their competitors. It gave me an alternative perspective on how to approach business projects in the future that could someday be deemed highly beneficial and valuable. These values are important to ensure the ‘3 way good’, which is ‘good for the buyer, good for the seller, and good for society’, is achieved in unison.


I have come to understand the importance of Mitsui’s role in providing sustainability for Japan’s economy and globally. They have such extensive operations located in almost all parts of the world that I never knew existed. To name a few, some of the business operations include energy, agriculture, Iron-Ore, wood chipping, salt, food and health. By looking at these diverse operations it has allowed me to gain a basic knowledge on what they are and how they operate. It gave me an insight on their logistics, distribution centres and the value chain methods, which allowed me to understand how the business operations all tie together. I was fortunate to visit many of the sites, such as the Toyota manufactory, Kimitsu steel mines, QVC headquarters and a few museums to grasp a better understanding on their vast operations that also reflects on Mitusi’s history and philosophy. This certainly highlighted how Mitsui’s business model has enabled them to remain successful to this day for many years. They have enriched my knowledge and skills that will be useful in my endeavours in hopes to achieve the same aspirations.

My Personal Growth and Development

Throughout the program, I have been fortunate to gain invaluable life lessons and professionals skills that I can apply in my future endeavours. I have managed to gain more confidence in myself where I feel like I am capable enough to achieve much more if you can put your mind to it. I am now able to go speak to higher profile people, such as executives, and talk with them without feeling intimidated and shy. This has certainly improved my communication skills, especially when set in a teamwork environment, where sharing ideas and communicating is vital. The intern has provided many group work activities for this purpose to ensure we are able to effectively work as a team, carry out our responsibilities and achieve results. Being able to speak with inspiring leaders has led me to hopefully pursue similar aspirations as I return to Sydney filled with motivation, a matured mindset and in search for a fulfilling career. Since I am studying business and Japanese language studies, this intern fits very nicely in supplementing my degree to ensure I can pursue possible career prospects in this area where it involves bilateral relations between Japan and Australia. It was a privilege to be able to be part of this prestigious program that will only happen once in a lifetime, and for that, I am thankful for this experience, as I have learned so much that I know that I will never ever forget.

– Written by Julee Nguyen – Tran
( Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies)