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.

Innsbruck: a month that’s changed my life

In January 2019, I packed my bags and headed to Europe. I was going to Innsbruck, Austria, to study their Engineering and Business Winter Program. The feeling was unnerving but exhilarating. As my travels started, the excitement grew, and as soon as I got to Innsbruck, I knew I could see myself living here.

Beautiful architecture, water ways and mountains, everywhere you look in Innsbruck.

Innsbruck is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The buildings are riddled with culture and history; the food is phenomenal and the people are lovely. Austrian culture is extremely friendly, yet professional; so it was very comforting as a young solo traveller to be welcomed into a culture that felt very safe and supportive.

Innsbruck itself is really small, but has literally everything you need; which gives a really intimate, safe and inclusive feeling. Everything is within walking distance and the scenery is phenomenal. I would have to allow an extra 15 minutes walking everywhere, because I always stopped to take photos of the mountains.

Standing at the top of one of the buildings in the main street, overlooking the main town and the views of the mountains.

Geographically speaking, Innsbruck is in an amazing location, where the other students and I were able to travel together to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the rest of Austria, on weekends. So not only was I able to experience living in a beautiful European town, but I was able to experience other cultures and countries; from villages in the mountains to major cities.

Studying at the Management Center Innsbruck

The study program was really well structured and a fantastic learning experience. There was a small group of us from around the world participating in this program, and the staff were really organised in making sure we were well acquainted. So we became very close, which has given me a global network now.

Each week we had a different subject, which worked really well with the structure of the program. One of my favourite things was that each subject was taught by a different expert from around the world; so you were taught by very knowledgeable and engaging staff with a lot of global experience.

I studied entrepreneurship, innovation and start up subjects; which was an amazing opportunity to develop and further any ideas I have of my own. As well as develop my business knowledge. I also studied Biotech Product Operations, which was fantastic for me as a Biomedical Engineering student. At UTS, we learn about global processes and standards/regulations; but to be in Europe and seeing these processes first hand, was a very different, beneficial learning experience.

I enjoyed my experience at the Management Center of Innsbruck so much, and was sad to leave; but I know I will be back one day. I have developed so much as a person, and have a new appreciation of the world. If ever given this opportunity, I highly recommend you do it too!


Ola: Tecnun University San Sebastian

So a bit about myself; My name is Carolyn I am of Burmese background and migrated to Australia when I was 2 years old. So basically raised in Australia and English was my first language. I am bilingual and speak Burmese however not fluently as I wish I could. I am an engineering student in my final year, hoping to pursue a career in construction engineering and management. I have a loving family and I am the eldest of 3 children. Family is a big aspect of my life and without their continual love and support I would not have be here today. After doing my HSC, exam stress caused me to have epileptic seizures and damage to my frontal lobe impaired my speech and thinking. However I recovered and started my engineering degree in 2011.

Six years later (slowly making my way) I am at the end of my degree. My main drive in the past six years was to prove to myself that I could do it. Now that I’m close to finishing my degree I wondered what my purpose after the degree was. I had been to graduate interviews where I was stumped by the question “What is your passion?” On the surface it is easy to say money is my motivation however I don’t think that has ever been the truth. It may sound naïve but I’ve always wanted to make a difference and help others. I started the BUiLD program hoping I gain leadership skills and confidence in myself as a leader in the field of engineering. By going to Spain I hoped to put myself out of my comfort zone and maybe regain my purpose and passion for engineering.

On the first days of travelling by myself the language barrier and having to communicate to others who did not speak the same language was the most challenging. I wished I was multilingual and knew basic phrases of Chinese and Spanish. Another challenging aspect was being by myself. I was lonely and homesick and wished I had someone I knew with me. Also having no choice but to stay in a hostel with bed bugs was probably the most depressing part of the first few days. However Spain was beautiful. History and architecture have always interested me and Spain was full of both. The gothic architecture and the way the city was planned out were amazing. I loved walking down the streets imagining the stories and the lives that were lived in those streets. I felt overwhelmed with how creative human beings were and the man made beauty we are capable of. This brought me to my religious roots and reminded me of how we were created to be creative.

At the University Program in San Sebastian I met students from UTS and students from Universities in the USA. Our timetable was filled with Tapas tours, hikes up mountains and learning about the Basque culture. Our course was on Engineering Across Cultures and the lecturer was Greg from the University of Michigan. I learnt the importance of understanding a culture before implementing designs for the country or area. For example, I have always looked back at Burma and wondered why the transport system was so terrible and why they couldn’t just simply just implement systems used in Singapore or even in Australia. I realised each culture and country have different ways of life, beliefs and history and what may work for one country may not work for another. I felt a certain duty as an engineer to realise this and integrate this thinking towards the way I design and work.

For our main assignment we were to come up with a cultural case study for San Sebastian and an engineering idea that might benefit the San Sebastian community. Our group came up with an App that would connect tourists with local tour guides. We came up with this idea due to our interviews with locals that were concerned that the younger generations might miss out on international globalisation due to the fact that they don’t speak fluent English. Also due to the violent history due to racism we saw that it was important for the San Sebastian community to connect with others and have peaceful relations with international communities. I believe our idea was what the culture needed. At first we came up with beach lockers and night transports however we realised these were more of a tourists problems rather than a locals problems therefore we listened to our interviewees and what was important to them.

After the two weeks in Spain I have more of an appreciation for engineering and the opportunities that I have. I have always wanted to make a difference or build something that has value. During the daily grind of university and trying to get that competitive graduate position I may have forgotten why I have chosen this career. I realised I want to be a part of creating buildings that have significance to others where it may be a house for a family or offices where people start their businesses. I would like to thank BUiLD UTS for this opportunity. It will be one of the most memorable experiences in my life.

Summer in Malaysia

The summer exchange program to the Universiti of Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) was one of the best experiences of my life. The culture, food, people, education, new friends, the beautiful country, clothing, shopping, travel, everything was just amazing!

Fifteen engineering students from UTS set out from Sydney to UTM in Johor Bahru, which is located in the southern part of Malaysia and right next door to Singapore. We fifteen, with a local group of ten engineering students took part in a subject called ‘Managing Water Environment in Tropical Countries’ a subject run by the faculty of civil engineering in UTM. This subject was designed to expose us to the various aspects of water quality management for river catchments, lakes and reservoirs. It taught us the key issues in monitoring and assessment of water quality and the impact of water pollution to the environment. This subject gave me a global perspective and experience for civil engineering in a different country and how different measures are taken for river rehabilitation.

The program consisted of lectures every day, several field trips around Malaysia and laboratory testing. These lectures encompassed on the types of water systems, hydraulics & hydrology, pollution, rehabilitation, testing, management, ecosystem and legislation. It was pretty much environmental science and then applying engineering knowledge to benefit the environment. The field trips were the most amazing part of the trip; the theory I was learning in class, translated into the practical, giving me an excellent grasp of what I was learning. But these field trips weren’t just any field trips, when we weren’t learning we were exploring – hiking, fishing, swimming, canoeing and just enjoying the atmosphere and the beauty Malaysia had to offer. The theory, practical and fun provided invaluable insights into the development of Malaysia’s water system, but also an invaluable life experience. One example of the practical was, understanding and addressing what a point source and non-point source of pollution was and how it would be best to mitigate or eradicate the problem.

We had two assessments for this subject; one was an individual assessment on the water management of our country and the other a group project.

Our job as ‘engineering consultants’ was to restore the river to a level at which aquatic life can return and propagate; this really tested what we had learnt in class and in our practicals. It showed our professors what we had learnt and what we were capable of achieving. I hope to take on this valuable experience and use it to impress future employers. Even though my group didn’t win the tender, it was an amazing and valuable experience.

Malaysia is a developing country and has an abundant amount of rainfall, yet they still suffer from a water crisis. These field trips allowed us to visit government organisations, who explained to us their methodologies to promote better management of water in their country. All these organisations shared the same beliefs and values, but the one they reiterated more was the psychology of water management and getting children to learn about water management from a young age. So that when they grow older they can teach the next generation and the next generation can teach theirs and so on. A cycle of good water management is promoted. The organisations would also use two juxtaposing images – a filthy river and a pristine river – they would advertise to people “Do you want to swim and drink from this river or this? If you want a beautiful river we should keep our rivers clean. Stop pollution!” Something along those lines and it was providing the Malaysian organisations with positive results.

The best part of the trip was the food, friends and endless memories! I have made friends for life some of the UTS guys and all of the UTM people. The UTM guys taught me a lot; they definitely motivated and inspired me to be a better engineering student. One of my Malaysian friend’s taught me to “study smart, don’t study hard, in order to achieve the best marks and understanding of concepts!’” One of the guys have even invited me to their wedding at the end of the year, I am so excited for it!

The cultural experience was just amazing and it has given me a new global perspective; I’ve learnt how to speak a lot of Bahasa Malay and will continue to do so. I’ve just fallen in love with Malaysia and its culture; I’ll definitely go back to Malaysia again.

-Rakib attended the Tropical Water Program for UTS engineering students at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in 2014


RakibUTM RakibUTM@