Interning with Kyoto Journal

In the second semester of 2016 I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad at Ritsumeikan University, Osaka, Japan. During that time, I also undertook an internship with Japan’s longest-running independent English publication, Kyoto Journal.

Initially focusing on Japan, specifically the ancient capital of Kyoto, the quarterly magazine has broadened over the past thirty years to include insights and perspectives from all of Asia. The publication is run and produced by an incredibly talented and committed team of volunteers based locally, nationally, and internationally.

I discovered Kyoto Journal while searching for articles about Japan, trying to do some ‘pre-reading’ before I arrived in a new country. I loved the style of the magazine and was interested in the articles and the volunteer nature of the publication, so I emailed them to see how I could get involved. If you’re on exchange (or even if you haven’t left yet) and you find an organisation that you’re really interested in – reach out to them! You never know what might happen.

My role as an intern varied quite a lot. I did research, collaborated with other volunteers to build information databases, participated in brainstorming for new projects and PR, interviewed a local apprentice artisan, provided feedback on a crowdfunding campaign, and helped to prepare for an upcoming photography exhibition. Kyoto Journal does not have a designated office space, so work was done and meetings were held in coffee shops, public spaces and at Impact Hub Kyoto, a co-working space to which Kyoto Journal has a membership. I enjoyed this transient and collaborative approach to working, which also allowed me to see parts of Kyoto that I would not have otherwise encountered.

Impact Hub Kyoto (L) and working at the Rohm Theatre in Kyoto (R).

The volunteer nature of the work meant that the entirety of the Kyoto Journal team that I met, whether online or face-to-face, were very committed to and excited by what they were doing. Being a volunteer also allowed for a great deal of flexibility – I was based in Osaka and studying full-time, so it was understood if I could not make it to Kyoto on short notice. Everyone else has jobs, families and other commitments as well, which makes for a dynamic and engaged team – volunteers who have made time in their lives to be involved. Everyone wants to be there and bring their best to the job.

As far as I know, this flexibility and work-life balance is atypical of jobs in Japan, but I would assume that this comes down to the fact that involvement with the editorial side of Kyoto Journal is entirely volunteer-based.

Despite my short stay, lasting only a few months, I was made to feel very welcome and valued. It was incredibly rewarding to work with such a passionate, talented, diverse group of people and I’m very grateful to the Kyoto Journal team for allowing me to be involved with this unique publication. I’m looking forward to being involved in their Kyoto photography exhibition when I return to Japan in April!

(from L to R) Elise, Hirisha Mehta (Head of Design), John Einarsen (Founding Editor) and Ken Rodgers (Managing Editor) study an early edition of Kyoto Journal.

 

Touch Down in Singapore!

Well it has officially been three weeks since I touched down in Singapore! Let me quickly tell you just a bit about myself. The names Dana, I am an avid netball and sports fan, action/comedy movie enthusiast, aspiring traveller and dog lover. I am doing a BS08 Bachelor of Business – International degree with economics major, and am currently 3 weeks into a 15 month adventure in SG! Yes. 15 MONTHS! I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship to work and study in Singapore this year. My program (at the moment) starts with a 6 month internship at PwC Singapore working in their Growth Markets Centre, followed by two semesters of study at Nanyang Technological University.

Strangely enough, I almost feel at home here in Singapore. Adapting to the different country and culture came a lot more naturally then I had anticipated and thankfully this has made for a relatively smooth start to my exchange. Transport here is unfaultable so I am finding my way around easily and food is never hard to locate (or afford if you are at a hawker centre!). The local Chinese family I am bunking with are wonderful and welcoming, and I think they have made leaving my family for the first time much less difficult. My accommodation itself certainly met expectations and is well located in a traditional and local area not too far from the city. Even adapting into the professional workforce for the first time hasn’t been too rough, although my back and neck are protesting a desk life.

Nevertheless, not everything about this exchange has been easy. I’m going to be honest with you – I’m the baby of the family, I’m overprotected, I haven’t travelled much and I have a very strong and close relationship with my family and 4 month old puppy…

Leaving wasn’t easy – it never is.

Saying goodbye to loved ones was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Even just thinking about hugging my puppy for the last time, and waving goodbye to my family as I walked to the airport gate brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to grasp that you will be leaving for so long, but when you do it is one of the most nerve wracking and sickening feelings.

Rolling on from having to say goodbye – day one was the worst. A 2am flight with a busy day full of visas and bank accounts probably didn’t help, but day one, for me at least, was when everything sunk in. All I did that day was cry. I’ve never felt so lost and alone in my life. I felt isolated and out of my depth.

I made it to perhaps 3pm before I threw myself onto my bed, called my mum and bawled. And that was all I needed. I just needed someone to talk to, to cry to, and to tell me everything was going to be ok. That I had the experience and opportunity of a lifetime ahead of me. That this is what I wanted and I was going to do great. The call lasted an hour, but it fixed everything, and when I woke up the next day I was ready. It was as if day 1 never happened. I felt at home, I felt adventurous, I felt safe, calm and ready to explore. So I did – all weekend, to get used to my new home. Now, 3 weeks in and I haven’t had a bad day again.

There is no denying that shock will hit you. For me it was day 1; for you, it might be a week or even a month in. It will hit, and it will hurt, it will be tough, and you will doubt yourself and want to go home. My advice is to take it as it is. Moving overseas is a new and intense experience, it can’t be flawless. Expect to have bad days, because you will. Just make sure you have someone to call, to tell you everything is ok. That’s all you really need to hear. You realise home, familiarity, normal, is just a phone call away. It’s not as far as you think.

If you are worried about going on exchange – don’t be. Yes, there will be tough times, but I assure you the good times will outweigh the bad a million times over! Going overseas is such an incredible experience and in the technological and integrated world we live in today – home is never far away. Plus, there are so many people who can help you along the way, the QUT international student mobility officers, present and previous exchange students, friends and family – you are never truly alone, there will always be someone to back you.

That’s all from me (for now), but please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding exchange, Singapore, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything! I’m happy to help! If you’re interested in Singapore or Asia in general, check out my Instagram downunderdana – I am challenging myself to post a different photo every day I am away, so over the 15 months… there’s going to be a lot.

Three months in Tuvalu

Kate Donnelly: New Colombo Plan Scholar interning in Tuvalu

We took our descent into the tiny capital of Tuvalu twice. The flight from Suva passed quickly enough, until the seat belt sign flicked on. The plane began to sink closer and closer to the gun-metal grey surface of the Pacific Ocean, dsc_0001at a rate exactly converse to my panic as I searched below for any sign of land. Seemingly out of nowhere, I caught the first sight of waves breaking. The tip of the islet widened just enough to support a handful of coconut trees, and then some shanty houses, and eventually the central district of a town with barely 200 meters between the lagoon shore and its ocean side.        

Locking eyes with locals who’d come out of their houses to watch the arrival, and bracing myself for our landing (5 seconds, 4, 3, 2…) the plane suddenly veered upwards and away from the runway we’d been so close to hitting. Five confused minutes passed before the pilot’s voice nonchalantly crackled over the speakers: we’d be descending again soon, not to worry, just as soon as air control confirmed that the authorities had successfully run down a pack of dogs that had strayed onto the tarmac. Until then, enjoy the view. With plenty of swearing and full-bellied chuckles from the Tuvaluans on board, we circled back and touched down in the world’s fourth smallest nation.dsc_0003

At this point, you’re probably wondering where on earth this country is. Hop on Google Earth satellite view, and search for Funafuti. I got goosebumps the first time I saw the capital like that – it seemed so vulnerable, a tiny crescent of land built up over millions of years from the broken down coral reefs that rimmed ancient ocean volcanoes – but the birds-eye perspective has nothing on the feeling you get when you first stand at the tip of the islet. On your right, there’s the crystal-blue water of the salt-water lagoon. On your left, the heaving inky waves of the Pacific. It’s unlike anything else. dsc_0015

I spent three months interning with the Tuvalu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan. In the tiny box of TANGO’s office, I wrote Cabinet Papers and delivered training workshops, developed project management tools, and memorised the words to Tuvalu’s favourite reggae remixes. Timelines were short, plans inevitably fell through or changed at the very last minute, higher decisions didn’t make sense, our internet never worked and my laptop died in the humidity of my second week. Improvisation became my most valuable tool, and relationships my greatest asset. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this country rewrote me.

It might have been the ocean breeze, the mandatory midday siestas to escape thedsc_0023 sluggish heat, or the easy-goes approach of every person I worked with, but somewhere along the way I changed my tune. From the busyness and competition of making every minute a productive one, I slipped into days that moved slowly with the sun. Life became just that again – not endless work, not long commutes nor unshakeable exhaustion. Just life. I swam and listened and made friends and stumbled upon a secret.

Tuvalu is a country whose future is a woven basket of unknowns, made and remade around the changing advice of scientists and foreign diplomats but held together by the stories and pride of generations of island people. When today is what you’ve got, you savour it unapologetically and fight hard so that your kids might do the same.

dsc_0016And that’s just it. From Tuvalu, to me, to you: slow down enough to enjoy what’s precious, then give your best to preserve it. From Australian or atoll shores, I can’t imagine doing life any other way.dsc_0028dsc_0013

dsc_0020

Attending Australia Week in China as a New Colombo Plan student delegate

Liam D: Bachelor of Business/Laws – New Colombo Plan mobility student to Zhejiang University, China

I was recently fortunate enough to attend Australia Week in China as a New Colombo Plan student delegate. Australia Week in China, or AWIC in short, constituted Australia’s largest ever trade mission to China, with over 1,000 delegates making the journey, each with the aim of strengthening Australia’s business ties in the Middle Kingdom. Business cards were exchanged, deals were made, and the week’s events put to rest any question of the significance of Sino-Australian business relations.

senator colbeck

Meeting with the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, at Australia Week in China 2016.

 

Held in the heart of Shanghai’s scintillating Pudong district, AWIC’s proceedings afforded me an invaluable opportunity to network with some of Australia and China’s most influential businesspeople and learn more about the trends shaping today’s international business landscape. As an NCP student delegate, I was able to attend several networking functions, the AustCham Westpac Australia China Business Awards Gala Dinner and participate in a site visit to the cutting edge Zhangjiang Technology Precinct. Through these events, I was given the opportunity to meet professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, including senior lawyers from top tier international firms, executives from multinational banking institutions, Chinese ecommerce marketers, and representatives of leading educational institutions. Gaining exposure to these professionals afforded me hugely in depth insights into the nature of the opportunities emerging in China and Australia today.liam china2 jpg

In addition to the business networking opportunities the week provided me, being an NCP exchange student in China has allowed me the unique opportunity to develop professionally in a way I am sure would be impossible outside of Asia. Through the program, I have been able to secure employment with National Australia Bank in Hong Kong, and in July I will commence a three month internship with the company’s institutional banking team.

Not yet even two months into my exchange, I can say confidently that the opportunities I have had made available to me will account for some of the most transformative, inspirational and exciting moments of my university experience to date.liam china

Settling into life in Malaysia

My name is Fiona, a QUT early childhood education student and I am very excited and humbled to be studying at Taylor’s University for one semester as a New Colombo Plan Scholar. Fiona Malaysia3

After living in Malaysia for only 5 weeks, I didn’t expect to have already been provided with such wonderful opportunities to broaden my future prospects or networks. However in just my second week at Taylor’s University, I spoke with Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement who put me in contact with an international school in Kuala Lumpur, as well as organising for me to attend a lunch with High Commissioner to Malaysia.

Fiona Malaysia5Through these connections I have also been in touch with the Head of Junior School and the Australian International School, Malaysia and I am excited to intern at AISM once I have completed my studies at Taylor’s University. Being provided with this opportunity will allow me to broaden my skills as a future educator and equip me with and deeper understanding of knowledge required to accurately educate our younger generations visa vie cultural competency.

One of the largest learning experiences I have had whilst overseas is learning about the importance of patience and open-mindedness. Unsurprisingly, there are many differences in the ways in which a number of procedures (sometimes something as simple as buying groceries) are carried out. Fiona Malaysia4I learnt of the importance of going into a new situation without any prejudice or preconceived ideas of how things ‘should’ be done. I think that too often we see something being done differently from that which we are used to and automatically label it as ‘wrong, rather than just different.  Just because something is unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  There can be more than one way to complete a task, from grocery shopping, to boarding a train, to running a classroom, all of which are different, but equally as correct.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have some time spare to get my PADI open waterFiona Malaysai1 diving certificate while I’ve been here! It was an amazing experience where we got to dive with beautiful fish, sharks and stingrays, as well as spend time with Monkey, a beautiful monkey who was abandoned and has been taken care of by one of the people living at the dive resort.  It was amazing to be able to go swimming with her and see her excitedly jump onto her owner’s kayak and go for a ride.

I look forward to seeing what new adventures and opportunities await over the next few months in Malaysia!

 

Fiona Malaysia2

New Colombo Plan in the Pacific

If there was one sentence that could capture the first half of my time in Fiji under the New Colombo Plan, it would go something along the lines of: diving deep to a reggae beat, safe in the eye of the storm.

My first two and a half months studying at the University of the South Pacific have been nothing short of a rollercoaster: an unpredictable and exhilarating ride. There have been fiery sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, snorkelling with reef sharks on the outer islands, watching mist dance among the mountains that rim Suva Harbour, a killer hike in 100 per cent humidity with 360 degree views of those very same forested peaks, pot luck meals with international students from around the world, singing with the USP Graduation Choir, and a blissful kind of serenity that bubbles up on early morning bus rides into town. There are days where life here feels like its falling into a beautiful rhythm.

Kate Fiji1And then there are other days, usually filled with the kind of oppressive heat that makes it hard to move and think or periods of waiting that drives anyone unaccustomed to island time (read: me) up the wall. They are the days that I’m crabby because I’m missing home or just feeling overwhelmed; it didn’t take long to realise that everything from interning to grocery shopping feels harder when you’ve got to learn your way through an unfamiliar environment before you can even start the task at hand.

Kate Fiji6Add to that mix cyclone season, which has been ruthless this year. Fiji has had several tropical depressions and minor cyclones since Cyclone Winston hit in February. Many of the country’s poorest households lost family members, homes, schools, subsistence crops, power… for many people, there’s a very long road ahead before life can return to normal.

 

Kate Fiji8

A view of the devastation from Cyclone Winston

Working with the High Commission in the wake of Cyclone Winston

Working with the High Commission in the wake of Cyclone Winston

I realised in the weeks after Winston that I’d been relying on the familiarity of certain routines— going to work in the commercial bustle of downtown Suva or to class amidst the eddies of students on campus— to ground myself while I settled in. While I noticed and adored little differences like the rowdy reggae remixes blasted on all the city buses and the abundance of hibiscus flowers on every street, it took the fervour of the nationwide recovery efforts to remind me that there are big differences between Fiji and Australia, and that I had a lot to learn by immersing myself in that gap.

I’ve since thrown myself in to every opportunity that’s come my way, no matter how uncertain I feel about my capabilities. I’ve been keeping up with classes, interning with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, attending public forums that explore the nuances of climate change and development in the Pacific, and squeezing in as much local travel as possible. After my semester in Fiji, I have a six week internship with the Office of Attorney General in Bhutan and a three month internship in Tuvalu to look forward to before graduation this December.

It’s safe to say that the New Colombo Plan has given me access to some unreal opportunities and insights. When I arrived in Suva, I knew that I wanted to spend my life working for human rights and climate justice, but didn’t know what kind of work I might want to experience, let alone what I wanted to do with my graduate years. In the few short months that I’ve since been an NCP Scholar in Fiji, with the support of the Australian High Commission, I’ve been able to reach out to and gain invaluable experience interning with two very different regional organisations that are both working to protect and promote human rights in the Pacific.

Attending a New Colombo Plan event with a fellow scholar

Attending a New Colombo Plan event with a fellow scholar

I’m learning a lot through this work, including technical skills and a more nuanced understanding of regional politics, trends, strengths and challenges. Perhaps most importantly however, I’ve discovered an amazing sense of best fit. Oceania feels like the best place I can be to learn from an incredibly diverse, resilient and connected peoples, to try and test my professional capacity as a human rights defender, and most excitingly of all, to wait and see what other twists and turns this rollercoaster has in store.

Kate Fiji5Kate Fiji3Kate Fiji7