Re-imagining India: Three Parts Exhilarating, One Part Exhausting

Alicia Shorey, Bachelor of Design

Short-term Program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

What can I say other than it is an experience of a lifetime. The Re-imagining India program is 3 parts exhilarating and one-part exhausting, but amazing none the less.

Taj Mahal

Over the course of two weeks I was submerged into Indian culture and dipped into a world so full of vibrancy that it allowed me to open my eyes up to so many different ways of thinking. The photos showcase a glimpse of my journey through Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur which consisted of morning yoga and Bollywood classes, industry and NGO visits, cultural sites and beyond.

Vibrant Elephants in India

A highlight of mine was Jaipur Foot which is an organisation which provides free prosthetic limbs to those in need. While there, we were able to see how the organisation operated and see first-hand how this organisation is restoring faith in many people. Being able to watch a limb being fitted and its instant effect on a person’s life was indescribable and something I’ll never forget.

Jaipur Foot

The program overall was jam-packed with a variety of activities to fit all interests. Delicious meals were provided every day and the overall cost of the trip excluding flights is next to nothing. What are you waiting for?

The program had activities to suit all interests

Urban Transformation Study Tour: Arriving in Singapore

To travel to our accommodation, we decided to take the metro. The metro was quite a bit more advanced than the Brisbane metro in a few ways. First off the trains arrive much more frequently than Brisbane metro as wait times were about 2 mins in comparison to every 20 mins to an hour in Brisbane.
When boarding the train there is a specific protocol that needs to be followed. When exiting the train you must exit through the centre of the doors, whereas when boarding you need to line up at the sides of the entrance to enter the train. The protocol ensures efficient use the trains stopping time.
From a brief glance from the train Singapore appears to have a varied range of housing types and styles. These vary from enormous housing apartment blocks to small 2-3 story town houses.


The trains were also easier to navigate as the audio announcements were very clear and there was a stop map on the train that lit up with the stop that it was at and the stops to come.

Upon our arrival at Bugis Station we had to walk 7 mins along brick pathways that had many small stairs. For Singapore, we decided to stay in a pod hotel called the Cube in Kampong Glam, which is an area that is heritage protected due to the beautiful historical architecture and urban structures. We were quite concerned that the pods would be small and claustrophobic, however they were very spacious and used the space well, with similar features to a tiny house design or an origami apartment. Although there were multiple pods in one room there still seemed to be a lot of privacy. I wonder whether pod accommodation could be a preferred option for student accommodation in Australia?

For an early dinner, we went to the Moroccan and Middle Eastern restaurant across from our accommodation. The people were very friendly and a bit cheeky, and there was a bit of banter between the Turkish restaurant across the street.

As one of the QUT guys had been there earlier for a meal they were very happy that he had returned with more customers so they gave us a 20% discount and free ice cream.

After dinner, we wandered around the streets around Kampong Glam and down Haji Street which is known as a trendy place to grab a drink. We stopped at a Mexico style bar/restaurant where a live music was being set up. We ordered beers and cocktails and sang along with the live music. After the drink, we headed back to the accommodation to go to bed.

Adjusting to Life in Thailand

In Thailand, there’s a phrase called ‘Thai Time’. It applies when Thai people do things in their own time – which I’ve realised happens quite a lot!

The first time I experienced ‘Thai Time’ was waiting for my acceptance letter from Thammasat University. Around one month before my planned departure, the letter finally came through. Phew!

I decided to study in Thailand because I wanted to study journalism in Asia, and Thammasat was one of the few options to do this. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand anyway – I really love Thai food – so it worked out perfectly.

Fried fish balls with chilli sauce – so good!

I arrived almost two weeks before the semester began to give myself some time to settle in and explore Bangkok. For the first week, I stayed right next to the famous Ratchada Rot Fai Night Market. Almost every night I went to this huge food market and tried something different. My favourite dishes were a spicy mango salad with fried fish, fried fish balls with chilli sauce, and an insanely spicy chicken noodle soup. If you can’t tell; I love spicy food so I’m in heaven here.

First time wearing the uniform!

During the first week, I met my Thai buddy who showed me some of Bangkok’s must-see sights including The Grand Palace and Wat Pho. She also helped me buy my uniform, which I only have to wear for formal occasions like taking exams or going on tours with the university.

The next week I stayed at a hotel right on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, which is the main river in Bangkok. Located across from the Thammasat Tha Prachan campus, it was easy catching a ferry across the river to get to orientation classes. It was also right near a super authentic market called Wang Lang market, which was bustling with activity every day. I was often the only foreign person at the market!

With new friends from America at Wat Pho

Once all the orientation activities were complete, I had to move to the other campus, which is located around 45-minutes north of Bangkok. Most of the new friends I made stayed behind at the Bangkok campus which was tough, but fortunately I’ve become really good friends with the people who also study at the Rangsit campus.

So far, campus life at Rangsit has been really interesting. The Rangsit campus is huge and it has its own transport system to get people from class to class. I’ve had my first week of classes which were mostly just introductions to the courses. Next week, classes fully begin so I’ll let you know what they are like next time!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here

Every day was filled with content that provided us with different takes on India!

Sally Boden, Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

The experiences, learnings and connections I made on my trip to India through IndoGenius’s Reimagining India Dec 2018 program will stay with me forever.  Travelling to India to learn from successful entrepreneurs, top universities, locals, politicians and my peers was such an immense privilege and an honour.  The schedule planned by the IndoGenius team was beyond incredible.  Every day was filled with content that provided us with different takes on India.  In addition to outings and activities, we were taught yoga, Bollywood dance, Hindi and Indian cooking which really helped immerse ourselves and engage with Indian culture.  I was privileged to have successfully received the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan funding to participate in this program.

The IndoGenius team who hosted us were inspiring, dedicated and passionate about India. The friendships I made on this trip made such a huge difference to how I was able to enjoy it.  Making friends allowed me to share what I saw and learnt, allowing me to reflect at the time on the over-load of information and experience of India, including experiencing eating curries for two weeks!  The numerous curries and naan’s I tried were delicious, although some curries were very spicy, and my new favourite dessert is ‘gulab jamun’, a heavenly melt-in-your-mouth doughnut ball soaked in syrup!

From Delhi to Jaipur to Mumbai, the learning and immersion was constant.  The first day in Delhi involved the centuries old, Hindu Havan fire ceremony, which was followed throughout the trip by several temple and religious site visits, each one representing a different religion.  When comparing the vivid, monumental and constant celebration of worship in India to Australian’s commitment to worship, there is a striking difference, generally, between our core values, resulting in a fundamentally different lifestyle and a bit of a culture shock for me.  The temples, forts and mosques we visited were breath-taking architectural achievements, my favourites including the Taj Mahal, Lotus Temple and Amer Fort.

The businesses and start-up companies we visited in all three cities widened my views and awareness as to how India will be the next global super power.  From small start-ups to global companies based in India, we witnessed how clever and quickly these companies found solutions to local problems and their passion for helping India move forward, internally and on a global scale, was impressive.  Several Indian companies are now aiming to move towards environmentally friendly solutions.  I was shocked at how bad the pollution levels were in India, to the point of physically feeling the smog in the early morning and at night.  An unexpected highlight of the trip for me was our tour through the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai.  Walking through narrow, odorous, dark and dirty alleyways and peering into resident’s small abodes provided me a true insight into their lifestyle.  Whilst the living conditions were substandard compared to Western living, Dharavi boasted a strong community feel in both the residential and industrial sections of the Slum.  Dharavi receives over 70% of all rubbish in Mumbai and recycles majority of it to reduce the exorbitant amount of waste that is produced in Mumbai.  I have my doubts as to whether many Westerners would be able to work the same 16 hour days in the same conditions as the locals.

This study tour exceeded all my educational expectations.  The personal, academic and professional growth I experienced during my time in India was unlike any other growth I’ve ever experienced in a two-week period.  The benefit of immersion into another culture to gain insight proved wholly engaging and educational.  I would love to travel back to India one day to continue exploring and experiencing India’s incredible landscapes, people, food and culture.

Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

Instead of discussing general things about Japan this entry I thought I would detail specifically what studying and travelling within Japan is like. So, this entry will be more interesting to those who want to know more about these two aspects of Japan.

I must admit that studying Japanese has been very difficult. It’s a far more complicated language than I first expected. For example: symbols known as ‘kanji’ can have multiple meanings depending upon the context that they are used within and words that are pronounced the same can have different meanings depending on context and intonations. But, as an exchange student, I have found that work loads are not particularly strenuous and I have very few major assessments. However, this does depend on how good you are at Japanese as friends of mine studying at higher levels seem to have quite intense work loads.

Furthermore, a typical university week will generally involve 5 days of classes. You may get lucky and only receive 4 days, but this is a rare occurrence. Also, you must attend the majority of these classes (at least at my university, Ritsumeikan) otherwise you will fail; but don’t worry, you would have to skip a lot of classes for this situation to become a reality.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, opportunities to travel are limited and can often only be done on weekends. This is what I have done through out my stay here and it has worked out fairly well and has undoubtedly been worth the hassle. However, this means that in order to see all the places I wish to see I have to be as economical as possible with my travel and, unfortunately, travelling in Japan can be very expensive. In particular, the Shinkansens (or bullet trains) are outrageously expensive (but I must say, very convenient). So, for travel, I have been taking overnight buses to all locations. Although these are admittedly very uncomfortable they are cheap (the most important factor of all), especially when you buy a Willer Bus Pass, which is available for all foreigners entering Japan. This link provides all the information you need about the pass: willerexpress.com/st/3/en/e3/buspass/.

I hope that this information will prove to be important to those who are considering an exchange to Japan and if anyone who reads this has any questions about studying and travelling in Japan please leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

Till then, Sayoonara.

P.S. make sure you visit Japan in Autumn so that you can see sights such as this:

 

Japan – Settling In

Hello everyone,

I’ve been living in Japan for two months now and I’ve started to settle into a weekly routine. This has proven to be convenient and demonstrates that I have adapted to life here in a somewhat competent manner. Yet, I still miss the excitement of those first few weeks. It has made life here feel slightly more monotonous and the charm of living in a new country seems to have worn off.

I’ve been attempting to offset this feeling by travelling to different places and cities on weekends. For example, the past two weekends I have been to Takayama and Fukuoka. Both of which were interesting cities that contrast greatly with one another; from a quiet city within the Japanese Alps to a sprawling metropolis in the southern sub-tropical island of Kyushu.

(Kamikochi, a valley near Takayama)                                   (Fukuoka)

This travelling has been very rewarding and, come to think of it, the only travelling that I have completely organised by myself. This has been a good learning experience and provides me with a rewarding sense of independence; especially since I have travelled alone on both of these occasions.

I would thoroughly recommend that you work up the courage to travel alone on exchange. I have found that I engage more with my surroundings and have more meaningful experiences. You also learn to think more for yourself and do what you want to do, as opposed to relying on others to make decisions for you or doing things that you yourself find mundane and uninteresting. (Not to mention the amount of difficulties that come with attempting to organise other people)

On the topic of making friends whilst on exchange, it is surprisingly easy. Most people that you will meet on exchange are other international students who are as excited and nervous as you are at the beginning of the semester. As a result, people are, in most cases, more open to socialising in an attempt to off-set those feelings. Currently, I can say that I have met many people from many different places that I will remain in touch with once this exchange ends.

Also, studying in Japan hasn’t proved to be too intensive so far. Coming to Japan, many people would mention the stereotypical notion of Asian study habits and then suggest that this means that Japanese work loads will be ‘extreme’. However, I have found that I do more or less the same amount of work here than I did in Australia. There are more university classes, but this translates to less homework, which I personally find very pleasant.

All in all, life here is great, but inevitably, living overseas loses it’s initial charm after a while. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and if you do experience a similar feeling do not despair. Even the smallest changes can get you out of a rut. I found that travelling got me out of mine, but I could be something as simple as trying new foods. Find the thing that excites you and do it.

Until next time.

 

 

New Colombo Plan Internships in Tokyo and Seoul

 

After completing my language training and study component in Seoul, I began the internship element of my New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship. I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Seoul.

I had a short break between the conclusion of my exchange at Korea University and the beginning of my internship with SMBC. I took this opportunity to explore Japan as it was my first time there. I flew straight into Osaka and immediately realised how much my Korean language skills had progressed when I found myself in a country where I struggled to remember basic hello and goodbyes. After a short stop in Osaka I caught a train to Kyoto, which was full of culture and history. It was great to learn about Japan and enjoy Kyoto’s stunning temples and landscape – a little hot though at 41 degrees Celsius with little to no wind!

(Temple in Kyoto)

I then got my first experience with the legendary bullet train from the somewhat sleepy Kyoto to the bustling Tokyo with over 9 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards. Despite being packed in tightly, I got to travel around and see some of Tokyo’s best sites, meet up with other NCP scholars and even drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go kart dressed as Mario.

 

(Go karting around Tokyo)

Soon enough, it came time to start my internship at SMBC. As one of Japan’s three largest banks, they were more than accommodating by allowing me to see various legal and financing departments, as well as sit in on conferences and meetings. I had some trepidation surrounding what I would be doing and how the cross-cultural communication would work, but everyone I met, both in and out of the office, was warm and welcoming. It was truly a fantastic experience!

(SMBC headquarters in Tokyo)

I then flew back to Seoul just in time to begin my internship with HSF. I was thoroughly welcomed by everyone at HSF and looked forward to working with them every day. I truly believe that most of the value you get out of an internship correlates to how much you want to put in. At HSF that was certainly the case and the lawyers were always willing to help you and give you interesting and challenging work. I would highly recommend future Korean scholars who are interested in commercial law explore an internship with HSF. Overall, I was very fortunate to have two wonderful internship experiences thanks to the NCP scholarship.

(Herbert Smith Freehills office in Seoul)

Thinking about the New Colombo Plan?

I am a 2018 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholar who was based in Japan and South Korea. If you are considering applying for the NCP scholarship, I have outlined a few pointers from my time both as an NCP scholar and going through the application process.

1. Make sure that you have a focused proposed program before you write your application

If you have a thoroughly researched proposed program, it shows. A great thing about the NCP scholarship application process is that it makes you truly examine what you want to do and why you want to do it. If you have taken the time to create a well thought out program,  then you will have a much stronger application

2. Seriously consider undertaking a mentorship and a language program

Undertaking a mentorship and a language program will not only help you expand your global network and integrate into the culture, but it will also help you to get the most out of your experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Yonsei University and felt that it helped me settle into my new environment immensely.

3. Don’t limit your options before you are fully informed about all possibilities

The NCP scholarship allows students to study in a wide variety of countries, all of which have varying degrees of popularity, university choices, culture and opportunities. I would recommend that you take a serious look at all countries that the NCP allows students to travel to before narrowing down your options.

4. Reach out to previous NCP scholars

Before I went through the QUT interview stage for my application I reached out to two previous NCP scholars to know more about their program, the opportunities available to them as NCP scholars and any tips on the application process. Both scholars gave me great insight and helped me craft the best proposed program to achieve my goals. NCP scholars have all been through the application process, so I would highly recommend you try and get in contact with one or two.

5. Consider what you want to achieve from the scholarship

I would encourage you to take some time to think about the personal, educational and professional goals you want to achieve through the NCP scholarship and how the fulfillment of these goals will help the government accomplish its goals into the future.

Good luck!

(Attending the Embassy of Australia in Seoul as a 2018 NCP scholar)

 

 

 

Beginning Exchange Semester at Korea University

As part of the New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship, I completed a three-week Korean language intensive program at Yonsei University in Seoul before undertaking a semester exchange at Korea University (KU). At the end of my studies I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills in Seoul.

My time at South Korea was extraordinary. I arrived in winter and was able to enjoy a totally different climate to Brisbane. Just after I moved into the dormitories at KU we had a week of snow – which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then spent the last few weeks of winter taking advantage of the snow season skiing on the slopes of nearby Jisan Resort.

(First snowfall since moving to KU)

KU is an excellent university, offering a diverse range of subjects to exchange students taught by encouraging lecturers and support staff. During my time at KU I studied International Economic Law, Korean History & Culture, International Organisations, International Dispute Settlement, and I completed additional Korean language classes. KU has an encouraging atmosphere, allowing students to connect and gain an appreciation of Korean culture.  KU’s buddy program includes at least three social events held every week. I’ve found this to be a great way to meet other students and participate in activities that I ordinarily wouldn’t.

(Dressing in the traditional Hanbok 한복)

Additionally, KU’s rivalry with Yonsei University results in many events that the whole university participates in, including Ipselenti which is held in May and the Korea University vs. Yonsei University tournament. These are wonderful opportunities to get involved in the KU community, indulge in unique street food and practice university chants (including the infamous Yonsei Chicken song every KU student learns during orientation week).

For my semester exchange at KU I decided to apply for dormitory accommodation. There are two main dormitories. I was fortunate enough to stay at CJ International House. This dorm is more geared towards international students. There were three types of apartments available and you may end up in a single, double, or quad room. All apartments have ensuites and each floor has two kitchens available. I was lucky enough to live in an apartment on the sixth floor that had four single rooms, two ensuites and a living room.

(My dorm room in CJ International House)

I used my free time to explore Seoul and travel around Korea. If you find yourself in the region, I would highly recommend looking into a temple stay and taking a trip down to Busan or Jeju Island. Busan is a coastal city in the bottom right corner of Korea and is easily accessible by train from Seoul Station. I thoroughly enjoyed the difference in atmosphere and architecture between Seoul and Busan – plus I had a chance to have the live octopus dish!

(At Amnam Park in Busan)

Month 1 – Done and Dusted!

Even though I’ve hit my one month mark, I still struggle to believe I’m living in what has got to be one of the world’s most incredible cities. I feel as though my life has been flipped upside down a little, and in the midst of the excitement I’m sadly realizing my time here is going to absolutely fly by. In saying that, my settling-in experience hasn’t been totally flawless, so for those considering jetting-off to Shanghai Jiao Tong, I hope the information contained in this blog update ensures your transition is a little smoother than mine.

 

First point I want to make, all those stories you hear of pollution being terrible here? They’re not exaggerating. Initially, it will almost feel like you’re walking through a physical substance, and participating in any sort of sporting activity will leave you out of breath way faster than normal. The ever-present cigarette smoke doesn’t help much either. Secondly, before arriving I was always told how Shanghai is the Chinese city where East meets West. Traditional Chinese-style houses neighbor with those of a more classical French-style, and it’s just as easy to find a crepe as it is a dumpling. Whilst there is definitely some truth in this, the largest misconception I gained from these tales was that English was pretty commonly spoken across the city. This is definitely NOT the case, so if you’re arriving with little-to-no Mandarin skills, download Duolingo and brush up on those key phrases. You’ll need them. If nothing else, my pro-tip would to be print out your arrival address in Chinese to give to your driver. They will really appreciate it, and it’ll make your life just that bit easier.

 

On the topic of transport, taxi’s here are SUPER cheap, as is the metro. You’ll definitely benefit from a metro card so make that a number one priority when you arrive. The metro system here is also really easy to navigate, so don’t worry about getting lost. However, be warned that trains here, like Brisbane, don’t run all night. So, on those nights when you’re exploring the cities unbelievably amazing nightlife (make Bar Rouge your first stop!), and want to head home before 6am, take a MARKED taxi. Unmarked taxis are a massive scam here so be vigilant. Also, never catch a taxi from directly outside a club or bar. They’re generally about 4 times the price, so it’s worth your while to walk five minutes down the road. Another important note for when you’re out and about, always always always have a copy of your passport/visa on you. Whether it be a photo on your phone, a print out of a scan or the real thing (which I don’t recommend as pickpocketing is an issue here). Police officers here have the right to ask to see a copy at any time and any place. Refusal or inability to give them anything they ask may land you in hot water. To quote our security officer, ‘don’t use things like human rights as an excuse!’. You also need it to do things like travelling domestically, booking a hostel room in addition to orientation or registration at your university.

When you do begin university life, there will be an absolute stack of admin to do. My advice would be to write a list, and get it done as soon as possible. First things first, set up a WeChat account – you honestly can’t live here without it. You use it to pay vendors, shop online, contact tutors, be informed about class info etc. For that last one, WeChat basically takes the place of Blackboard, so it is really important. When you set up your banking, get to the bank early unless you want to spend 3 hours sitting in their lobby (you don’t). Don’t forget your TFN either! When you get a sim card, I recommend China Unicom. You get unlimited data for a very reasonable price, and it’s a reliable network country-wide. If you’re studying/living in the Xuhui campus, there’s a Unicom and BOC branch right outside one the main gates, so it’s pretty convenient. Speaking of, if you’re torn between living on Minhang or Xuhui, I would highly recommend Xuhui. Not only is Minhang really far away from downtown Shanghai, but because it’s so big it has become its own little city. What I’ve heard from people who live there, is that this means you become rather reluctant to leave and explore because everything you want is around you, and you end up missing out on all Shanghai has to offer. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the two, but it’s still a hassle. So, unless the majority of your classes are taught there, I would say book in Xuhui. Side note, if you do book in Xuhui, your options are; Lianxing building and Tao Li Yuan. The former is an older building, and only the rooms on the top level have been renovated. The latter is new, and all the rooms are much more modern. I’m stuck on Lianxing level one which isn’t that nice, but I’m only here for one semester so I’m willing to put up with it. It was also, like everything in this country, so incredibly cheap that it’s not really worth complaining about.

 

Last but not least, if you are here on an X2 visa (one semester), you cannot obtain a Residence Permit visa. This is contrary to what I had been told, so it was a bit of a disappointment. You can add one more entry to your visa if you want, but that’s it. Just a word of warning!

 

Well that wraps up my post for month one! If you have any specific dorm orientated questions don’t hesitate to ask because I found very little information myself when I was looking. Until next time!