Passionate People, Perspectives, and Peru

My first year participating in the GLP has been fantastic! I’ve developed new skills, made new friends and claimed new credit points with each experience. Here is a snapshot of the many opportunities you can take part in…

Domestic conference:

For my first GLP experience I attended a conference run by Amnesty for university students. We spent the day learning about human rights issues, with a focus on gender inequality and asylum seeker policy. It was inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people and learn about practical ways to get active and change things that are unjust.

Event organising:

One thing leads to another! After meeting people at the conference I soon became involved with the Amnesty student group on campus. I developed a passion for asylum seeker and refugee policy issues. I attended more events and seminars on this subject, which also counted towards GLP credit. Later in 2014 I helped organise a conference on asylum seekers and refugees, attended by politicians, health and legal professionals and many reputable NGOs working in the field. I learnt a lot about event organising – I never knew so much planning could go behind one day!

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The Cultural Day Series:

Speaking of event organising, each semester GLP staff organise cultural days. I went on the Cabramatta tour in May and spent a wonderful day meeting other GLP students, eating delicious food and discovering the rich history of Cabramatta. It was a great day of learning about and appreciating the diversity of cultures and nationalities that live within our own city.

Model United Nations:

In July I went to the Asia Pacific Model United Nations conference in Brisbane, to debate refugee policy and the Refugee Convention. It may sound nerdy to research a country and a set topic and debate a draft resolution with other students while pretending to be a delegate for a country you may not have even heard of before… but it was such a fun experience. Model UN is a brilliant invention! I made new friends and learnt new skills in diplomacy, negotiation, debating, how to represent a view that you may not personally agree with, and the art of compromise. Model UN is a great way to learn about particular issues in depth, from all perspectives; it makes you open to different points of view. These skills are undoubtedly just as applicable to the real world as they are to the world of model UN!

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Mentoring:

In Semester 2 2014 I applied to be a mentor with LEAP, a program that aims to increase the participation of students from refugee backgrounds in higher education. This has been an incredibly worthwhile and rewarding experience. Although I was a mentor and supposed to be imparting wisdom of sorts, I learned much more than I could have imagined from the students, about resilience and perseverance. I know many other mentors share this feeling!

PACE:

In the summer holidays I went on a PACE International trip with 10 other girls from Macquarie to work with the NGO ‘Peru’s Challenge’ in rural Cuzco, Peru. Every day our group worked tirelessly on construction and taught holiday classes in the community school. Myself and two other interns helped the NGO with marketing, policy and funding work, while the entire group also helped with additional important administrative tasks in the afternoons.

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I’ve always been a bit cynical about ‘voluntourism,’ but I’m glad to say that PACE restored my faith that a well-designed program can, in fact, work well and benefit everyone involved. There is no doubt we, as volunteers, gained a lot in return for all our hard work. We gained the satisfaction of seeing the results of our physical labour as we opened a new classroom at the school! We delved outside our comfort zones, experienced a new culture and country, and practised our Spanish. We learnt about development work while experiencing extreme poverty first hand. This was an important part of our learning and empathy building; an impetus to continue working hard at home to change the injustices of the world whenever possible.

Overall, I’ve learned and gained a lot from one year participating in the GLP – perhaps more than in the degree I’m completing! (haha). You need to have experience before you can contribute, and learn before you can lead. I think that’s a big part of what the GLP is all about.

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Emma Macintosh is a current GLP student. She is in her second year at Macquarie University, studying for a Bachelor of Arts.


If you’d like more information about heading on a PACE trip of your own click here

Our first Cultural Day this session will be to Cabramatta on Friday, April 24. Applications open soon!

Child Rights in Cambodia: Picking up the PACE

Three months in Cambodia have gone by in an incredible whirlwind of food, culture and human rights. Through PACE International and AVI, I am volunteering as a legal intern with a local NGO called KHEN, or Khmer NGO for Education. This placement is a first, both for Macquarie students to be based in the beautiful French colonial town of Battambang, and for me to visit Cambodia.

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View from Phnom Sampov (Ship Mountain), Battambang.

KHEN works to promote child rights, access to education and protection for vulnerable children like girls and children with disabilities, so that they can develop to their full potential. To achieve this, staff run comprehensive education projects with children, schools and communities in the rural districts of Samlout and Rukkakiri. All together, over 2,200 children benefit directly from their initiatives.

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Dynamic duo feat. KHEN work shirts

My work buddy and constant rock here is Jessica Manthey, a fellow law student from Macquarie. Together, we were tasked with researching both international conventions and domestic laws regarding the rights of children, women and people with disabilities. From there, we have made plain English training materials to educate primary school children about their rights, in a fun and entertaining way. Finally, we made materials to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their implementation.

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Our colourful, simple brochures aim to educate children about universal rights

Our work is always interesting and challenging. Traditionally, Khmer children are seen and not heard by their elders, whilst corporeal punishment is still practiced in some schools. These conservative values are particularly entrenched within the poverty-stricken, rural areas where KHEN works, which were Khmer Rouge strongholds until the early 1990s. In Samlout, the horror of the Khmer Rouge is living memory, with perpetrators literally living next door to their victims. It is within this context that KHEN tries to encourage child protection and a renewed respect for human rights.

Modern Cambodia has an appalling human rights record with rampant corruption, government-fueled violence and a 30-year regime under the iron grip of Hun Sen. Here, many children are victims of abuse, exploitation or neglect. I was startled and appalled to find out that over 75% of children in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans, but are either abandoned by their impoverished families to reduce the burden of raising a child or aggressively recruited by “orphanage” directors seeking to expand their business in voluntourism. Children are not tourist attractions, so we must all be alert and support only responsible, accredited Child Safe Organisations like KHEN.

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Like many places in Cambodia, the beauty of Samlout conceals a dark past.

Working here has also opened my eyes to the importance of community-based development. Capacity-building for all stakeholders, from schoolchildren to commune councils, to understand their rights and responsibilities is key for implementation of human rights. Until these rights are known and respected, human rights are, like so many of Cambodian laws, ineffectual. KHEN has emphasised this, by collaborating closely with communities to run Child Rights education programs and placing staff in rural offices to maintain channels of communication.

Undoubtedly, it is the people here who have made this experience so incredible. Everyone at KHEN warmly welcomed Jessica and I from the start, with invitations to field trips to partner schools, education conferences and family picnics. We’ve learnt basic Khmer from a lovely (and patient) teacher, received spontaneous invites to weddings and interviewed inspirational representatives from UN Women and UNICEF.

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Macquarie PACE International students get an impromptu wedding invite in Takeo

On our spare weekends, Jessica and I traipsed around Cambodia in our sassy pant suits (a fashion-essential for any middle-aged Cambodian woman who appreciates both comfort and style). From the floating villages of the Tonle Sap, to the majesty of Angkor temples and the remote Indigenous forest communities of Ratanakiri, we feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to live and work in such a beautiful country.

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The Temples of Angkor: Wat a view

To anyone thinking about doing a PACE International project, don’t hold back. If you are lucky enough to come to Cambodia, phnom-enal experiences await. But always remember; be careful, respectful and, above all, bring an open mind.

Written by Jennifer Tridgell, a fourth year Arts/Law student currently undertaking a PACE International legal placement in Cambodia.

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If you’d like to read more from GLP students’ who have participated in PACE programs, see Ellen Kirkpatrick’s post on her Philippines trip here or learn more about Elizabeth King’s PACE adventure in Borneo here.

If you’d like more information about going on a PACE trip of your own, check out their website here

 

A perfect Winter: K-Pop and Kangnam in Korea

The Sookmyung Winter Beyond Borders Program provides the opportunity for participants to learn about Korean society through intensive academic courses, historical tours and cultural activities. Recently, several GLP students have returned from Korea after participating in the program. Read on to learn more about their time overseas…

Nguyen Kim Ngan (Nina) is a current GLP student completing a Bachelor of Commerce in Professional Accounting this year. During her time in Korea as part of the Sookmyung Winter Beyond Borders Program she shared her story with us…

Picture1As early as my first week in Seoul, I realised that applying for the Sookmyung Winter Beyond Borders Program was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

I personally like traveling, but I had not been on a study exchange before. So I really appreciated the opportunity the GLP offers for students to take a short course in Seoul, South Korea during the long semester break. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I applied for the program. However, I was completely surprised because the program was so awesome!

There are about twenty students from Australia, Canada, China, and Taiwan. Basically, from Monday to Friday, we learn Korean language in the morning and either Taekwondo or Korean arts and crafts in the afternoon. Along with our study schedule, the Sookmyung Women’s University also offers us a variety of activities such as trying Hanok (traditional Korean clothing), a DMZ tour (going to the border between North and South Korea), staying at a temple, watching Nanta performances, learning to dance K-Pop style, cooking traditional foods, and so on. I was very excited to try every single activity. Indeed, all of the activities were fantastic and really worth trying!

Learning Korean is so much fun, not only because of our cute teacher but also the beauty of the language itself! However, my favourite class is the afternoon class where we are taught Taekwondo and Korean sports. At the beginning, most of us were so tired because we had to run, kick and punch a lot during the three hour. Although I had to stick many pastes on my shoulders, my back, my knee, and my feet to release the pain, I still could not hide my excitement whenever I came to class 😀 Although I didn’t perform all the kicks and punches as well as other students, my Taekwondo teacher complimented me on being the  best player because of my sporting spirit. Thanks to my sense of humour, I managed to bring a lot of laughs to the class. My teachers and my classmates were also very impressed by my voice. For example, whenever we played football or basketball together and I was facing someone else to catch the ball, I would usually scream out so loudly that he or she was surprised and lost attention.

The most valuable thing I have gained from this program is FRIENDSHIP! Honestly, the Sookmyung Buddy Leadership Group, U.R.I, did a great job in providing perfect experiences for foreign students studying in Seoul. Through this group, each participant is assigned a Korean buddy. The buddy is the one who remains beside the student, provides help and hangs out with the participant after classes. I felt so blessed because unlike other students, I had up to two buddies, who I met  during the Welcome Party. Three random students sat on a table with their buddies. I was sitting together with a guy also from Macquarie University and a girl from Canada. After that, four of us – he, his buddy, my buddy and I were so close to each other. It happened very naturally and we still could not explain why our friendship grew so fast and so strongly! We spent almost all of our free time together. We went through so many activities such as going to Kangnam (a very famous shopping place in Seoul), eating Korean BBQ, taking heaps of photos together, walking around many popular places such as Itaewon Market, Dongdaemun, Myeung Dong, the fish market, and Gyeongbok Palace. I truly appreciated the time and effort my “two buddies” spent with us. They took care of us every single day, were beside us to introduce us to their culture, people, and they helped us to solve any problems we had when we were in Seoul. I could not ask for more from any of the buddies because they were all so awesome and went beyond their role!

All in all, the exchange program exceeded my expectations and I learnt a lot from it. To be honest, I thought of my time in South Korea every day after I left Seoul. I really want to say “Thank you” to the GLP staff who offered me this unique opportunity, as well as my Korean teachers, my buddies, my Chinese roommate, my classmates and the Sookmyung University staff who provided me with such great experiences! I will definitely recommend this exchange program to my friends next year because of its high quality. And last but not least, I will absolutely come back to Seoul one day…

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Christine Lieu is a current GLP student studying for a Bachelor of Arts combined with a Bachelor of Commerce.  Here she reflects on the experiences she’s had as part of the Sookmyung Program…

Korea has great shopping, amazing food and a surreal night life. That was my preconception of the place and during my three weeks stay there, it definitely proved to be true. This January, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Winter Beyond Borders Program at Sookmyung Women’s University in Korea. This experience proved itself to be unlike anything else. During the course of three weeks, I had the opportunity to make friends from around the world, understand a new language and immerse myself in a whole new culture.

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Photo session after the NANTA performance

The WBBP offered intensive courses in Korean Language, Taekwondo and Sport Culture, and Arts and craft. The program also included trips to special cultural events and locations such as a trip to the Demilitarised Zone, trying on a Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), staying overnight at a temple, attending a NANTA performance, learning K-pop and making Korean delicacies during a cooking class. For me the most memorable experience was definitely watching the NANTA performance. I went to this event not expecting much mainly because I had no idea what it was. NANTA turned out to be a non-verbal performance that integrates Korea’s traditional rhythm, Samulnori, with comedy. I walked out of the NANTA performance absolutely amazed and I would definitely recommend anyone who goes to Korea to go watch it!

Furthermore, one of the perks of the WBBP program is that it works with a student organisation called U.R.I which mirrors our buddy program from Macquarie. Each of us was designated a Korean student, whom we called our “buddy” and they would act as our free personal tour guides! Just kidding! These buddies were the kindest, funniest and most enthusiastic students you could know. They help you out and try their best to introduce you to Korea.

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Having fun at the temple stay

Our trip to the DMZ where we learnt about the history of North and South Korea’s conflict, and had the opportunity to travel into one of the underground tunnels the North created.

Our trip to the DMZ where we learnt about the history of North and South Korea’s conflict, and had the opportunity to travel into one of the underground tunnels the North created.

Coming from a place where the  lowest temperature is around 9*C, to an environment where temperatures  ranged between 10*C to -12*C was in itself a whole new experience. Although not always, escaping the cold was one of the primary factors that drove me into exploring a wide range of shopping malls, restaurants and cafes. A few instances where the weather turned a bit frosty, I found refuge in a dog café, board game café, zombie bar and an amazing barbeque restaurant.

Nowadays when I think of the cold, one of the most memorable events during my trip resurfaces. After the temple stay, a few of us had decided to go along to a Jimjilbang (a public sauna and spa) to relax and recuperate. We were basically sitting down and chatting away when it began snowing outside. Needless to say, we all walked out like 5 year olds, running around and staring in awe, followed by a quick photo session before we froze.

The WBBP gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a whole new culture, learn to be independent and step outside my comfort zone. I learnt a new language, met people from across the world, experienced snowfall, and had to run back to my dorm to make curfew. I can say for sure that Korea now holds a special place in my heart and memory and I will definitely return in the future.

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Eating, sleeping and relaxing at a Jimjilbang. A jimjilbang is a public spa and sauna house. Families and friends gather at Jimjilbangs to relax and socialise.

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If you’re feeling inspired to apply for the Sookmyung Beyond Borders Program the GLP will be accepting applications mid-year.

Alternatively, if you’d like to find out more about what the program entails, you can read another short article on Sookmyung here