4 days. Food. Friendships. Politics. Nation-states named Emilania, Chloenisia and Tarastan. A coach driver named Barry.

Canberra is indisputably the core of Australia’s democratic and diplomatic relations The GLP’s Canberra Symposium gave 28 university students the unique opportunity to immerse ourselves into the heart of politics.

The trip began on a Thursday morning (7:00am to be exact- the earliest that I’ve been to university in the history of ever!). What followed was a wonderfully jam-packed 4 days consisting of parliamentary visit, debriefs with Embassies, NGOs and Tim Wilson, visits to the War Memorial, National Museum of Australia and National Art Gallery and a beautiful lunch at the High Commissioner of Pakistan’s residence.

Did I mention food?

A lot of it.

I need to repeat that again because there was a lot of food.

I came back from the trip and my jeans were way too tight (no regrets).

Some of the very Instagram worthy food.

Some of the very Instagram worthy food.

More importantly, I came back from the Symposium with a well-rounded view of diplomacy and democratic relations and this is something that I will take with me when I graduate.

If you have the opportunity to attend this Symposium, I highly recommend it. There were so many memorable aspects to the trip that it’s difficult to choose my favourite one.

Our trip kicked off with a tour of the Parliament House. Our tour guide, wrapped in a love/hate relationship of politics, gave us both an informational and charismatic overview of parliamentary proceedings. We had the chance to see Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Bill Shorten, Bronwyn Bishop and Julie Bishop in action during Question Time.

Parliament House Tour, taken by Fauzan Ahmed Tariq

Parliament House Tour, taken by Fauzan Ahmed Tariq

It was interesting to see how intentional every gesture or statement made by politicians and diplomats is. This was particularly relevant during our brief with Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson. Known for wanting to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and being a critic of the Human Rights Commission, we had the opportunity to question his standing on particular issues. He was extremely well spoken and very political. It was amazing to see him in action and although I do disagree with a majority of his political views, I do commend him with the work he has done for the LGBTQIA community.

One of the most memorable moments of this wonderful trip was our lunch and debriefing with the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Her Excellency Naela Chohan. We ate beautiful Pakistani food whilst discussing Australia’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the struggles that Her Excellency underwent in order to enter the diplomacy field. There is an air of authority and tenacity about her and I was both honoured and humbled to hear her story.

HE Naela Chohan

HE Naela Chohan

The Canberra Symposium was a brilliant insight into diplomacy. If you are into politics and international relations, I recommend this Symposium. You will gain everything that’s wonderful about exiting your comfort zone: a learned experience, friendships and new information that you could store in your brain and use for conversation starters when you’re in awkward situations and have ran out of things to say (we’ve all been there!).

On behalf of the delegates of session 2 2015 of the Canberra Symposium, I would like to thank Emily, Tara and Chloe for organizing this wonderful experience.

Although only 4 days long, it was a learning experience that will resonate for a lifetime!

By Eda Ince

*Eda Ince is an Undergraduate student in her 3rd year, studying a Bachelor of Laws and Arts, majoring in Social Justice.

*The GLP Symposium to Canberra occurs each session. Keep an eye on your emails and Facebook to find out when the next one is taking place!


What to make of Culture Shock?

GLPer Kris Gilmour has been exploring the dimensions of culture shock after his PACE International experience in India. In his blog and accompanying film, he makes some interesting observations and has some great insights into being a foreigner in India or anywhere else in the world.

Kris in India

Kris in India

I see culture shock as process of change, a change in self, which has implications equally at an individual and global level. I suggest a formula, although not prescriptive, as a way of explaining this process; an inherent human insecurity with difference and ‘the other’, leading to discomfort. This in turn provides us with a challenge to either accept or solve the cause of this feeling and that choice inevitably leads to knowledge and the opportunity to learn. This can be applied to any example of displacement; domestic or international, forced or leisure, large or small.

Culture shock is a response to an unfamiliar environment. It can manifest overtly or benignly but it is the choices we make when we arrive in a new place, which have the greatest impact on us. Do we choose to integrate or ‘normalise’ our space? Do we adapt to, or raise walls to our new environment? Do we go intrepid, towards the experience of the new, or attempt to find the familiar? It is worth noting that culture shock is not exclusive to a travel experience and can very actively occur whenever and wherever we enter new environments. Think about the feeling you may have had when joining a new group be it spiritual, fitness, hobby or professional.

Culture Shock curve courtesy Boston University, Madrid.

Culture Shock curve courtesy Boston University, Madrid.

The constant factor in culture shock is our individuality. It is our unique context that leads us to new encounters and influences our responses. And so this begs the question; what does culture shock look like?

Through this film I wanted to identify that there are macro and micro implications of culture shock that each derive from a human insecurity about the ‘other’. When we encounter a new place, particularly when traveling, we tend to concentrate on how it may be similar and/ or different to what we are more familiar with. This is a useful way to compare and contrast lifestyles and practices in a new place, however, the trouble comes when we make attempts to recreate the ‘missing’ elements of home. This behaviour is rational and totally understandable, however the choices and effort we make to create a familiar environment directly influences the impact of culture shock.

In this film I suggest a method of how to manage this. It is essentially a question of timing and moderation. As soon as we feel the twang of discomfort at the sight of a challenge on the horizon we must seize the opportunity to integrate with our new environment and rush towards the encounter with an optimistic spirit. The sooner we engage with a new experience it acts as a symbol of willingness and welcoming to your surroundings. People will notice the effort you have taken and the novelty will become the bridge to social integration with your new space.

Kris motorbiking around India

Kris motorbiking around India

Culture shock is an indicator of difference from what is normal to us. It is subjective and we each respond uniquely. To get the most from it however, it is important to embrace difference without a goal to find familiar. Embracing difference is key to removing our insecurity about ‘the other’, which can in turn ease the effects of culture shock.

We have absolutely nothing to loose from challenging ourselves; embrace the feeling culture shock gives and see it as the opportunity to learn about ourselves and others.

GLP student Kristofer Gilmour

Find out more about the potential for your own PACE International experience here.

Disclaimer: This work is my opinion based on observational evidence and personal experience. Ethnographic methodologies including, observation, conversations with locals, students and other travellers and historical interpretation are used to inform my analysis of culture shock. This investigation was undertaken as part of my academic project for PACE360 on my PACE International placement during the 2015 Winter Vacation in India.