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Reflections from a Wayfarer – In Constructing Asia and Myself

They say travelling abroad alone and studying on exchange changes your life. Those kids weren’t joking. I can confirm that statement is definitely NOT a hyperbole.

I’m coming up to almost 2 years since experiencing what I can now reflect on as likely the most profound experience during my undergraduate degree.

Between January and February 2019 I had the opportunity to be the first student to experience Macquarie University’s new connections with HELP University (HU) in Malaysia. I completed an immersive course on the Asian business environment for a period of 6 weeks and travelled to Vietnam for a week as part of the course. The program explored the sociology, history, business environment, governance and politics of several countries in the region, along with Malaysia and Vietnam.

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Completing an International Business major in BComm, the content learned both in class, on excursions and during my free time was invaluable. It enhanced my understanding on Malaysia and Vietnam greatly and also provided extensive firsthand experience of the complex and dynamic cultures within Southeast Asia.

The textbook learning experience is incomparable to how enriching learning becomes once you experience it in person. I had so many great opportunities to develop my understanding of the foreign environments even outside the overseas classrooms. I made lifelong friends and created transformative memories while living with a local student’s family as they celebrated the Chinese New Year, a custom that is completely unfamiliar to me. This experience is one I will cherish for a long time to come and provided incomprehensible insight into my understanding of the culture, kinship, history and behaviours of just a single identity within the melting pot of different cultural narratives within Southeast Asia.

Having always had the desire to travel during my degree, the opportunity to dive in and say yes to the program came was a no brainer. Along the way, and before even departing to Kuala Lumpur, there was a lot of anxiety in meeting organisational deadlines and being open to saying yes to unplanned circumstances. Looking back, I would definitely say this aspect of exchange has taught me important practical life skills and prepared me greatly in managing my career and personal challenges as I have grown older.

Author first from left; Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Munh City, Vietnam

Author first from left; Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Munh City, Vietnam

Having the added benefit of receiving accreditation for the GLP just because of my desire to travel and learn, spurred me on further with the exchange program. The GLP gave me a great incentive to plan how I could integrate overseas study in my degree and complete the exchange program, allowing me to meet extracurricular and degree requirements while fulfilling my curiosities about the world around me.

In many ways, I looked at the exchange program as a challenge to take on with no specific expectations rather than a desire to travel and fulfill requirements of my course and the GLP. Reminiscing about the experience, I can say it has gone above and beyond every expectation I held in how it has shaped me to the person I am now and how it has fed my desire to learn more about the world and take on bigger challenges.

I applied for the program on a whim and I am so glad that I did because I can definitely vouch for all the amazing impacts it has had on my degree, the GLP, and life in general.

Given the current international climate around travel, I am sure to many of you, exchange seems out of reach but regardless, it’s an opportunity I highly recommend jumping onto the second you get a chance.

Trust me it will be worth every bit of hustle and pre-planning stress!

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