By Fiza Hussain, Master's of Research - Faculty of Arts
"Few trips are unforgettable, leaving their strong imprints of collective sense and making new connections in our minds for the whole life."
It was my first trip with the Global Leadership Program to visit these bustling historic communities in Haymarket. I was so excited to learn about the existing culturally rich and diverse spots of Sydney as I never visited such unique places here before. It was a warm October morning when GLP members and staff gathered at Darling Quarter Library to start a day with full zeal.
The first activity commenced with a learning session with the City of Sydney briefing students about China Town and Thai Town’s historical background and further infrastructural developments to revitalize the area. During the presentation, GLP members found intriguing information about a government proposal to revamp Chinatown and Thai Town to preserve the cultural ambiance. During COVID-19, the area experienced closures of several eateries and famous hotels which were renowned places in that area. I learned about the future of Chinatown after infrastructural transformations and what it could look like. The session was followed by a Q&A which was the most productive part. Students eagerly asked questions regarding different aspects of the infrastructural program and its impact on the local community. This thought-provoking session inspired them to think critically about similar government initiatives to revive historical/cultural places in their home countries.
After a refreshing short break in which students from different study areas mingled with each other, the next session commenced with the "Soul of China Town". For several years, the non-profit group advocated for preserving the culture of Chinatown and Thai Town through different initiatives. They included some appealing fundraising activities and events to bridge the multi-generational gap within the community. Their enticing stories regarding several projects and initiatives made me curious to work with these community groups. After these two engaging sessions, students were divided into their Amazing Race groups before lunch, which was an excellent opportunity for interaction and making connections with others. All GLP members ate at the famous Thai restaurant, "Fat Thaiger Cafe" where we were served a delicious meal with traditional flavors. During lunch, I got a chance to exchange opinions and learn about the socio-cultural values of my group mates belonging to different countries such as Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan.
After lunch, our groups participated in an Amazing Race activity where we searched for specific buildings, markets, and shops to get the answers to a list of questions within an allotted time. It was a scavenger hunt modeled just like the TV show! We familiarized ourselves with prominent local shops, supermarkets, and restaurants in Chinatown and Thai Town. When time was up, all GLP members and staff gathered for a kung fu class: the most energetic activity of the day. I learned about the varied basic techniques of the martial art. The instructor was active, engaging, and supportive. He kept us motivated through different physical exercises and activities. After attending the martial arts class, I realized the significance of physical exercise and participation in sports to help promote a sound mind.
Finally, a fully packed day ended at "The Chinese Garden of Friendship," a picturesque garden in the middle of the city. Our GLP members gathered outside of the gate where the winning team's name was announced and small prizes were distributed. The garden was a masterpiece of nature with beautiful exotic plants and waterfalls. While exploring the hidden paths and the garden's beauty on a breezy afternoon, I reflected upon the day's activities and takeaways.
This adventurous visit was a perfect example of inclusiveness in a true sense because it helped me to interact with other international students and get to know them. This visit also helped me learn about Sydney's diversity with places like Chinatown and Thai Town. These insightful visits significantly contributed to developing a sense of belonging to the cultural sites fading with societal changes.
Last but not least, I want to appreciate GLP's efforts through this concluding line:
"Together we learn, together we grow to become a real change maker of society to promote the value of inclusiveness and respect diversity."