Friday, 17 April 2015

Just need to take the first step

Nine months ago, I stepped off the plane in Sydney after many hours in flight. It was an early chilly morning. Looking at the newly risen sun, I took a deep breath of the cold air, full of unfamiliar smells, telling myself that I could fulfil my goals.

However, to achieve these goals was anything but easy. I thought I had learned English well enough, but then I found myself barely understanding the conversations around me. I thought I was good at studying, but then I found myself having difficulties applying my knowledge to real cases. I thought I could find an internship at a local firm in the same way I did in China, but then I found myself limited in many aspects as an international student. There were so many challenges and much competition. I was scared. I began to lose confidence.

It was at this point that I decided to go for a consultation at the Business School career kiosk. Through the consultation, I realised that since the possibility for an international student to enter a local firm would be relatively slim unless haivng a high English level and necessary working skills that could match native students, what I needed to do was take a step forward, leaving my comfort zone to enhance my capabilities.

The first step I took was taking part in Neuroblastoma Australia – a charity activity – as a volunteer. At the beginning, I was too shy to speak and was afraid of doing things wrong. But as soon as I finally took the first step to start chatting with Shirley, a friendly girl who was working next to me, I immediately knew that I had worried too much. Actually, we had many things in common, and we might have kept talking forever if time permitted.

Later she introduced me to her friends who were also working there as volunteers. Gradually, the barrier in my heart disappeared. At the end of that day, not only did I finish my job well, but I also got to meet many new friends and had fulfilling conversations.

Encouraged by this volunteer experience, I joined many other activities. At the same time, I kept gaining employment skills from the Business School's Careers and Employability Office (CEO) career workshops, where I learned how to modify my resume, enabling me to stand out in an Australian employment environment. I also embraced opportunities to network with employers and recruiters, and so on. Several months later, in the summer holiday, I was offered an internship position from a Sydney company, which although small, provided me with a great opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in a real-world setting.

A week ago, I walked into the career kiosk consultation office again. This time, I had a professional resume with two pages full of my extra-curricular activity and internship experiences in hand, and talked in much more fluent English with a confident tone. I was going there for Industry Placement Program (IPP) application advice.

Another winter is coming now. Looking at the newly risen sun, I take a deep breath of the cold air, and smile. It is never easy to go uphill, but it may not be as hard as we think as well. All we need to do is take the first step, and have the initiative to be fully prepared for future opportunities, so that when we look back, we will be proud of how far we have walked.

Brenda Zeng
Brenda is an international student and current student at the University of Sydney Business School.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Thoughts on International Women’s Day 2015

In my final semester at university I had the pleasure of being involved in an exciting, refreshing new student-run society, the University of Sydney Network of Women - known as NOW. Launched in semester two last year, NOW aims to connect, compel and collectively inspire aspiring female leaders.

About six months on, NOW has evolved rapidly into an organisation capable of collaborating with Capital W (a similar society at the University of New South Wales) to celebrate International Women's Day. On the 13th March at the Museum of Contemporary Art, NOW co-hosted approximately 200 guests and a panel of esteemed business men and women including journalist Catherine Fox; Glen Boreham, former CEO of IBM Australia and New Zealand; Susan Ferrier, National Managing Partner of People, Performance & Culture at KPMG; Kevin McCann, Chairman of Macquarie Group; and Jessica Roth, Founder of Social Impact Hub. The panel led an engaging discussion around the theme of collaboration and gender equality within the workplace. The discourse prompted me to reflect on the existence of gender pay gaps, glass ceilings (or thick ceilings of men, as described by Catherine Fox) and unconscious bias within the corporate world.

International Women’s Day panel (L-R): Catherine Fox, Glen Boreham, Susan Ferrier, Kevin McCann & Jessica Roth

The panel also discussed the unfortunate stagnation in progress that has occurred in recent years, with females still overwhelmingly underrepresented in leadership positions across all sectors. Alarmingly, the pay gap increased by 1.5% between 1996 and 2012 to 17.4%, whilst the increase in the number of female board directors between 2002 and 2010 was only 0.2%. Throughout my education, I have never felt that I have had less opportunities than my male counterparts. Therefore, such data raises questions for me personally, as I wonder if my gender will inhibit my future career success. I ponder what is causing female underrepresentation: are women not ‘leaning in’? Are societal expectations that women are the primary child carer hindering their career success, whilst consequently inhibiting men from being able to accept more parenting responsibilities? Susan Ferrier discussed the introduction of unconscious bias training for leaders at KPMG and I questioned, will I be the victim of unconscious bias in the future?

I suppose a more important question, and one that was considered by the panel, was how can we solve this inequality? The approach established by Elizabeth Broderick, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to launch the Male Champions of Change initiative offers a refreshing solution (and we were blessed by Kevin McCann and Glen Boreham’s insights, who themselves are two Male Champions of Change). This initiative aims to include men in the discourse about gender inequality and leverage their roles as leaders to instill change. Comments by male classmates who hear about NOW and in anger claim, "I'm going to create a Network of Men", reinforces the need to include men in the conversation and encourage them to campaign for gender equality (not to mention the acronym NOM isn’t quite as powerful and clever as NOW).

As Kevin McCann discussed, it's not about ‘man-praising’, where men stand above women encouraging them, it's about working alongside each other for change, recognising that gender inequality is a societal problem and that solving it will result in social and economic benefits for both sexes. NOW have come to a deeper understanding of the need for male support, and are committed to including our male classmates in future conversations (and we challenge our male peers to have the courage to be involved).

Guests at NOW and Capital W's International Women's Day Breakfast

Overall, my involvement with NOW has left me feeling empowered, enlightened and more educated on the reality of gender inequality in the workplace. Bringing this conversation to a university level is important, as it allows the leaders of tomorrow to reflect on this situation and contemplate solutions. NOW also provides a platform through which passionate, driven peers with similar desires to initiate change can connect. This has been truly enriching and will undoubtedly benefit each of us as we embark on our own journeys into the workforce.

As aptly described by American writer Gloria Steinem and echoed recently by Emma Watson, “The human race is a bird – and it needs both its wings to fly”. I look forward to working in a society where men and women can benefit from gender equality, and NOW is committed to promoting this change.

Alexandra Meek
Recent graduate of the University of Sydney Business School, Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

AIESEC: Global Youth Leadership

AIESEC is a student society which specialises in arranging overseas volunteering programs. There are programs in almost every continent, and my program was in Taiwan. It was an education project in Hsinchu called, ‘Bridge the Gap’.

Taiwan has always been a country that I have wanted to visit, and I have always felt that the best way to get to know a foreign country is to live the local life. Furthermore, I wanted to spend the three months of my summer holidays doing something meaningful and memorable. So I applied, and I couldn’t have given myself a better 21st present.

Like many people, when I heard about the volunteering opportunity with an education program, I thought I would be teaching a small class at a rural school in the mountains with only fundamental supplies and furniture. I was wrong. Instead, I taught at a public elementary school which comprised of more than 1000 students. Initially, I was arranged to teach from year 3 to year 6, but later, due to the amount of positive feedback, I also taught year 1 and year 2 students.

Altogether, I taught 48 classes and presented 64 lessons throughout the 6 week program. I also arranged an Australian cultural camp. I taught my students Aboriginal Art and also brought in lamingtons and vegemite for them to try. It was definitely an accomplishment which I never thought of achieving.

As Taiwan does not have a multicultural society, naturally, students have less exposure to different cultures around the world. It was the first time I felt privileged for living in a multicultural environment. The aim of my program was to broaden my students’ global perspective. Thus, in my lessons, I taught them about Australian culture: our food, language, landscape, etc. I even showed them what an Australian Primary School is like.

I also had to assign homework to the students and their task was DIY postcard. Many of them wrote that when they grow up, they wanted to travel to Australia. Unexpectedly, I became a free ambassador for Tourism Australia.

I was hosted by one of my students’ family and they definitely exhibited the hospitable nature of the Taiwanese people. However, the best thing about the AIESEC program was that I got to meet other volunteers from around the world. I made friends from Chile, Brazil, the USA, Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore and many more places. Like me, most of my volunteer friends have never been to Taiwan. For this reason, everyone bonded very quickly and looked after each other like family. The other volunteers were in different programs, including community service, farming and other education programs. However, we planned weekend trips, dinners, and Christmas and New Year celebrations together. 

Often, we only actively interact with people who have a similar background or interests. However, when you are in a foreign country knowing nobody, you are forced to bond and connect with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. Making friends with people who you would usually never interact with didn’t seem so hard anymore. I managed to gain a new perspective of the world and this was definitely one of my biggest gains.

In my application for this program, I wrote: ‘It is through giving that we receive’. I felt that I have definitely received a lot more than what I have given: better social and communication skills, self-management skills, independence, satisfaction and most importantly, the courage and confidence to do something that was not in my comfort zone. If in the coming holidays you fail to obtain an internship or a job, I would definitely recommend volunteering as a substitute. By being in a different environment, you will definitely discover a new perspective of yourself.

Anna Zhou
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The city that became home

Doris Xu is an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney Business School. She is currently in the United States as part of the Washington DC Placement Program, offered by the Business School in partnership with the United States Studies Centre.  

I closed my eyes.

Next to me, my roommate’s speaker was playing the acoustic album from her favourite artist, Above and Beyond. A door away, one of my flatmates was finishing her House of Cards Season 3 binge on Netflix. In the kitchen, the other was cooking her dinner, the aroma of food filling the room through the half-opened door.

When I first arrived at Room 803, it was empty. I could hear my heavy breathing from dragging my luggage from the taxi to the lobby, and my footsteps wading across in my wet UGG boots. But not anymore.

Over the past nine weeks, we have filled in the blank space of eerie silence. Our wardrobes became full, our beds made (at least in the first week) and class notes piled up on the table. We no longer kept to our own desks or rooms. We popped around wondering what each other was doing. We shared food and desserts and complained to each other about how fat they were making us, while scraping the bottom of the pan for the brownie crumbs. We planned trips, to Philly or to the zoo, or when we felt like we really needed that dress down the road.

At work, I learnt the doorman’s name, although still having trouble pronouncing it properly. Our workstations, once clean and tidy and bland, now decorated with sticky notes of reminders arranged by colour, on the drawers, on the boards, next to the computer. Research and meeting papers lied on the desk, ruffled as often used. We eyed the kitchen or front desk for new treats, be it greentea chocolate from Tokyo or sheep cupcakes in celebration of Chinese New Year. We gathered around the conference room to have lunch, where stories from all over the world came: from midnight taxi rides in South Korea to Spanish wine festivals.

Over the past nine weeks, I saw snow for the first time, then had my first snow day. Cheers had erupted from room to room on the 8th floor, as we consecutively found out about the office closure due to the snow storm. The next morning we headed to Dupont Circle, making and throwing well-formed snowballs. We attempted at building our first snowman, before giving up after making the lower body, realising we couldn’t put the upper body on and ended up building a snow penguin.

 It’s A Snow Day!

Over the past nine weeks, I squealed at my first glance of a baby panda, who was clearly having a Monday morning; yawning, covering its eyes and turning on its face back to dreamland. Over the past nine weeks, I laughed as my colleague and I shared stories about our childhood, our embarrassing moments and silly promises. Over the past nine weeks, I learnt the difference between a motive and a theme in music, and watched a play about Mary the Queen of Scotland in the Shakespearean theatre.

Some time over the past nine weeks, I started calling Room 803 home.

Some time over the past nine weeks, I broke out of my shell and started to be myself again.

On Friday I took one last look at my room, my side completely empty and clean, just like the first day when I first arrived.

I closed my eyes.

Because I didn’t want to cry. But tears fell anyway. Through tears conjured from moments shaped by laughter and delirious happiness, I knew.

All those memories, captured in the snow flakes and the -10 temperature, would stay with me forever.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Life in Indonesia

Young Joo Lee is a current student at the University of Sydney Business School and recent participant in the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) Business Professional Practicum in Indonesia.

I have made it back to Australia after working as an intern for 6 weeks in Jakarta, and then a short trip to Korea to celebrate lunar New Year. Unfortunately, as I write this I seem to have come down with a cold. My body has finally given up on trying to adjust to the severe temperature differences in the countries that I’ve visited during last 2 months (30C in Indonesia, -5C in Korea and 30C in Australia again!). But fortunately, I can say that a cold is not the only thing that I’ve gotten from the past couple months. I can swear that the experience and impressions that I gained in Indonesia have actually changed my perspective on life.

My 6-week internship in Indonesia officially ended on 13 February, as I received my result from the ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ course (Indonesian language). Time flies, and now, as I return to university in Australia, I already miss everything in Indonesia – the fried rice from the street food market right next to my accommodation and, yes, even the sound of the Muslim call to prayer that occurred 5 times a day from early morning until late in the evening.

I participated in the ACICIS (Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies) Business Professional Practicum. It is coordinated by a secretariat based at Murdoch University in Perth. ACICIS runs various study options in Indonesia for students who study at Australian universities. The program that I undertook consisted of 2 parts. The first 2 weeks was made up of Indonesian language classes in the morning, and seminars or field trips in the afternoon.

Later I spent 4 weeks completing an internship in an assigned placement. The program was very well sturctured. For example, in the first 2 weeks, I’d learnt essential pieces of Indonesian needed to survive in Indonesia (for example, words for counting and asking prices). Every day in the afternoon during those two weeks, I attended seminars or field trips which really helped me understand general culture, politics, history and the economy in Indonesia.

Field trip to the Indonesia Stock Exchange

After the intense but helpful beginning, I was luckily assigned to one of the biggest property developing companies in Indonesia, called Sinar Mas Land, to work in the New Business Venture department. That department helps companies to enter into partnerships with new clients. Most clients are big foreign companies who want to penetrate the Indonesian market, so the working environment was mainly done in English. This was very beneficial for me, as I was able to participate in the company projects by suggesting new ideas during our team meetings.

My role was primarily focused on basic research to find general insight of certain property developments, and find an ideal location for certain property types. As the internship was only for 1 month, I concentrated on specific projects, and one of them was planning the new logistics park. Even though I don’t have a deep understanding of the logistics industry, I could actually apply the basic concepts and theories of logistics that I learnt from my Business Information Systems units.

From the moment I got the offer from ACICIS, I was unsure about working with my placement company, as it is not matched with my majors and is located quite far away from the Jakarta CBD. However, in hindsight, it was really good to live outside of Jakarta. I didn’t experience severe traffic jams every time when I commuted to work, unlike other students on the same program who were working in Jakarta. As well, I was able to save money because the cost of living in my area was much cheaper than Jakarta.

Severe traffic jam in Jakarta CBD

Part of the program involved writing daily reflective journals once a week. The program officer read through them to see how we were adjusting in the placements, as well as to offer feedback. The program officer was highly enthusiastic and helped to motivate us in our work.

Pictures taken during our Bandung trip

As an International student, I used to follow the routine that I had set when I first came to Australia (study; hang out with Asian friends; home). It is true that I had less extracurricular activities compared to local students, because I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone. But now I feel that I’ve changed a lot. During the 6 weeks in the internship in Indonesia, I gained valuable working experience, but also great new friends. I learned that I don’t need to be afraid to try something new.

I am now motivated to completely get out of my comfort zone. I feel ready to deal with the new challenges that I will face at university and as I begin my career.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Industry Placement Program: Interning with the Australian National Committee for UN Women

I recently had the privilege of spending 6 weeks interning with the Australian National Committee for UN Women, as part of the Business School’s Industry Placement Program.  The Australian National Committee for UN Women is one of 17 National Committees globally that raises funds and awareness for UN Women.  UN Women Australia also advocates for gender equality in Australia and abroad by engaging with the private sector, government and community groups.   

January and February were very exciting months to be in the UN Women office, as the team was busily preparing to host International Women’s Day (IWD) events in 6 capital cities across Australia which took place today.  These annual events are high profile opportunities to fundraise for UN Women’s work in the Pacific, to promote gender equality in Australia and to publically engage with our corporate sponsors and partners.  After returning to Sydney, I was able to attend the Sydney Breakfast as a guest of the University of Sydney Business School, who is the NSW education partner of the Australian National Committee for UN Women.

During my internship, I completed several projects including a comprehensive website audit and marketing strategy for our IWD merchandise, while also supporting the events to prepare for our IWD events.  The internship has enabled me to ‘put theory to the test’ and build on the knowledge of International Business and Management that I have gained through my university studies.

One of the most rewarding experiences was having a morning tea with Mele Maualaivao, Country Program Coordinator for UN Women in Samoa and the Pacific.  Hearing Mele speak about UN Women’s fantastic projects to increase women’s financial empowerment and political participation in our region was inspiring.  The entire team was even more motivated to deliver fantastic IWD events after hearing the impact of UN Women’s projects.  Other highlights of my placement were meeting the UN Women Board President, Elizabeth Shaw, working with volunteers at the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra, and attending meetings at Parliament House and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). 

Interning with UN Women has accelerated my professional development.  I have received fantastic exposure to the non-profit sector and have identified further career paths in government and business that interest me.  I also have a much broader understanding of politics and policy (a natural consequence of living in Canberra!), and a deeper understanding of how government and businesses can work together to create greater positive social impact.  

On a personal level, this internship has cemented my passion for women’s empowerment and gender equality.  I am proud to have worked for an organisation whose mission and values I wholeheartedly support, and will carry these ideals forward in my future career.  

Madeline Greer
Madeline is a current student at the University of Sydney Business School and recent participant in the Industry Placement Program (IPP) in which she interned with the
Australian National Committee for UN Women

Monday, 2 March 2015

One month at Boston University

I remember my first days in Boston very clearly. I was so excited, yet so nervous about living and studying in a city that was so far away from home. I remember pressing my face against the window on the plane and marvelling at how everything was covered in pure white snow. I remember trying to navigate through the “T” (Boston’s super complicated public transport system) and eventually setting foot on Boston University’s campus.

It’s been one month since I arrived. Here’s a review of my experiences and some highlights (there are really too many to go through!).

Being on the other side of the world, the seasons are reversed, and I found myself in the midst of winter. And not just any winter, but a record-breaking winter. January 2015 was the snowiest month ever recorded in Boston. I remember the day it was announced that a historical blizzard named Juno was about to hit the State. Everyone made a run for the grocery stores to stock up on food for the “snowpocalypse”, and I was advised to charge all my electronics in case the electricity went out. But the snowstorms didn’t stop coming each week. After Juno, came Linus, then Marcus and Neptune.  There was so much snow that five days of classes had to be cancelled. It was fascinating to see cars buried under the snow, even public transport caved in on some days and stopped running altogether.

Like a true Bostonian, I have become accustomed to temperatures that have usually ranged from between -20 to 0 degrees Celsius. I can thank Boston that my concept of “cold” will never be the same again.

 Trying to cross the road right after Juno the snow blizzard

Studying at Boston University isn’t quite the same as studying at the University of Sydney. All my classes here are “tutorial” style and they are all taught by the same professor. Attendance and participation is really important; it’s worth 30% of the total grade for one of my subjects. Also, forget about getting HDs, Ds or Credits - the grading system here is based on letters.

One of my favourite things here is that the gym is completely free to students. You can take classes at the gym that are worth credit points, and I took advantage of this by enrolling in kickboxing (which I currently have a love-hate relationship with – it was a lot more intense than I thought). As a Marketing major, another thing I’m extremely excited about is that one of my Marketing group projects involves working with the famous Boston Red Sox.

School spirit, not to mention, is also really huge and unforgettable here. Friday nights are spent at the School arena cheering on the hockey team (very loudly and passionately), draped proudly in red and white gear (pictured below with friends from my dorm).

Dorm Life
At Boston University, about 75% of undergraduate students live on campus, meaning friends are never too far from you (and parents are far far away). I was so lucky to be assigned to live in a “brownstone” dormitory. It’s a beautiful 19th century house along a tree-lined road, and looking out my window, I can see the Boston skyline and the Charles River (pictured below). I also got to experience what having a roommate is all about; eat at dining halls and do my laundry in a laundry room.  But the best part of it all – it only takes five minutes to walk to my classes every day!

The view from my window before the snowstorms began

If you look closely, you’ll see number 179 which is my dorm number

American Culture
Even though I had to part ways with some of my Australian habits, it has been worth it to experience things that were unique to Americans. For example, I’ve had to change some of my vocabulary. Whenever I asked someone simple things like, “How are you going?”, I was always given a puzzled look – I’ve since learnt that “What’s up?” was how everyone greeted each other in Boston. I’ve also accidentally walked into a store asking if they were selling “thongs”, when I meant to say “flip-flops”, resulting in one of the most awkward situations I have ever found myself in. Luckily I just explained that I was from Australia – which then reminds me, I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone has told me that they loved my Australian accent and wanted me to keep talking. I wish making friends was always this easy!

Another notable thing about living in the U.S is that I’m always carrying a wallet full of coins. Yes, 1 cent coins for some reason still exist, and they are bigger in size than the 10 cent coins. To add more confusion, the coins are referred to by their names – penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and I’m still trying to figure out which is which. You also need to tip at restaurants or after a taxi ride, and this continues to stress me out because I never know how much to put down. I’m also still learning how to convert Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius, miles to metres and pounds to kilograms in my head. I’m definitely getting there though, becoming more American everyday – which is one of the best ways to make the most out of Exchange.

All in all, applying for the International Exchange Program has definitely been one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Fiona Le
Fiona is a student at the University of Sydney Business School, and currently participating in the International Exchange Program at Boston University.