Monday, 22 August 2016

5 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Open Day Experience

By Tracy Trieu, current Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) student at the University of Sydney Business School.

As a Year 12 student and one of the first from my family to go to university, I really didn’t know anything about tertiary education. What degree do I want to do? What university should I pick? Will I make friends? What’s the difference between a tutorial and a lecture?

There were so many unanswered questions and I had no idea what the next year had in store for me. But like other high school students, I attended as many Open Days as I could and it really helped clarify a lot of things for me. Open Day is essentially a day where you are able to get a taste of the university experience – there are club and society stalls, information booths, presentations, helpful lectures and workshops and, of course, freebies! The day opened my eyes to all the things the University of Sydney had to offer, and it gave me opportunities to further discover the courses I was interested in.

Open Day can be a really exciting and jammed packed day so here are some tips on how you can make the most out of it:
  1.  Plan your day! Take a look at all the activities and events available and map out where you want to go and the times (the University also offers an Open Day app you can download).
  2. Do a bit of research beforehand – Get an overview of the university and the courses available so you’re able to ask more informative questions on the day.
  3. Write down a list of questions you have (e.g. about courses, scholarships, programs) – This is really simple and can help you find all the answers you need without forgetting what you came for (since there’s a lot happening during Open Day and you might get distracted).
  4. Talk to the student ambassadors – They’re there to talk to you so don’t be afraid to ask about the student experience, which you might not hear a lot about. They’ve been in your position before and can offer really great advice.
  5.  Dress comfortably and pack light! I’m not going to lie, there’s most likely going to be a lot of walking involved during the day. You may also be handed a lot of freebies (including food) so try not to weigh yourself down.
With that being said, be curious, ask questions, take lots of photos (#usydbusiness and #usydopenday on Instagram) and just enjoy the day! And, it’s okay to not have a clue what you want to do in university – you’ll work it out.

Find out more about this years Open Day.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

To Reflect is to Learn

I'm back home! After six weeks, I was all set to go home but on the morning of my departure, I got an email from my airline that my flight was cancelled due to bad weather condition in Hong Kong. What? Yes, so much for getting home! After waiting for a day, they were able to arrange my return flight with another airline. Totally out of my control, but I decided to look at it in a positive light - better to be safe than sorry.

So now that my internship is over, it’s time to reflect on my experiences.  Not only because I need to for my presentation, but also because I feel that my experiences will be worthless if I don’t learn from them. But before that, let’s rewind so I can tell you more about the rest of my time in Paris.

Overall, the 6-week-internship has been a great and rewarding experience.  Despite some drama, I enjoyed my time in Paris.  As planned, I managed to tick ‘my list’ - must see, eat and do. I found out how nice Parisian people are, at least this myth was proven wrong by my workmates at Marmiton, staff and lecturers in SciencesPo and people whom I happened to bump with (like the guy from the nearby ‘Boulangerie’ bakery).  However, the longer I’m in Paris, the more that I realised the benefit of being able to speak the language - if only I could speak conversationally.  With beauty such as Paris, you can easily get lost and forget about work and school, as there’s just so much to see and do.  So I made sure I kept myself in check, by focusing on work and school on weekdays.

I was really fortunate to have attended lectures on European Union (EU) at the time when Brexit was happening. We were presented with interesting topics on EU, though there were nights when I was too tired to absorb everything. Our French classes were also fun, actually always fun – maybe because the class members are cool? Or perhaps we are all beginners?  The thing was everybody just enjoyed learning the language, which meant soon as we got in the classroom, we were just delighted to be there.  Our ‘institutional day’ trip was pretty exciting as well.  They have arranged for us to visit the National Assembly; where we observed a session in progress (but only for few minutes as not all of us could understand it fully), Town Hall (Hotel De Ville) and the very cosy Australian Embassy office with a knockout view of the Eiffel Tower.  The office was beautiful, and our ambassador, Stephen Grady, kindly chatted with us and organised an afternoon tea despite his busy schedule. Oh, and OECD invited all of us, including our supervisors, to a cocktail evening and that was refreshing as well, as we got the chance to meet managers of different host companies and were able to exchange greetings and interesting stories.

As you can see, I’m not complaining. I have no regrets. I’m not saying that everything went perfectly. I don’t think that ever happens. There will always be ups and downs, problems, fun and sad times. There will be times when you will ask yourself if you made the right decision, especially in my case because I’m away from work without pay. Sometimes, you will be frustrated especially when your expectations were not met, or when things don’t go your way.  At times, you will feel alone and will be missing your family and friends back home.  But these are all part of the game, of the adventure.  The important thing is surviving through them, which I’m sure, our group or anyone else who signed up for programs like this is capable of doing so. We wouldn’t have joined if we knew we weren’t up for it.

So as I reflect through my experiences, I realise that there is always something to learn and one should not stop learning, no matter their age. We should take every opportunity given to us to discover more about our world and how diverse people are. As only through this can we better understand and appreciate each other. Lastly, this experience made me reflect on myself more closely, in terms of what I really want in the future and being more aware of my character relative to other people and situations.  This is the best outcome for me, as I know this will take me a long, long way.  So for those interested in joining any internship programs, I encourage you to do so but one thing to keep in mind - be realistic with your expectations, and make sure you don’t leave Sydney without some.

For now, I’m leaving you with this quote from Confucius.  Until next time…
‘Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous’

Sheila Baugh
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Afterthoughts from a Summer in Paris

Paris was magical – the city of lights – the city many dream of visiting one day to tick it off their bucket list. And today, it’s been ticked off mine. I remember having all these dreams about Paris and all these fantasies surrounding this elusive place floating around in my head. Perhaps some of these fantasies weren’t mine to make happen. But I learnt, and I grew.

My favourite part of my Industry Placement Program in Paris was the 15-hour long days. No, not 15-hour work-and-school long. But the fact that the skies stayed bright till 10pm daily, made the trip back home from school and work that much more comforting.

Some say that Paris was their city to revisit and fall in love with all over again, for me it was a city to venture out of my comfort zone, grow and learn to thrive in.

Yes, it is tough – so tough that this experience will redefine what you ever thought tough was. There are bound to be hiccups. If you asked me specifically to tell you what was difficult for me; the list is long – adapting to a foreign environment, losing your way through the streets, going through long days at work and having to stay awake through the night classes. The program is incredibly intensive. But if you know what you’ve signed up for, you’ll also know that it’s worth it.

For me, the best parts were getting to know the people, listening to their stories, and hearing about their experiences firsthand. You’d be surprised how much you get simply by asking someone if they’d like to grab coffee and sit down for a chat. The nuances of working life and how they ended up here get revealed in the process, shedding light on all the wonders on everyday life, and reminding you that there are so many people out there in this world walking their paths, many with worries of their own… That how could you ever complain no matter how tough your own situation is? And this is also why I write, and share my stories. Because I know how intimidating it can be to go on a program and have no idea what it’s like when you get to the other side. If you’d like to hear more, write to me here.

A year ago I asked myself, ‘What would you not believe if I told you what your life would be like in the future?’ One of my answers was to embark on this very program to Paris.

Six weeks ago, I asked myself what I was doing in Paris when all I was doing was struggling. Six weeks later I breeze my way through the airport, reflecting on how I’d been given the chance to take on this very program I’d dreamt about going on.

In Paris, I learnt the real potential of having 24 hours in a day and the number of things you can do with 24 hours.

I learnt that everything is a matter of perspective.

I learnt that there’s a lot to love. We can’t always expect things to be perfect, but there will be times that go tremendously well and you will be thankful.

I’ll end off this post (and my summer adventures) with one of my all-time favourite quotes by Howard Thurman that I hope you take away with you:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Felicia Poh
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Oh La La

Have you ever heard someone say ‘Oh la la’? Do you ever wonder what it means? What do you think it means in French?  When I first heard it from my French teacher, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but when I heard it again it made me curious, so I Googled and found this definition:

The French phrase oh là là isn't so much an expression as an interjection. It can indicate surprise, disappointment, commiseration, distress, annoyance... any moderately strong reaction to something that was just said or done. Note that there is no connotation of sexiness or impropriety in French.*

So what does ‘oh la la’ have to do with this blog?  Well, think about it – we have moments in our lives when we react to situations, places, people and things differently, which means that our ‘oh la la’ moments could differ, as I think it’s relative to the individual.  And that all depends on your expectations, beliefs, values and experiences.

So let me tell you about some of my ‘oh la la’ moments in Paris so far. I must say that I can’t seem to get enough of Paris, as it is admittedly beautiful.  Seeing the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees for the second time gave me another chance to admire these landmarks and at the same time, been amazed by how their greatness have been preserved. Visiting other attractions for the first time like Musee D’Orsay, Basilique de Sacre Cœur, Opera Garnier, and Versailles reminded me how much more Paris and France has to offer.  No wonder Paris has been regarded as the most visited city in 2013, with around 15M international visitors recorded that year.  Of course, I have to mention how timely and lucky I am to be here because their yearly SALE (SOLDES as they call it here) is on – ‘Oh la la la la !!’.  So just imagine how many times I visited Galleries La Fayette, Le BHV Marais and other shops already.

But life is not always pleasant.  Inevitably, frustrating moments cannot be avoided also.  Similarly, I blurted the same expression ‘Oh la la’ but with a sad face.  Like when I saw my bunk bed (with a difficult-to-climb stair), the shower room (with no place to put your stuff in while showering), and working with a French keyboard (where some characters like is in a different location as to the one I would normally use, like A is on the top left instead of the middle left, which I am accustomed to).   Also found out when attended our first meeting at work that they speak full French – that was definitely an ‘Oh la la la la la la !!’ for me.  Of course, they speak English too but it definitely would have helped if I was conversant in French.

What did these moments signify for me? I realised that your beliefs, values, attitudes, past experiences or a combination of all these factors could affect your response to specific situations and incidents.  In addition, your expectations could also impact how you deal with situations.  For instance, if you expect that you can get along with all people or all people will like you, then you are certainly mistaken.  This program has repeatedly reminded me how people are different, that each one came from different backgrounds, with certain beliefs and values, with different sets of motivations, and those could affect their actions and reactions.  Reflecting on these differences helped me better appreciate, accept, and understand others.  Embracing these differences enabled me to learn to be more mindful of other culture. And through this, I was able to cope, adjust and continue to find effective ways of being in harmony with others.

I could have reacted differently to my ‘oh la la’ moments, but they are all temporary reactions. Long term, you reflect on those moments and you deal and learn from them. That’s my way of dealing with challenging and complicated circumstances.

How about you?  What was your most interesting ‘oh la la’ moments while you were in Paris?

Sheila Baugh

Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Thursday, 14 July 2016

How I Learnt To Appreciate Paris

The end of week three marks the halfway point in the programme, and a three-week countdown to the next time we return home again. I'm thrilled. Paris has opened my eyes in so many ways, but also granted me an appreciation for home and longing for comfort of being around family and friends.

As we kiss June goodbye and enter July, I started reflecting on the first half of the year and thinking about what I wanted for the second half. Despite the number of stumbles I faced, I'd had so many great experiences that I treasure and keep so close to heart. It's been interesting to see how we've each settled into the rhythm of Paris and can finally find our way around it comfortably... Well, for the most part.

Last week, we had a very lovely visit to the Australian embassy where we met the Ambassador. It was refreshing to hear him share candidly about his experiences in Paris, and some of the challenges he faced. It also made me miss Sydney that much more, as well as the everyday “Hello, how are you?” greeting that has now become second nature to me. 
Paris... is not easy. But nothing worth having ever comes easy. As the novelty wears off, the long days becoming weary and exhausting, and it's easy for us to lose sight of what we originally came for. I thought about some of the things I wanted to achieve from embarking on this trip - one of which was international working experience in the heart of Paris.

The best part about working at the OECD is probably the strong sense of importance you feel about the work you do. OECD is a huge organisation, so you definitely feel as though the stuff you are working on has a certain level of impact on society in the wider scope of things. Being in the Public Affairs and Communications directorate has been rather exciting - we're basically at the heart of the organisation in that we manage the communications in various directorates and the overall messaging is projected through what we create. If you thrive in large organisations and value a sense of purpose in your work towards creating a greater impact on the broader community, then this is the place for you.

I think many things - and many situations - boil down to the perspective you adopt. And many times, your experience is influenced by the perspective you take. When I experience a particularly challenging week, I like asking myself, so what can I do about it? Is there anything I can change? And sometimes it's as simple as saying a "Bonjour, ca va?" to an unfamiliar face at work, or coming home to your roommates and exchanging stories and laughing your guts out.

Some time back, I questioned the notion of perfection, and whether perfection is realistically attainable. But when you think about it, if your experience is flawless, then have you learnt anything from it really? No opportunity is perfect, and it's only an opportunity if you take advantage of it.

I'm happy with my choices. Are you?

Felicia Poh
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Embracing the Change…

I love to travel, who doesn’t? Visiting a new place always excites me. Just thinking about the places to see, the must do and must eat - thrills me.  Visiting a place for the second time however, gives me a different kind of enthusiasm, as this time I will have the opportunity to take a closer look at the place. I joined a European tour 6 years ago and Paris was one of the places we visited. I was a tourist then and mostly everything was arranged for us. This time is a different story as I will be working, studying and living like a Parisian.

Some are probably wondering why I applied for this internship.  I’m not surprised as even I asked myself the same question.  I have worked for quite a while now so to be an intern would probably sound bizarre to many, but I believe nothing is too old for anyone, and this is an opportunity that I just cannot forgo – as I will have a chance to live, work, and study for 6 weeks like a Parisian.  So I went ahead and applied, did the interview and assessment, and was elated when I learned that I passed.  And so the preparation started.  I booked my flights and listed what I needed to bring and do. We were given an orientation so we would have all the necessary information before the trip. I met the group for the first time during the orientation and found out how young they were. I realised that most of them are my sons’ age.  Not to worry, that didn’t bother me at all. I met some of them in Hong Kong on my flight to Paris, and took the train with them from the airport to Maisons Des Mines, our home for the next 6 weeks.

It was raining when we got off at Luxembourg station.  There we were dragging our luggage, finding our way to our temporary home.  It’s always interesting when you arrive at a place for the first time, there’s always that feeling of anxiousness, insecurity, and uncertainty, as you are not sure what awaits you.  Just like when I opened my room and found out that I will be sleeping in a bunk bed with stairs. I got used to it after 3 days, but at first I was so scared that I might fall.  There is always something unfamiliar and unexpected, but there’s nothing that you cannot be adjusted to.  The more you resist any changes, the more difficult it will be to overcome. As I always say to myself, bend it and let go.

As expected, first week was hectic and a bit stressful, as I had to learn as quickly as I can - about the place, the people, language, getting to work/school, the best route to take if I decide to walk, where to get food, a SIM, and laundry facilities.  At the same time, I had to meet my host organisation for the first time and attend classes as well.  One thing good about Paris is that it’s walking friendly, so with a local SIM and Google Maps you can literally find your way to any place.

We are now on our second week and things are getting easier as I get more familiar to the city and its people.  One thing I should say is that I think that it’s important to plan and be organised before the trip.  Find out as much information about the place, accommodation, transportation, SIM, what to bring etc. I know they are basic but it helps to cross them off your list when you are embarking on a new journey.  Particularly in my case because I don’t like surprises, at least if I can avoid them. I want to be able to focus on unforeseen surprises and challenges, rather than thinking of where to buy supplies or toiletries. Especially on my first week, I want to devote my energy and mind in getting to know the place, the people, my host organisation (Marmiton) and the university (SciencesPo).  Moreover, to understand what is expected of me during the internship/study.  One important thing to mention was how lucky we were to be in Europe at the time of the Brexit decision - perfect timing as we are learning about European/European Union politics at SciencesPo.

What I have learned so far is that it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, how much travel you have done in the past, and how much study/work experience you have had, there is always something new to discover and learn.  And this is one of the reasons why I joined the program. I know there will always be surprises and challenges, and whatever they are I’m ready to embrace them, as I know it will make me a better person in the end.  

Sheila Baugh
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Finding My Way Around Paris

A violent bang of the train doors, as they swing open with the flick of a handle upwards. The chatter of hushed French voices in the train carriage – a language I’ve begun to be able to decipher. A woman playing Candy Crush on her phone, leaving me with a realisation that some things are quite universal. It’s Friday today. And hello, from Paris.

Prior to my departure, everyone was asking if I was excited, if I’d learnt any French, if I had packed… To be frank, I was beyond nervous about how the trip was going to turn out. As someone who thrives on certainty, I hated not knowing precisely where I was going to be, and even Google maps couldn’t save my anxiety. I ended up with several sleepless nights.

People will tell you so many things about what Paris is potentially going to be like. They’d tell you to visit all these cafes and museums, eat all these crepes and macarons, go take a boat ride on River Seine, be careful with your belongings, and most of all – always be safe. But nothing really prepares you for what to expect when you first set foot in Paris.

The first few days of the program were the toughest to get through – getting settled into a completely unfamiliar environment, and having to act as though I was so familiar with France was extremely tiring. No amount of independent living in Sydney for years could teach you how to get around on the trains, and no amount of planning could prepare you for the overwhelming sense of helplessness you face upon landing that would make you question why you came to begin with.

But when you hit rock bottom, the only thing you can do is swim upwards.
The long, arduous days challenged me to appreciate time even more greatly. In between exploring little alleyways for hidden creperias and tapping away at my phone in reply to messages from friends and family some 8 hours behind… I learnt to appreciate.

As a little girl, I’d dreamt about Paris – fantasised, even, about the day I’d see the Eiffel Tower in person. On the metro today, we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower on the way to work on a clear sunny morning and it felt so surreal. It hit me that I was actually in Paris. For a moment, it made all the anxiety I’d felt over the past few days worth it.

Going on this program, you really have to ask yourself why you’re doing this, and know what you’re signing up for. I was met with wide eyes when I told my colleagues I was studying every night after work – they simply couldn’t believe it. When all my friends in Sydney tell me repeatedly, “Enjoy yourself! Eat more!” and my favourite one – “Enjoy your holiday!” I repeatedly try to convince myself that it’s a holiday, but is it really?

And yet, I know how much of a rewarding experience this is, and can be. With all these challenges in mind, it’s always good to remember – what doesn’t kill you will always make you stronger. 

Felicia Poh
Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris