Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Adventures in Paris: Student Reflections on the International Placement Program

Week 3 and 4: All good things have to come to an end…
The final week is up and we celebrated graduation at SciencesPo by going out together with the teaching staff. It was very sad, as we have enjoyed our classes and our time together over the last five weeks. We enjoyed dinner and drinks and later, the class handed over some nice treats for the coordinators of the European Studies Programme. We all decided to stay in touch via LinkedIn.


After the dinner we were given an academic diploma for the completion of the European Studies Programme at SciencesPo. It is a great addition to my resume and adds value as I seek to reach my aspirations of acquiring an international career.

After finishing classes which have taken up most of our evenings, more free time opened up. As we were pretty used to the fast pace, we suddenly had lots of time spare for sightseeing. Bring on Paris!!


One thing I have noticed which differs a lot from Australia is the amount of people enjoying lovely picnics in the parks. We went several times per week for picnics at various locations in Paris, and we were (clearly) not the only ones! People of all ages enjoy prosciutto ham, brie, wine and baguettes. I do not want to think about all the damage that needs some repair when I return to my trainer in Sydney!

One of my favourite spots was the Luxembourg Gardens. It closes at 9pm, so we had to hurry up after work or go and visit during the weekends. Although Sydney is wonderful, it doesn’t beat the wonderful nature you can find throughout the heart of Paris!

 

It was not very tempting to spend a whole day standing in a queue, so we went to have a look at the Louvre during the evening. Hardly anyone was there and it was really cool to see it in person.


As this was our last weekend, we decided that a trip to Disneyland was a must. We bought tickets online and jumped on a train in the morning which did not take more than 45 minutes. This had been my dream ever since early childhood and it was finally an opportunity for some childhood closure!


We were super lucky with the weather and enjoyed the day. However, Disneyland was in general very over-priced, so I recommend bringing lots of spare cash! Unfortunately it is still a long time until Christmas, as this is a paradise for Christmas shopping (and any other random merchandise you might ‘need’!).

We did not exactly have a lack of activities ahead of us so we decided to stay until the fireworks at the end of the day, at 11pm… and it turned out that was a very good idea!


On a light-hearted note, as a final remark to future IPP students:
Although it is pretty nice to get some international work experience and an extra university diploma, it hardly beat the feeling of having this:

Panne au chocolat/chocolate croissant for breakfast


…..and crepes for lunch:


... and this is even without having anyone looking at you in a strange way!
Au revoir!!

Anette Hansen
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France

Friday, 25 July 2014

Adventures in Paris: Student Reflections on the International Placement Program


Despite the pre-departure orientation, nothing could quite prepare our group of 16 Business School students for what it really means to be an intern in Paris! Armed with French phrasebooks and Excel cheat sheets to help us manage whatever came our way, most of us began our placements feeling reasonably confident we were up to the task.


What quickly became clear is that the true challenge of being an intern in France is not so much adapting our skills and knowledge, which most of us found reasonably easily done, but rather to get used to the huge differences between doing business in Australia and in France. This experience of course varied among the group, as we are in placements of many different kinds of French and international organisations, all with their own distinctive style of work.

However, there are definitely some common themes! For starters, le déjeuner (lunch) is one of the most important parts of the day, and team members usually eat out together at a nearby restaurant. Sometimes business is discussed, but it’s often just a nice way to socialise. It’s wonderful as an intern to be included in this kind of thing (especially for the chance to try some more Parisian food)! Lessons I’ve learned over business lunch is not to order Orangina, which is apparently akin to ordering a chocolate milk at a fancy restaurant, and not to eat too much so as to avoid spending the rest of the afternoon in a food coma! While the French have a career’s worth of experience eating a huge lunch and heading straight back to work, inexperienced Australians may find themselves nodding off in an afternoon meeting if they’re not careful!

Another difference between the French and Australian style of doing business is more subtle, but very important to understand. The French adopt a much more consultative approach to projects, spending a lot of time discussing and debating, and trying a few things out before concrete decisions are made. To an Australian used to ticking boxes and meeting targets this may seem like a waste of time, but the French are used to their style and may regard schedules and fixed goals as impediments to good results. That being said, the French appreciate Australians’ motivation to get the job done on time, which seems to go down well with the boss!

There’s often talk of Parisians behaving rudely to people who don’t speak French, and with a group of students with varying abilities in the language some of us were a little apprehensive about this! Fortunately, it quickly became clear at work that a friendly bonjour in the morning and an à demain in the afternoon (and an apparent French fondness for Australian accents!) smoothed the way.

Office attire, especially for the girls, has also been an interesting one. Preparing for the bipolar weather, finding something clean and then attempting to dress as glamorously as the Parisians is of course the goal, but it’s usually a matter of picking one or two of the three!

While adapting to the French style of doing business has involved many a faux pas, we have come a long way in four weeks and can’t believe there are only two more to go! 

Iona Main
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France, interning with Kimberly Wealth Management   

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Adventures in Paris: Student Reflections on the International Placement Program

Week 3
My supervisor presented some of the work that I have been involved in with all member countries present. Therefore, I got to come along and listen to the discussion and questions all the member countries had with my supervisor regarding the 2015 budget allocation. This time I was very prepared and I kept track of the entire discussion without feeling lost (which I did at my first budget committee meeting on my first day). It was such a great feeling to be able to keep track of the discussion and know what everyone was talking about, in detail. After the committee, my supervisors and I went for lunch at a restaurant nearby. We had a pleasant conversation which involved my future career prospects. I could really see myself working for the OECD, and my supervisor suggested that I should apply for the Young Professionals Programme after my graduation. It is certainly something I will consider.

 View of the Budget Committee Room - I was seated behind the Executive Director, Anthony Rottier.

Friday morning we went for a field trip to visit the European Commission and the European Parliament. We took the train early in the morning in order to be in Brussels at 9 am. The train ride did not take more than 90 minutes(ish)!


Representatives from the European External Action Service (EEAS) came to greet us and held presentations about the EU and what they do, before they opened up for an informal discussion regarding the internal work at the EU. First, we met the Head of Sector Correspondence, Corporate Board Secretariat, before Mr Tamas Macazac came and spoke about Australian Trade Relations. It was very interesting to get an understanding of how the EU works from a senior employee’s perspective, and how Australia interacts with European Affairs.


The second part of our field trip was engaging in a role play at the Parlamentarium. It was a location with a set and equipment where we had to go through the same procedures as the official elected parliament representatives when they discuss official matters, negotiate with other parties and come to a consensus. It was harder than I anticipated but great fun!

At the end of the day the group went for dinner locally in Brussels before the travelling to Paris, Amsterdam, London, Rome or Berlin - we had a long weekend which we wanted to take advantage of! First, it was time to taste Belgium waffles, beer and frites!



After returning safely to Paris we celebrated Bastille Day on the 14th which is equivalent to Australia Day. We enjoyed a beautiful picnic during the day and when the fireworks were to begin, we had a stunning view to the Eiffel Tower while we enjoyed Champagne, macaroons and other French nibbles.  The fireworks were fantastic and it represented four significant highlights in the last century: the First and Second World War, the fallen soldiers and peace.



Anette Hansen
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Parliament, Presentations and Partings

Parliament House was the first stop today. We joined students undertaking a summer program at the National University of Singapore to learn about the Parliament that runs this amazing city-state. Surprisingly, Singapore’s Parliament shares quite a few similarities with the Australian system, as they are both manifestations of the British system. Unfortunately today was not a Parliamentary sitting day, but nevertheless we could sense the solemnity of the House.

Finally the day has come to showcase what we have learned over these past two weeks, as we delivered our final group presentations at the CPA office. We were all shocked at the quality of all the presentations and the ability of all the groups to critically analyse Singapore’s housing issues. Reflecting on the work of my own group, I cannot believe how far we have come, from knowing nothing about Singapore to becoming experts in sustainable housing. It was different, and sometimes not easy, working as an interdisciplinary group, but this experience has definitely added a new dimension to my teamwork abilities. Learning to work with people from different backgrounds and how to utilise each other’s unique skills will surely be beneficial to my academic and professional ventures. As the presentations came to an end, it finally hit me that this was the last day of the field school. To perfectly finish off the trip, we headed out for a group dinner and enjoyed the Singaporean heat for one last time.


This blog was originially published on Sydney Life: Student experiences at the University of Sydney.

Betty Huang
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the New Combo Plan, a short-term interdisciplinary field school in Singapore where students work together to understand and analyse the Singapore government’s housing policy

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Out in the community

As presentation day looms all the groups are heavily focused on their chosen topics, gathering final pieces of research and solidifying the huge amount of information we have received over the past two weeks. For Team East Side, this has meant a significant amount of time spent in the community of Bedok, observing how the elderly are catered for in Singaporean housing plans and community layouts. This has meant a day of walking through housing estates and communities, checking for features such as wheelchair accessibility, exercise and social areas, community activities for the elderly and ease of access to key medical services such as dementia care.


These are all crucial features of the Singaporean government approach to dealing with the problem of a rapidly ageing population through promoting ‘ageing in place’. This comprehensive policy aims at keeping the elderly living independently within the community for as long as possible in order to promote a cohesive society and avoid strain on a limited institutional care system. From our research and observations so far, this approach has been largely successful in maintaining quality of life for the elderly and keeping nursing home intakes low. These findings have made me think that perhaps Australia could learn from this approach considering the strain placed on our own nursing homes due to an ageing population.

Today highlighted to me the benefits of living in Singapore as we study its housing system and surrounding policies. For example, talking in person with a manager for the Singapore Program for Integrated Care of the Elderly (SPICE) allowed for a more complete understanding of how home and day care for dementia sufferers is practically carried out. Overall, being in this country has allowed for a more flexible and in depth understanding of our chosen area of research in Singapore.

This blog was originially published on Sydney Life: Student experiences at the University of Sydney.

Jack Collins
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the New Combo Plan, a short-term interdisciplinary field school in Singapore where students work together to understand and analyse the Singapore government’s housing policy

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

‘Hari Raya’ or ‘Celebration Day of Fasting’

Tonight we attended ‘Hari Raya Puasa’, a Ramadan Bazaar in Geylang Serai. Approximately 15% of Singaporeans are Muslim and are currently celebrating Ramadan, which involves fasting from dawn until dusk. The bazaar had food markets that allow the community to collectively break their fast, as well as stalls selling new cloths, decorations and home wares; thus supporting the custom of buying new items for the home. An array of exotic Malay-inspired dishes and snacks were displayed at each stall including spicy fish balls, biryani (a dish of rice, meat and spices), chick-pea biscuits, fried sweet potato, kebabs and pide. These were complemented with colourful and tasty drinks including lychee, mango, sour sok and rose flavoured water. A group of us excitedly selected a few different dishes and drinks and sat in the park nearby to delight in the fascinating new flavours.


While enjoying our meal we reflected on Singapore and the appreciable diversity of this city-state. Singapore is represented by three main ethnic groups with 74% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indian. This leads to an array of unique opportunities for cultural experiences: one night we can be eating dumplings and noodles in a Hawker centre, the next day immersing ourselves in the wonders of the Malay culture near Arab Street and the next nigh delighting in a spicy meal in Little India. There are also four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, which means there are often four translations on signs with the Straits Times, the Singaporean newspaper, publishing in multiple languages.

Diversity in ethnicities also means diversity in religion. On Sunday we listened to the Catholic church near our hotel ring bells, while tonight we were able to appreciate the sound of a local mosque’s call to prayer. Although Sydney is also a multicultural and similarly a cosmopolitan city, the way the cultures instil themselves into the landscape differs. Appreciating and embracing the new cultural experiences Singapore offers has provided an enjoyable trip and enabled opportunities for understanding this economically important city at a grassroots level. It is also interesting observing and comprehending how these cultures harmoniously interact and co-exist: a lesson of increasing importance in today’s globalised and interdenominational world.


This blog was originially published on Sydney Life: Student experiences at the University of Sydney.

Alexandra Meek
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the New Combo Plan, a short-term interdisciplinary field school in Singapore where students work together to understand and analyse the Singapore government’s housing policy

Monday, 7 July 2014

R&R: Research and Relaxation

The final stretch of the field school for the New Colombo scholars has begun. We’ve had a jam-packed week full of meetings, tours, policy discussions, a bit of sight seeing and far too much chicken and rice. Our time so far has been largely structured, looking to give us a complete view of the housing policy from as many perspectives as possible. Today has been our first real opportunity to break off into our respective interdisciplinary groups and tackle our research questions independently.

This has meant a day largely spent indoors researching our chosen question and planning how we want to allocate the precious amount of time we have left before the end of the program. This has challenged my own group to identify what each of our strengths and weaknesses are as well as what our unique disciplinary backgrounds can offer to the group. For example, in dealing with my groups question on how the Singaporean housing policy accommodates for an ageing population, Robbie's familiarity with housing plans accommodating the disabled and frail has been invaluable (Robbie is our resident architect in the making). We have been able to take this knowledge and integrate it into our findings on policies, financial feasibility of housing upgrades and the social impacts of any new government initiatives. This process can be time consuming and challenging, but ultimately rewarding in creating a holistic view of our chosen topic that would otherwise be lacking.

While today has been invaluable in planning for our presentations and conducting our own independent research, we are all extremely keen to get back out to our respective regions to collect primary evidence tomorrow. Comparing the information we have gathered today and over the past week with first hand observations of the housing estates should provide some interesting results.


This blog was originially published on Sydney Life: Student experiences at the University of Sydney.

Jack Collins
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the New Combo Plan, a short-term interdisciplinary field school in Singapore where students work together to understand and analyse the Singapore government’s housing policy