‘Experience of a lifetime’: students rush Monash’s GIG program

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By CHLOE COBURN and VEDANT AGARWAL

Monash University’s inaugural fully funded study abroad program saw first-year students flock overseas last summer.

The Global Immersion Guarantee (GIG) promised all first-year Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Global Studies students the opportunity to study in Italy, India, Indonesia or Malaysia.

The first initiative of its kind in Australia, it aimed to develop cultural empathy and a global understanding with a focus on the human impact on the environment.

In each country students were asked to combine theory with practical fieldwork, and engaged with the local responses to global challenges.

MOJO interviewed three students from the maiden program.

Italy

Bachelor of Arts and Law student Bailey Webb travelled to Italy in February and said his participation in the GIG meant “stereotypes were destroyed”.

“Seeing how another culture and people live [had] a profound impact on my understanding of the complexities of the world we live in,” Mr Webb said.

Based at Monash Prato Centre, students undertook field trips to destinations like Cinque Terre, Venice and Rome.

They explored the intersection between sustainability, tourism and industry.

While he “definitely knows the country better” now, Mr Webb said the Italian program could be improved with “more of a focus on issues that aren’t so first-world”.

Despite this, he said being exposed to local programs that aim to mitigate the effects of global crises taught him “how important it is to become a new global citizen”.

“So often in the Arts faculty we’re faced with really hard-hitting information, but [the GIG] gave us the tools to address these issues in a meaningful and positive way.”

India

Philippa Patterson, a Bachelor of Commerce and Global Studies student, said studying abroad on the GIG exposed her to a side of India she “never imagined.”

Based in Mumbai, students visited local organisations who respond to India’s environmental and social challenges.

The program fully immersed students in Indian life, down to the “smells and chaotic traffic,” Ms Patterson said.

Students on the Indian program could dress in traditional Indian clothing. PHOTO: Philippa Patterson.

While she was part of the first group of students to undertake the program, Ms Patterson said that “more organisation” would have enhanced the experience.

“Logistics was the only downside,” she said.

Travelling to India transformed Ms Patterson’s knowledge of the country, which deepened from “a picture of the Taj Mahal” to a nuanced understanding of societal structures and their implications.

“I learnt a lot about social classes and how much they affect the way large-scale organisations can run [and] how much people are paid depending on their status.”

Indonesia

For Getta Napier, a Bachelor of Arts student, the best part of the GIG was learning in a different country, which was very hands on and engaging.

The takeaway for Ms Napier was learning about how “tourism from Australia affects the land and the people of Bali”.

According to Ms Napier, activities such as a language class and cultural activities enhanced her experience.

Ms Napier said that assignments could be slightly more organised, and the expectations for students was not clear. Besides that, she said that it was “an experience of a lifetime and I would encourage people to go for it”.

“This is an experience worth taking,” she said.