End of an era: Goodbye UOW

When I was about 16 years old, I wandered through a careers fair in a non-descript gymnasium in Newcastle. I was the kind of high school student who loved everything. English, French, Geography, Music, Science… what kind of career involved all of those? And better yet, what kind of career did I want to have, where did I want to work, what did it all mean? So like any 16 year old at a careers fair, I took my share of booklets, free pens and magnets and thought I’d deal with all of those big questions at a later date, after all, I already had my one-way ticket to London booked.

When I got home, I looked through some of the booklets with my parents, flicking through the similar glossy pages and scanning course guides trying to find the one with my name written all over it. That’s when I picked up the University of Wollongong’s booklet. I was immediately drawn to this thing known as a double degree (I’d always been one to try and over achieve). It was perfect. International Studies with Communications and Media. I hadn’t seen another university offer the same kind of degree and something about their prospectus seemed edgy and authentic (nice job marketing)- plus it was basically ON THE BEACH! After only ever visiting Wollongong once, I put it as my first preference in UAC, sat the HSC and headed off to London, more of less forgetting about school and uni all together.

My best friend Charline and I exploring Camden Markets, 2013

When I arrived back in Australia, and the reality of trying to figure out my life hit me, I was overwhelmed by where I actually wanted to go. I had offers from multiple university’s and it was really my choice. Then I got a call from the infamous Stephen Brown who was then the Head of Students for the Faculty. He rang me to congratulate me on my ATAR and offered me a Dean’s Scholar program. I was pretty delighted that a professor had called up little old Adelaide and thought about what my life in Wollongong, as a Dean’s Scholar might look like.

After a year in London, I was pretty over cities. They’re crowded, expensive and noisy, so Sydney was off the cards. I considered Newcastle but that meant I’d only be a 45 minute drive from home (not far away enough). A lot of my friends went to the party destination of Armidale but thought I couldn’t handle the cold. And Melbourne seemed a bit too far away, plus the dreaded 4 seasons in one day thing. So back to the idea of Wollongong I went. I was overjoyed when I found out that one of my best friends from high school would be studying there too and with that my decision was made – Wollongong I was coming for you!

My first day on campus when I moved into International House

International House

In my first year in Wollongong, I lived in International House. Having just come back from travelling around Europe, I was pretty excited to be living with people from all over the world and all over Australia. We had dorm parties, discovered Wednesday night schnitty night at North Gong hotel and learnt that having dinner at 5:30pm was completely acceptable (you wanted to get the best food you could). I’m still friends with people I met at iHouse and I’m incredibly lucky I got to call it home for my first year of 2014.

My first job

I landed my first job on campus as a Student Rep, which hardly felt like a job at all. I got to visit local high schools and talk to students about their study options. As someone who loves talking and is passionate about education and pursuing your dreams, I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do this. I attended career fairs (I got to hand out those course books and magnets) and work at big events like Open Day and Discovery Days. It was my first taste of the inner workings of UOW and university. I loved it because I was sharing my experiences, my observations and connecting with my teachers and peers. It set me up in a way I couldn’t have imagined at the time.

Uni friends are a different kind of friend

Moving to a new place and starting university can be pretty overwhelming, but I was determined to make as many friends as I could. Before we event started, I sat a French placement test (which I actually failed) and met my now best friend Erica. While buying my French textbook I met my friend Anna. And in my first French class I met my mate Pete. OK maybe it was French that set me up with some amazing friends but I knew it was more than that. Connecting with people over a common interest in French, careers or travel at university was like nothing I had experienced before. We had all committed and chosen to spend our time (and money) here. In my lectures, tutorials and in the corridors of building 19 I met so many incredible people that I would continue to cross paths with and forge friendships with. These moments certainly set me up for years of expanding my network and knowing I always had someone to go to the UniBar with. They say the people you meet at uni will be friends forever and I couldn’t believe it more.

Kooloobong Village and LHA Central

In my second year of uni I moved to Kooloobong Village (also known as KB). I lived in Unit 10 with people I’m lucky to still call friends. I turned 21 that year and was diving deep into uni, expanding my friend group, and apparently bought a selfie stick (remember those things?!) It’s also the year I really started to invest in my blog, not just as a personal reflection but as a professional tool to connect with people around the world. I’m lucky I’ve had people support me throughout my journey to push me to keep creating and keep writing.

In 2015 I started working at LHA Central, a job I absolutely loved! I became great friends with Mark and Lauren and I learnt the art of admin, customer service and relationship management. I loved that I worked in an office, had an email signature and my own personal phone extension. I worked there for 4 years and was lucky to balance work with my studies throughout that time.

The ‘Carrie Bradshaw moment’

If you’ve set foot onto the UOW campus, I apologise, you’ve likely seen my face on promotional posters. While yes you’ll find me on the website, course guides, flyers, posters and videos… nothing can top the moment my face was blown up on a bus!

Exchange and travel

If it wasn’t already apparent, travel is something I absolutely love. So when the opportunity to study AND travel arose I jumped at it. 2016 was a big year for that. I completed a short course at the University of La Rochelle through AIM Overseas studying French language, history and gastronomy (hello beautiful wine!). You can read about my time in France here. Living with a French host family, and speaking French non-stop, my French improved drastically (you’d hope wouldn’t you). I befriended a group of students from America (which I later visited in D.C) and was just so happy to live out my dream of eating baguettes all day long. This experience later inspired me to change my French minor to a major with the support from the best French teacher you’ll meet, Anu.

After my time in France, I headed to Montreal for 6 months to complete a semester abroad at Concordia University. I thought I’d be able to apply my newly acquired confidence with French but Quebecois French is something else entirely! It was here that I met incredible friends, studied Canadian history, politics and geography and survived -28degrees. I was lucky to study abroad with some fellow UOW students and had friends come to visit as well. Even on the other side of the world, people manage to connect and be present in your life.

Finishing uni, research assistant and more travel

After nearly 8 months overseas, it was time to come back to Australia and get back into finishing my degree and working at LHA Central. I was asked by one of my Politics teachers, Nori, to be his Research Assistant for his work on the 457 visa in Australia. This was a time I felt that my research, writing and curiosity skills could actually take me in an interesting direction (more on that later).

It was 2017 and I was due to complete my degree early at the end of the year. Because I was eligible for another Overseas Help Loan from the Government, I thought why not study abroad one more time. I found a short course in Mexico City that was all about human rights, immigrants,Mexican culture and history. I had taken an interest in immigration through my classes and thought this would be an incredible way to learn about this issue in a country that was facing a border crisis in the US, with Trump only recently being elected.

You can read about my experience here but it was certainly one of the most profound experiences of my life. It inspired me to trust and follow my curiosity to understand how the world works. I later contributed towards the UOW student magazine about immigration and it also gave me the confidence to undertake my Honours year.

Honours and Digital Marketing

2018 was a wild year. I was enrolled in my Honours course with Nori as my supervisor. As no surprise to anyone, chose to do my thesis on the topic of the ‘everyday experience of “illegality” in the US’ and examined the historical development of US immigration policy. It was by far one of the most challenging things I have ever done.

In the same year, I was approached by the LHA Marketing team to help out with managing their social media channels and website project. I worked with the dream team several times a week and fell in love with all things digital, marketing and communications. It’s here that I found what I loved to do. Create engaging content and bring people joy.

Professional Adelaide coming through

After finishing my studies I really wasn’t sure where I was going or what I wanted to do. I landed a casual position with the Advancement Division supporting their social media, websites and events. I was lucky to work with them on a casual basis until mid 2020. Through this I met incredible people and was able to pitch stories, conduct interviews, contribute and support with editing of the Outlook magazine… the list is endless and I loved every second. A highlight was certainly the 2019 Alumni Awards where I took to social media to provide live updates throughout the night which was so much fun!

I was over the moon when I landed a permanent roll in the LHA International Unit supporting international student recruitment, mobility and fostering a sense of community for our international student community. I have learned so much in this role under the incredible leadership of Kate and Lily and wouldn’t be where I am without the support of incredible colleagues like Rosheen, Ian and Simone. In 2019 I travelled to India to represent UOW which was such a pinch me moment I’m still in disbelief it happened.

So we know that COVID drastically changes our lives in every aspect. Though I felt incredibly priviledged and lucky to have had my job, apartment and family close by, my heart broke for those international students who have been separated from their families with no end in sight. Particularly as COVID cases around the world continue to worsen, we are truly living through a traumatic global event, the effects of which may not be felt for some time to come.

Unfortunately for myself and my colleagues at UOW, Australian universities got quite comfortable with getting their revenue from international students. With borders firmly closed, it put enormous finanical pressure on univerisities across the country. This meant money saving initiatives had to be introduced which ultimately resulted in jobs being cut.

I waded out a very rocky 2020. Working from home for 12 months, a restructure, huge proposed job cuts and navigating uncertainty in the international student space. At the beginning of 2020 I had planned to move and work overseas in Mongolia (of all places, yes… but that’s a story for another time). So with the promise of a new year, in 2021 I was committed to finding a new job that would spark joy, push me out of my comfort zone and take me in a new direction.

In February I found out that I had landed a communications role at a Women’s Health organisation in Canberra – not quite Mongolia but it does get cold – and I knew my time was up.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Leaving certainly was bittersweet. UOW was the place I grew up, personally, professionally, academically. It was the place I came to understand the world around me, meet people that have shaped me, overcome challenges and adversity and figure out what I want to do with my life.

People might say ‘it’s just a job,’ but my time at UOW was far more than that. It was pivotal in figuring out who I am. While universities across Australia continue to face many cultural and financial challenges, and it’s certainly not over yet, I choose to look back on my time at UOW with pride, joy and accomplishment.

The friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime (I got a tattoo with my boss – that friendship is indestructalbe!), the skills I’ve gained will propel me forward and most importantly I’ve learnt what kind of leader I want to be and how one person really can make a difference in a big organisation. Be authentically you and you will inspire people to do the same.

Only time will tell what the future holds, but one thing is for sure, I’ll be back. Whether it’s as a student (again), as a staff member, an academic or the Vice Chancellor, UOW will always have a special place in my heart, and one that I’m incredibly grateful for.

Keepin’ it casual: Casualization of the workforce

Casualization of the workforce. You may have heard of it. Permanent, full-time jobs are becoming increasingly hard to come by and are being replaced by insecure and uncertain jobs. Being a millennial and working casually kind of work hand in hand. Balancing study, a social life and a few days of work a week, well it just works. But what happens when it’s not quite working anymore? At the end of the day, casualization can make your work feel unvalued, make you feel unsure of your future and make it difficult to apply for permanent positions and credit cards. After five years of working casually, here’s my rant and here’s how I navigate the uncertain world of casual work.

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Expectations

When I’ve worked casually, it’s never been quite casual. I’ve had immense responsibility and been expected to work on certain projects on certain days and certain hours. Whilst I welcome EVERY opportunity with enthusiasm, excitement and a can-do attitude, it’s hard to not feel pressure when there are such high expectations of you.

Sick of no sick leave

I get that it’s kind of the whole deal with casual work. No leave, no sick days, nothing. So you go to work when you shouldn’t because you’re sick. You push yourself when you shouldn’t because you can’t afford to take a day off. And you run yourself to the ground with no bonus.

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Casual employment working against you

So you’re looking for a permanent job to have some sort of security in your life (crazy right?). It turns out that being a casual employee can work against you. Recently, I’ve been looking for jobs with a bit more security within my organisation. I came across a fixed-term position that was PERFECT! It was similar to the position I’m currently doing and would’ve been an exciting new opportunity. But no, you had to already be on a fixed-term or permanent contract. I just don’t understand how you’re immediately ineligible purely because you’ve only ever worked casually?! Again it’s the feeling like your work and your commitment is not valued by the institution. You’re ‘in’ when they want you in, but you’re out, you’re gone in an instant.

People treat you like milk, you’ve got an expiry date

I find that the most difficult thing about working casually is that people know and remind you that you have an expiry date. It stops you from reaching your full potential and taking complete ownership of projects. I totally understand because it would be pretty shit having someone come in, change and initiate projects, and then leave. But what if they don’t want to leave? What if they want to stick around and make a real difference? Unfortunately, it just feels like my talent and skills are wasted.

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Holidays whenever you want

Believe it or not, there’s a benefit to being employed casually and that is… holidays whenever you want*!!! Oh shit, right, I forgot that conditions apply. *Technically, you can holiday whenever you want. But you do so with the risk of not coming back to a job. Oh, and of course, it’s not paid because you don’t have leave. If you wish to have time off when it’s busy, it’s likely they won’t be happy.

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You might just think that I’m complaining. I want to be clear and say that I am incredibly grateful for the chance to work and earn an income. I’ve had it pretty damn good, I love my job, I love who I work for and I love who I work with. The reason I’m writing this post is because there are many people who aren’t so lucky. And one day, that could be me. My Dad always said that when you’re casual, your contract ends the minute you clock off and starts again the next morning (if there’s a next morning). The matter of fact is, that casuals are unfairly relied upon and that reliance is growing.

Sure this has short-term implications and leads to a bit of frustration. But it also has serious long-term consequences. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the University of Wollongong is comprised of 71% casual employees. That is INSANE! Call me crazy, but don’t you think that universities should be investing in the wellbeing, happiness and retention of hard-working, passionate employees to contribute back to a thriving, world-class institution?

The way I see it, one day, I’ll move on. I’ll be another number on their register that is no longer submitting fortnightly timesheets and they’ll replace me with another number. I’ll invest my passion, enthusiasm, skills and dedication to another employer. And if I can’t find one, then I’ll invest it back into myself. It’s a harsh but necessary reminder that in life, especially your working life, you have to look after yourself. You have to keep your best interests in mind and you have to be your own biggest supporter.

I’ve loved working casually and it’s opened some amazing opportunities for me. And I’m happy to keep working casually whilst I save my money, especially whilst I have my Gap Year 2.0. But I’m not sure about living my life with such uncertainty in employment. It doesn’t quite work for me.

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[A big thanks to all of the incredible colleagues who make me feel more than my employee type and make me feel valued, supported, encouraged and creative!]

GRADUATING: The Tears & Beers

On the 27th October, I submitted my final assignment of my undergraduate degree (woah!). As I pressed the submit button, my eyes nervously scanned the room for the little guy about to pop confetti all over me and carry me out of the library on a throne. I received my email receipt saying my assignment had been successfully submitted, yet the confetti and throne didn’t come. #confused. So I walked home, texted my Dad saying I’d finished and listened to the mysteriously good Demi Lovato album. I got home, got changed and sat on my bed… now what?

Naturally, I needed a beer. I hopped on my bike and rode the Dan Murphy’s, treated myself to a 6-pack of craft beer (I’m officially not a poor uni student anymore), and went home. I cracked open a beer, flung open my laptop, and chucked on some documentaries about gun violence in America (cheerful right?).

After about 3 beers, my Dad called me to congratulate me. It was then that I began to feel pretty stoked. I felt this overwhelming feeling that I’d actually made my Dad proud. He asked me what I was doing and I told him abut my depressing gun violence documentary. He then replied with ‘Adelaide, you’ve finished studying, you don’t need to pretend to be smart anymore.’ Haha thanks Dad… I’m just actually this much of a nerd that I celebrate not studying, with watching some intense docos but not feeling guilty about it.

A few beers later, I had some flowers delivered to my house. My Mum is pretty talented at getting flowers delivered (she somehow even managed to be able to deliver flowers to my hotel room when I was in Mexico!). They were stunning and made me well up. Even though my parents weren’t there with me, I could feel their pride and hugs from miles away.

My phone was inundated with messages from friends and family, congratulating me on my achievement. I was so overwhelmed with love and support, that it suddenly felt real.

I had finally finished my Bachelor of Communications & Media Studies – Bachelor of International Studies (Deans Scholar) Majoring in French & Global Media, Minoring in Global Sustainable Development and the Environment – phew that’s a mouth full!

That evening Mitch came over and we went out to dinner at the ultimate place to celebrate anything…. His Boy Elroy. Some burgers and espresso martini later, it was the perfect ending to an amazing and emotional day.

Does it feel real? Nope. Do I know what I’m doing next? Hell no. Do I care? Absolutely not. For the time being, I’m going to jet off to Thailand to my sister (who also graduated – congrats girl) to eat, drink and soak up some sunshine to fully embrace our graduation success.

This post is dedicated to my friends and family who have unconditionally supported me throughout my epic university journey. Without you guys, I really don’t know where I’d be. They say it’s not about the destination, but the journey. And I’ve had one heck of a ride.

To all of you out there about to graduate, studying for final exams, or have still got a few years left… you can do it. One step at a time. It’s not easy, no one ever said it would be. But I promise you that those celebratory beers will go down even easier once you finish. Work hard, party harder and make sure to take a break, relax your mind and remember it’s all going to be OK. You got this!

🎓🎓🎓

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Top Five Cafes in WOLLONGONG

If anyone know’s me, they know how much I love coffee. And if there’s somewhere that knows how to make a good coffee, the Wollongong aka. the Gong. This is my third year living in the Gong and through my time here I’ve consumed my fair share of coffee. So after a while, you come to discover the best places to grab a good coffee or two. So, here are my top 5 favourite cafe’s the Gong has to offer. 

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Rush. 

1. Rush

Conveniently located at UOW, where I work and study, these guys deliver quality beans quickly before your shift or class. Rush 1 is my ‘work coffee,’ where I usually settle for an extra hot skinny cap. My standard for a day at the office. Rush 2 is where I experiment with my coffees. The staff there are beyond awesome and are always playing amazing tunes.

Coffee of choice: Single Origin Long Black

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L&M

2. Lee & Me

L&M as it’s also known, is a cute little cafe/boutique located at the bottom of Crown Street. On a weekend you’re lucky to get a seat on their cosy balcony. But once you do, it’s worth it. And when you’ve finished with your coffee, you can browse through their cute boutique store. If you can’t afford one of their lavish leather bags (which, by the way, I’m in LOVE with), you can settle for a cute little succulent.

Coffee of choice: Skinny Cap (with a side of a cute succulent). 

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Latte at Diggies

3. Diggies

And the award for the best view whilst indulging on an even better coffee goes to…. Diggies. Primly located on North Wollongong beach, this beachy, breezy cafe boasts beautiful views looking out at the surf. If you’re not up for a coffee, I’d also recommend their coconuts or fresh juices. This place is divine in summer after a nice long swim at the beach. Just remember to bring some clothes to cover up in.

Drink of choice: A latte or cocount (depending on how hot it is)

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4. His Boy Elroy

Ah, the infmaous His Boy Elroy. It’s got your night out covered with their craft beer and sexy ciders. Plus, it’s there for you in the morning when you have a filthy hangover. Opt for sitting outside and watch the world pass by as you caffeinate your hangover away.

Drink of choice: Skinny cap (classic)

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A pretty in pink skinny cap

5. Humber

And last but not least… HUMBER. My favourite cafe in the whole Gong. The vibe downstairs is awesome. People are always running in and out, trying to get their hands on a coffee or some of their awesome food. The first floor takes you back to some serious 70s vibes with some brightly coloured stain glass windows and funky carpet. The la pièce de résistance… the rooftop bar. I absolutely love rooftop bars, and as far as they go, this one definitely delivers. Sure – the view is nothing spectacular (hello Port Kembla Steel Works), but the chairs are super comfy, the tunes are on point and the coffee is to die for! The picture above is a pink cap that my fave barista made me, and it’s this type of service that keeps me coming back for more!

Voilà! My top 5 cafes in the Gong. Whilst Wollongong embraces a great cafe culture, these are my favourites. Are there any I missed? Have you been to any of these before? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy drinking!

 

How Important Are Your Selfies?

“Status is: one’s value and importance in the eyes of the world” ~ Alain de Botton

A quick Google search of my name (below) doesn’t really reveal anything too surprising (thank god). Firstly, my Facebook profile. Secondly, my Do It In A Dress page, a fundraising campaign I participated in last year to raise money to educate girls in Sierra Leone. Third is Twitter, a platform I should probably use more but don’t. Then a lovely assortment of images from a variety of different sites. My blog sadly doesn’t appear until the bottom of the page, and then there’s a few other social platforms like Pinterest and LinkedIn. I’m always online, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat… I’m always looking for new things to share and to follow what people are up to.

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And why is this google search important? It’s a starting point for finding out more about myself. And how do people access this? Because I share it myself.

Self representation 

On Facebook this month (so far) I’ve shared 5 links to my blog, 2 articles to websites about social issues like women’s rights, uploaded 2 photos (1 photo with 60likes, and the other with 177likes), and been tagged in 4 photos (where 3 of them are incredibly unflattering – it looks like I’m a glitterfied zombie, or halfway through a lazy sneeze).

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The picture of my eyes that circulated my friends Facebook newsfeed and got a whopping 56 likes. Thanks guys…

According to The New York Times Customer Insight Group research conducted on ‘why people share,’ there are a number of different reasons why people share things online. And I’ve done all of them. Entertainment: a funny meme or dog video. Defining Ourselves: posting nice photos of myself or sharing a blog post. Relationships: sharing an old photo with a friend or posting on their wall for their birthday. Self fulfilment: satisfying the need to keep in touch with friends. And to support a cause: to show what you’re passionate about.

All of these aspects, while they appear in the interest the people around us, they’re  predominantly self centred. I share a post online because at the end of the day, I want certain people to perceive me in a certain way. And yes, even allowing the horrible photos (as demonstrated above) to be on my timeline is purposeful because (I hope) it demonstrates that I don’t take myself too seriously and can laugh at myself.

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An infographic on why we share things online according to the New York Times Customer Insight Group. And I can acknowledge that I’ve shared things online for all of these reasons. Source

In fact, a recent study discovered that ‘self-shooting is an engaged, self-affirmative and awareness raising pursuit, where their body, through critically self-aware self-care, emerges as agentic, sexual and distinctly female. Thus, this is a reading of selfies as a practice of freedom’ (Tiidenburg & Cruz, 2015). However, an important question that arises from this research is what are these people being free or liberated from and how does this imply enslavement? On a fundamental note, Kim Kardashian has the ultimate freedom, she has a job (whatever it is), a roof over her head, food to eat and a family to be apart of. However, she is routinely criticised in the media, and some could say enslaved by the pressure to perform. Some may argue that her book Selfish is her way of owning what she has and refusing to let anyone define her.

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Kim Kardashian’s selfie which graces the cover of her book Selfish. Source

“The Like is the wordless nod of support in a loud room.” – Seiter, 2015

Perception of Others

However, how Kim K or I represent ourselves is somewhat benign as ‘our identity is powered and influenced by other people’ (Evans, 2016) where our status and importance is determined by the people around us. And if we are constantly worried about how people are perceiving us, then this can lead to status anxiety. Many times I have asked a friend, even text someone to ask if they think this filter looks ok on a photo, or if the caption is witty enough. It’s very rare that I’ll post a picture without with approval of one of my friends first. And whilst I don’t consider this a crippling anxiety that keeps me up at night, it’s definitely a routine I’ve got myself into when posting on social media.

As long as we’re sharing online to friends or strangers,  we’ll always have some sort of status anxiety. It’s only natural for us to want people to be interested in what we are doing and share a connection over a picture of a video. However, it’s a significant issue when people are caught up in the ‘popularity paradox'(Tiidenburg & Cruz, 2015) instead of photographing themselves for their ‘liberation.’ It’s also an issue when status anxiety starts to dictate who we are and how we present ourself online, because as soon as we start to give in to status anxiety, you lose your liberation.

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And if you’re not entirely convinced, let the following short clip illustrate all of the thoughts that flow through your mind when uploading and sharing a selfie.

References

Evans, N 2016, ‘Looking at ourselves’, BCM310, University of Wollongong, Lecture Slides, delivered 9 March

Seiter, C 2015, ‘The secret psychology of Facebook: Why we like, share, comment and keep coming back’, Buffer Social, 23 April, https://blog.bufferapp.com/psychology-of-facebook

The New York Times Customer Insight Group, ‘The Psychology of sharing: why do people share onine’, The New York Times, viewed 17 March 2016, http://nytmarketing.whsites.net/mediakit/pos/

Tiidenberg, K, & Gómez Cruz, E 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and the Re-making of the Body’, Body & Society, 21, 4, pp. 77-102, SocINDEX with Full Text, viewed 2 April 2016.

Things I Learnt From Being a Keynote Speaker

At the beginning of February, I was a keynote speaker for UOW’s Discovery Days. Discovery Days is where year 12 students come to the university to experience a day in the life of a uni student (a pretty cool experience if you ask me). At first I was over the moon! I’d always wanted an incredible opportunity like this to speak to students in an inspirational manner. But then it dawned on me… am I inspirational? Am I interesting enough to Year 12 students? What am I going to say? Over the course of 5 days, I would speak to over 6000 students from all over NSW and the ACT. And if I’m going to speak to that many students, it’s got to be good! I had so many ideas, doubts, worries, nerves… it was all pretty overwhelming as I’d never done something like this before. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

Now that it’s over and done, I’ve had some time to reflect on this scary, exciting and exhilarating experience. I learnt so much. And lessons that don’t  just apply to being a keynote speaker, but lessons I will carry with me for as long as I can.

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Day 1 of 5

Lesson 1 – Practice makes perfect. 

And if it’s not perfect, then it’ll be pretty damn close. I started writing this speech in December last year, so it was pretty well embedded in my mind when it came to February. I knew this speech. I had notes sitting on the stand just in case, but other than that I was just relying on the pictures on my slide and my trusty brain. I must’ve practiced this speech at least 30 times before I practiced in front of an empty audience before I actually delivered my speech. Sure I may have made mistakes but because it was etched in my mind, I was confident with what I’m doing. So whatever it is you’re trying to do, practice really does pay off.

Lesson 2 – Think positively. Always.

Whilst preparing for my speech and even waiting backstage before I was called up, all of these bizarre negative thoughts would cross my mind. “What if I fall over? What if I have a coughing fit? What if I am so nervous that I pee my pants?” Right?! Ridiculous thoughts. All you can do is push those negative thoughts out of your mind. Realistically, the worst thing that could happen was that I might stumble on a word, or lose my train of thought… and in realistically, it’s not the worst thing that could ever happen.

Lesson 3 – Surround yourself with positive people.

I was lucky enough to speak alongside of my amazing friend Campbell. He’s hilarious, talented, kind, energetic and did I mention hilarious? He was the MC to get everyone pumped up and man did he nail it. I was so grateful I could go through all of these emotions with him by my side. We would pump each other up before our speech, give each other support and encouragement and a massive hug once we’d finished! My bosses were our side stage wingmen and women who were there to snap some awesome pictures and to give moral support. And knowing that I had friends and family watching was such an amazing feeling. It’s all of these amazing people that you surround yourself with, who are going to encourage you to push your boundaries and support you.

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Campbell and I rocking the stage!

Lesson 4 – Balance is key!

During DDAYS, I would be at uni at about 7:30am until about 3:30. They were pretty big days that were high energy and concentration. It helped me realise that you have to listen to your body and what it’s telling you. Having such a crazy week really made me focus on getting a good nights sleep, eating healthily and taking some time out for myself to relax. By being aware of trying to balance these things, it really helped me be the best person I can be. Something I definitely need to be doing a lot more of.

Lesson 5 – Be true to yourself and proud of yourself.

The biggest lesson I learnt throughout this whole experience, is be true to yourself and be proud of what you believe in. As I was writing and preparing for my speech, I kept doubting myself, wondering if people would like it, if they would get it, or if it would be any good. And then I realised, this is my opinion, my experiences and my perspectives. Of course not everyone will relate to my experiences, but they might find my story interesting. And better yet, my perspectives may actually resonate with people listening or they may even find me inspiring. No matter what it is you’re setting out to do, if you stay true to who you are and what you love, you can’t really go wrong, and you may even spread some joy.

Being a keynote speaker is something I’m incredibly proud of. Getting the amazing opportunity to spread my ideas, experiences and perspectives has been a dream come true and I thank each and every one of you who support me with whatever it is I set out to do.

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Maps and Political Propaganda

Now that we’re challenging out preconceived ideas of a world map and the world itself, let’s shake it up further with this image.

McArthur's Universal Corrective Map http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/2/maps-cartographycolonialismnortheurocentricglobe.html
McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World
http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/2/maps-cartographycolonialismnortheurocentricglobe.html

One glance at this image our brain registers it is a world map, but why does it leave us with an uneasy and unsatisfied feeling? A simple act of flipping the world Mercator map that we’re all familiar with, not only makes us look twice but also challenges our perception of the world and  why we’ve come to accept a world map the way it is. I’m completely guilty of naively staring and accepting a world map as truth (Monmonier, 2014), studying borders, cities and routes, planning epic adventures… However, recently I’ve come to question if a seemingly innocent map of the world is really that innocent.

Maps are ‘used by powerful elites to satisfy their agenda’ (Evans, 2015),  and these agendas can influence ‘national pride, borders, conquests’ (Monmonier, 2014) and much more. Criticisms of the Mercator world map include its Eurocentrism and disproportionality of countries, which both contribute to a skewed vision of the world. It presents some countries like the United Kingdom and the United State of America as large, dominant and important as they are positioned the top left and middle of the map whereas other countries like Indonesia, Japan and even continental Africa as smaller and less significant due to their positioning underneath America and Europe.

University of Wollongong, biased?
University of Wollongong, biased?

Even a simple case study using the University of Wollongong as seen on Google Maps, demonstrates the relationship between wealth, power and dominance. This is the University where I study and I encourage you to search your university or home town to see which features are most prominent and question why that is so. Why is Panizzi and Out for Lunch but not the Yard or Rush? Why is the Materials Engineering, building 4 shown but not the Communications Centre or the Law Humanities and Arts building not? ‘We map what we want to see, not what is there’ (Evans, 2015).

Searching 'Israel' into Google Maps
Searching ‘Israel’ into Google Maps 2015

PalestineIsraelMap580
Israel/Palestine land from 1946-2000

On a more political note, the conflict between Israel and Palestine clearly demonstrates the use of maps to not only own and control land, but also relates to culture, history and it’s people being erased as well. The decrease of Palestinian land and growth of Israeli land is not purely about land ownership but is directly related colonial issues and political control when the British handed the land to Israel (M.S, 2010).

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‘Palestine’ according to Google Maps

In 2013, Google Maps changed ‘Palestinian territories’ to ‘Palestine,’ however, when typing ‘Palestine’ into Google Maps in 2015, this is the image produced. There is no distinct area that is labelled as ‘Palestine,’ which raises the question of political power and influence a company like Google Maps has over political control (Groll, 2013).

It is important to be aware of maps ability to lie to us and distort our image of the world, countries, ethnicities, nature and people and it is up to us to be vigilant in seeking answers.

Further Readings

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/2/maps-cartographycolonialismnortheurocentricglobe.html

References

Evans, N. 2015, Mapping the planet, BCM232, University of Wollongong, delivered 17 March 2015

Groll, E. 2013, ‘Israel isn’t happy about Google’s decision to recognise Palestine’, Foreign Policy: Passport, 3 May, accessed 18 March 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/03/israel-isnt-happy-about-googles-decision-to-recognize-palestine/?wp_login_redirect=0

Monmonier, M. 2014, ‘Maps for political propaganda’, How to lie with maps, University of Chicago Press, 10 December

M.S. 2010, ‘The map is not the territories’, The Economist, 14 March, accessed 18 March 2015, http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/03/israel_and_palestine_0

UOW Skydiving Club – Tandem Event 4

The UOW Skydiving Club held their 4th tandem event yesterday (19th November 2014) at Sydney Skydivers Picton dropzone. There were 7 nervous yet eager students from across the globe, ready to face their fears, conquer new heights and experience the rush of free falling. We left Northfields Avenue at the University of Wollongong at 10am and arrived at the dropzone by 10:30. Luckily, there weren’t many other people at the dropzone so things moved very quickly and efficiently. After filling out all required documentation, the group was suiting up, getting their photos taken and jumping on the plane.

The group and their instructors about to jump on the plane
The group and their instructors about to jump on the plane

Charles (the president of the UOW Skydiving Club) and I prepared the complimentary BBQ whilst staring up at the sky in search of our group. Soon enough, brightly coloured parachutes were popping through the clouds. Their smiles reached from ear to ear! Two students even went again straight afterwards! Talk about an adrenaline rush!

Coming in to land! The clouds were a perfect backdrop!
Coming in to land! The clouds were a perfect backdrop!

We returned to the University of Wollongong at approximately 1:30pm, but I think the silence coming from the back of the bus said that these courageous students had had enough excitement for one day!

If you’d like to find out more about the UOW Sydiving Club, check out their Facebook page here. 

Some students after they landed!
Some students after they landed!

The Things You REALLY Learn at University

University. That big scary thing that you’re expected to go to once you finish school and you want a good job. After deferring my university offer for my amazing Gap year in London, I was really torn between returning to Oz to go to that big scary place or stay in London. And tah-dah, I was university bound. This has honestly been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I had my time in London, and now it was time for something equally new and exciting. I’m nearly finished my first year of International Studies/Communication and Media Studies at the incredible University of Wollongong. This year I lived at a college, International House (iHouse) and learnt a lot more than just course content. So these are some of the things to expect when moving into a university college.

University of Wollongong!
University of Wollongong!

You’ll Learn to Love Goon (for those of you not in Australia, goon= cheap, cask wine) – Let’s get the alcoholic part get out of the way first. Us cheap uni students love a good bargain. And with a First Choice Liquor store about 500m away from your doorstep, cradling $12, 36 standard drinks goon… what choice do we really have? Unless you peaked on your eurotrip, then the hangovers just get worse and you start thinking ‘i’m getting too old for this shit.’ (How I Met Your Mother Reference).

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You learn your limits – O Week anyone? You go out a few times a week, spend a few too many days at the beach to suddenly realise that you’re absolutely hammered. And after a few too many hangovers you realise that maybe you should steer clear of tequila. Learning my limits is something I’ve been working on throughout the past two years, and regardless of how many times others tell you ‘don’t do that’ you will never really learn until you experience them for yourself. Which leads into my next point…

You learn about yourself – I know this is incredibly cheesy but hey, who doesn’t love a bit of cheese? You try new things like going to the gym, you learn new things like how to navigate around building 19, you meet new people from across the globe… you put all these pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, hoping they’ll fit together into the person you want to be. I’m always growing and learning, trying to become a better person and uni definitely helps you put the pieces together.

You can get involved in some pretty awesome stuff – This year, along with some friends of mine, we created the UOW Skydiving Club (I have some other posts here about it). There’s countless opportunities to volunteer, become an activist, help, donate, support towards everything! It’s a great way to meet new and like minded people but also work on things your passionate about and help create positive change in the world.

Singing petitions at uni - Don't Risk the Reef
Singing petitions at uni – Don’t Risk the Reef

You learn how to balance – Literally! I’ve been going to yoga classes regularly for about 3 months and it’s INCREDIBLE!!! I walk out feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, free and like I can accomplish anything. Definitely the best stress relief! And also figuratively balance. At uni you’ve got so many things going on; actual uni work, social life, keeping fit and healthy, watching latest episodes of Walking Dead, sleeping, relaxing, beaching… sometimes it can be a challenge to manage it all. I must admit, sometimes I spend too much time doing all of my assignments being a good uni student and not enough time outside at the beach (OK you got me, I’m always at the beach), but if you surround yourself with like minded people who are as determined to succeed in many aspects like you, you can do it! Making timetables, reducing time on Facebook and monitoring how much time you spend streaming can help you stay organised.

You learn how to become an owl – Literally. You become a little bit older, a little bit wiser and if you go to sleep before midnight and wake up in time for breakfast at 10am… it’s officially a miracle.

You suddenly acquire some really nice clothes – At college this year we’ve had 6 formal-ish events involving open bars and getting dressed up. And of course it calls for a new outfit each time right! And open bar!!! No more goon for a night!

Friends and I on the iHouse Sydney Harbour Cruise!
Friends and I (the far left) on the iHouse Sydney Harbour Cruise!

You’re going to meet people from across the globe – Literally from EVERYWHERE! We even had an Icelandic exchange student here! You learn so much about different cultures and might even find a French boyfriend to help you with your French grammar 😉

You make some pretty amazing friendships – And this is where I get all sentimental but everyone I’ve met at college/uni this year are truly inspiring, unique and driven people. I’m so glad to have you in my life, if we stay friends for this year, the next 3 years or the next 20 years, you’re each as special and dear to me.

So…. first year (nearly) down, 3.5 to go. It’s been a pretty exciting and crazy ride however if this year is anything to go by, I eagerly look forward to it!

xxx A

Some more friends at another fancy event (I'm in the pink dress)
Some more friends at another fancy event (I’m in the pink dress)