Transport study trip offers rich opportunity for cultural learning and exchange

Transport study trip cultural learning and exchange

There’s little doubt that overseas travel offers one of life’s most valuable learning experiences, with eyes opened and minds enriched with every new encounter.  Thanks in part to the New Colombo Plan, students undertaking a Transport Planning unit as part of their civil engineering undergraduate degree had the opportunity to undertake an intensive study tour in Asia in the middle of the year. They were able to experience world leading transport systems and see the impacts of innovative policies, while also reaping the personal benefits of rich cultural learning and exchange.

The New Colombo Plan is an Australian Government initiative that aims to increase knowledge and connections across the Indo-Pacific by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.  Our Transport Planning students were supported with partial scholarships that contributed to covering the costs of the tour.

Three students, Charlotte, Tyler and Georgina, share their insights and reflections on the experience.

Charlotte Hawkins (Bachelor of Engineering – Civil and Bachelor of Commerce)

I had an amazing time on the Transport Planning International Study Tour.

Starting in Singapore was a great way to get used to taking public transport overseas, and also provided plenty of inspiration for how Melbourne’s public transport could be improved through planning.  Since transport planning has been a priority in Singapore, they have little reliance on private vehicle ownership and an enviable metro system from the perspective of a Melburnian.

Being able to experience what we learnt about in the classroom first hand in each city we visited, really made the information stick and helped our skills to develop.

Before going on this tour, I would not have considered working in Asia, but now I realise the extent of the opportunities that exist in cities that are developing at a more rapid pace than Australia is currently.

My favourite part of the tour was the friendships formed with other students and staff. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to complete a subject abroad in an intensive time, however it was definitely more fun than it was intense.

Tyler O’Hare (Bachelor of Engineering – Civil)

When we took off in late June, destined for Asia, little was known as to what the inaugural Transport Planning International Study Tour had in store for us. However, three weeks later, as we said our farewells in Suzhou, myself and the 20 other students left with a greater understanding of transport planning, a depth of knowledge enhanced by our experiences and friendships born out of sharing the last 21 days with each other.

While on this study tour, I learned how hands-on learning is really beneficial in consolidating knowledge taught in a short period of time. The activities we completed, the locations we visited and the professionals we met all helped us to better understand and process the course content. It’s amazing to think I’ve come away with a far greater understanding of transport planning in only three weeks.

Along with all the learning, we had some fantastic experiences on the tour. A personal highlight was meeting and spending time with the local Monash Suzhou Masters of Transportation Systems students.

Over a dinner feast, we compared how our lives differed across the two countries, discussed transport solutions in modern cities and even enjoyed a chopstick lesson. The local students were also kind enough to spend the following day giving us a tour of their city, Suzhou, and providing insight into how the town is planning for future demand.

Georgina McMenamin (Bachelor of Engineering – Civil and Bachelor of Law)

For me, the most significant takeaway would have to be the importance of transport planning in society. I obviously understood that it was a substantial aspect in ensuring a functioning and well-serviced city, however I had a very limited understanding that it goes beyond the infrastructure required for the smooth and effective movement of goods and people.

Now, I can better appreciate that it extends to the likes of sustainability and a city’s identity, rather than simply mobility. As a visual learner who likes to see the information I need to process, having the opportunity to be involved in such a program was of great benefit to my learning.

Being able to explore China – Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing - was probably the most enjoyable part of the trip. Whilst Beijing was not a part of the tour itself, the trip gave me the opportunity to travel here with some newly made friends.

A real highlight for me was the visit to the Great Wall of China. The fact that it was overly humid, and incredibly smoggy, did not take away from the breathtaking views and history this beauty had to offer. It was certainly a part of the world that I hadn’t really considered travelling to prior to the trip; the study tour allowed me to expand my horizons in this sense, take me out of my comfort zone, and experience a part of the world quite like no other.

Read a snapshot from the trip written by intrepid tour leader and Head of Transport Engineering Professor Geoff Rose.

Find out more about the New Colombo Plan.