Students are addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges in-country with support from business, government and community groups alike.
Gemma Crosby is passionate about sustainability. But the science and global studies student says she had often questioned whether achieving sustainable development on a broad scale was possible.
That changed after she took part in the Monash Global Immersion Guarantee (GIG) program – an endeavour funded by government and generous business and community donors. While working in India on a project converting waste to biogas, Gemma realised that efforts underway at a local level around the world could make a collective difference.
“To be immersed in Mumbai, we got a contextual understanding. We met so many people acting on the issues, which was so different to studying it back in university where you can be a bit detached,” she says.
Gemma’s reaction is typical of students who take part in GIG, many of whom have never before been overseas, says program manager Dr Bodean Hedwards. It allows students to work on real-world issues in context and connect across cultures, gaining an insight into common global challenges.
It also equips them with skills and contacts to make a greater impact in the longer term.
“It’s about experiential learning and the change that happens, personally, in terms of their world view and in the way they see themselves – and the impact they can have is quite significant,” Bodean says.
This summer, more than 560 students completed two-week GIG placements in China, India, Italy, Malaysia and Indonesia, where Monash University has its own campuses or partner institutions.
“Students get a firsthand understanding of the reality and complexity of what it means to address these issues at the local level,” says Bodean. “And regardless of what career they pursue, they are likely to work globally, so they need those skills and experience in intercultural awareness.”
They also develop specific skills and knowledge that will enable them to contribute directly to the work of local agencies, looking at issues such as safer public transport and waste management.
“In terms of sustainable development, it’s important to have that globally minded perspective and intercultural competency if we are going to make a difference and get work done,” Gemma says.
Creating global citizens
Inspired by GIG, Gemma has just completed an internship with the Centre for Environmental Research and Education in Mumbai, designing and delivering education programs around renewable energy in schools that are fitted with solar panels. She’s one of several GIG students who have returned overseas for further work with partner agencies. This, says Bodean, is part of a conscious effort to maintain long-term relationships with international partners – providing both in-country benefits and development pathways for students.
These are benefits recognised by the Australian Government, which has provided $4 million for the GIG program’s work through its New Colombo Plan. This ‘soft diplomacy’ links international education and foreign policy by supporting a regionally literate graduate workforce with the ability to engage long term, says Bodean.
“And that goes to the heart of the GIG program in that it helps students understand their position in our regional, bilateral relationships, and signals to these countries that Australia wants to invest with them.”
Along with support from a number of donors, the transformational GIG study program will continue to evolve in each country and be available to students regardless of their financial means.
This commitment to social equity reaps many rewards, says Bodean. “When students from different disciplinary, cultural, social and political backgrounds work together, responding to these challenges with new ideas – that’s where the magic happens.”
What is the Monash Arts Global Immersion Guarantee (GIG)?
Under GIG, students are funded to go to India, Indonesia, Italy, China or Malaysia for two weeks, where they learn directly from local leaders, non-government organisations, businesses, social enterprises, youth groups and sporting clubs. They witness innovative solutions to major global issues such as urban development and environmental sustainability.
GIG is open to all Monash students in the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Global Studies and related double degrees at the end of their first year. Find out more about GIG.
To find out more about helping students to become global citizens, contact Lisa Mitchell at email@example.com.
Thank you to the following for helping to mobilise a generation of graduates to build important regional and global relationships.
- Air China
- Asia Pacific Capital
- Australia China Agribusiness Association
- Australia China Exhibition
- Australia China Innovation Centre (ACIC)
- Australia Golden Fortune Sci-Tech Innovation Alliance (AGSIA)
- Australian Wine Legend Group
- Bodhi Foundation
- Dainty Business
- Global Business College of Australia
- Laurel International
- Lake Cooper Estate
Words: Melissa Marino