Students making the most of U21 opportunities

14 September 2012
Students from the University of Queensland give just one example of how U21 opportunities have really broadened their horizons!

Ten University of Queensland undergraduate students have recently returned from Universitas 21 events in Guatemala, Mexico and Japan.

The students collaborated with students from around the world to discuss global environmental, social and economic challenges.

The three event, the U21 Summer School, Undergraduate Research Conference and a new Social Entrepreneurship programme, were hosted by institutions in the U21 network and the UQ students, like students from across U21, represented a broad range of disciplines, from engineering to health sciences, economics, and languages.

Clare Anderson, who is currently studying International Business and Spanish at UQ, was one of 12 students to participate in the new U21 Social Entrepreneur Corps programme in Antigua, Guatemala.

Ms Anderson said the programme, which combined development field work, intensive Spanish instruction, and courses in social entrepreneurship, Guatemalan politics, and culture, allowed her to apply her university knowledge in the not-for-profit sector. She said “I was able to learn a great deal about social ventures and gain an insider perspective on these topics, which gave me a much broader perspective than one based on academic readings alone.  Micro-consignment gives people in rural communities access to life-improving products such as water filters, reading glasses and solar lamps.  When I finally worked up the courage and was able to correctly examine and match glasses to someone who then bought them, it was an amazing experience. It was gratifying knowing that I had just helped someone be able to see again."

Michael Twycross received a UQ scholarship to attend the recent U21 Summer School in Mexico.
In Australia, we are somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, so to go overseas and experiences different cultures and meet new people is invaluable," Mr Twycross said. “It gives you a different perspective on everything, the friends you make will last a lifetime,” he said.

Mr Twycross, who is currently studying Engineering and Arts, said he was keen to participate in as many global experiences as possible. Later this year, he will swap Spanish lessons for Chinese when he travels to Taiwan to further develop his Chinese language skills.

Meanwhile, Abbey Mawby attended the Undergraduate Research Conference hosted by Waseda University in July.  Commenting on her return to Australia, she said "For too long, the words 'your study' have denoted something very specific - a particular area of knowledge sharply cut off at either end by the concept of a 'discipline'. Looking down over the sprawl of lights that is Tokyo, outside the aeroplane window, the day after the U21 Research Conference had drawn to a close, I couldn't help thinking that we had been rewarded with a glimpse into the future of learning. My research, which was focused on international human rights law, was challenged and enhanced in the most colourful and exotic ways through perspectives coming from anthropology, sociology, biology - fresh perspectives were offered by physicists, new questions asked by mathematicians. Where else had such a unique setting been created, if ever before? Interdisciplinary, intercultural, and passionate are three words that immediately spring to mind. Especially passionate. Nothing about the whole week was dull - my knowledge was improved, but more importantly, so was my intelligence. So whilst the U21 Research Conference enhanced my study, it did much more; it made me question the traditional model of 'study' as a whole. I am convinced that the separation barriers between disciplines are dangerous - they should be quelled, and it is events such as the U21 URC that are pioneering this realisation.

Dr Jessica Gallagher, Acting Director of OUE, said strategic global partnerships like U21 were an important tool in assisting UQ to help students gain access to international experiences, realise their potential and make a meaningful impact across the world.

Increasing student mobility has been one of the U21 success stories and we strongly encourage UQ students to apply to participate in future U21 events,” she said.


Georgia Mitchell
University of Queensland



We would love to hear from anyone else who has been involved in a U21 activity...!