When I initially signed up for an Australian Study Abroad, I never would have expected to be experiencing the outback from America. This pandemic has changed a lot of things including the way we utilize technology to connect globally. Going into this study abroad, I expected to be learning about a country that was essentially America on the other side of the globe, but what I discovered was the countless differences that separates us from them. The biggest difference was the way the governments handled the pandemic. Australia is practically back to everyday life, while America still has to be extremely cautious. The two governments have very different tactics which completely changes how people in their respective countries live their day-to-day lives. Australians were easily able to stay at home with grocery stores being their only source of food, because so many of them are used to cooking daily, while many Americans are more likely to go to a restaurant or fast food establishment.
This may in part be caused by how businesses operate in the two countries. Australian businesses place a huge emphasis on leisure time, and typically have a shorter work day than in America. This in part may influence the food choices people make, because Americans have, on average, less free time to spend cooking for themselves or with family. I have always been fascinated by Australia and how they compare to the US, and being able to experience this study abroad virtually has helped me understand it even more. Australian people put a lot of emphasis on family, spiritual and physical health, and leisure time, while many Americans have grown accustomed to putting their jobs first. Though it would have been nice to get to experience the beauty of the country in person, being able to experience through Zoom was an incredible option given our circumstances. This also leaves room for the possibility of more virtual experiences in the future for those that either do not have the time to go abroad or cannot afford the high fees, and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to experience another place without leaving their own backyard.
Although I was not able to physically travel abroad to Australia, CIBS and Professor Sanders did an amazing job at bringing Australia to Wehner! Going into this class, I thought the US and Australia were relatively similar in their cultures, but it became obvious very fast that I was mistaken. One of the biggest differences is how devoted to sustainability the Aussie nation is, both in their personal and corporate lives. They have the highest recycling rate in the world and are continuously implementing new strategies on how to preserve the habitat of their exquisitely native species as well as the homes of their native aboriginals. Businesses within Australia show the same incentive of protecting their nation by centering their actions around the relatively new Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report allowing them to not only be financially sustainable but socially as well.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic only enhanced Australia’s dedication to providing a safe haven for its citizens. Last March, Australia immediately went into a nationwide lockdown closing its borders to foreigners after seeing the outbreak in neighboring countries. While this allowed for them to have a death rate four times less than the average global rate, it has put a strain on their businesses and economy.
We were given the opportunity to get an inside look as to what this entailed during our Q&A with Civeo, an Australian mining company. In our discussion with Lesley, one of the HR managers, emphasis was put on how the lockdown has strained Australia’s workforce due to a lack of mobility. This was especially detrimental to Civeo as most of their employees travel all over the continent and world for their job. The shortage of staff led to an increase in mental health and wellness issues for the workers who could continue to fulfill their duties as they felt the pressure to maintain the company’s normal workload. However, Civeo has been quick to implement strategies that are helping to resolve this issue such as establishing A and B teams- something that might be sticking around permanently now.
In reflection on our activities and the interactions we had with Aussies via zoom, I think it can be easily said that the ordinary Aussie life in comparison to the US is a more stable and well-rounded one. Whether it’s because 80% of the population lives near the beach or everyone calls one another “mate”, Aussies are by far some of the most relaxed, genuine, and down to earth people one may ever meet.
When we came to the realization that we wouldn’t be able to travel to Australia for the study abroad, I was devastated. I thought there was no way we would be able to get even close to experiencing the culture and the business practices from halfway around the world, but I was wrong. Mrs. Sanders and CIBS went above and beyond to create a wonderful virtual study abroad.
Throughout my research into Australia, the student presentations, and all of the virtual cultural events, I have learned so much about how the U.S. and Australia differ and what makes Australia special. Australia as a whole is similar to the U.S. in a lot of ways but it is also very different. A common theme that I saw throughout all the events is that Australians love to be outside and enjoy nature. Whether it is just getting outside and enjoying the city or spending time at the beach or how the Aboriginals are so intertwined with the land, Australia really cherishes the outdoors. This idea transcends into how Australians tend to view things. They tend to be much more relaxed about things than Americans. I found it really interesting to see how that plays into business in Australia. People tend to have more solid boundaries and respect for time. You won’t see as many people putting in 60-70 hour work weeks, like you do in America. They structure their tasks to fit within their typical work week and then they log off. They value family time and personal time and I found it really cool to see how that balances out in the business world. Americans tend to work to the bone, putting in long weeks and not always prioritizing things outside of work. This is really quite the opposite of how Australians conduct business.
I think my favorite cultural experience that we got to take part in was the Aboriginal art class. I did a bunch of research on the Aboriginal culture for my presentation so it was really cool to get to talk to an Aboriginal person and hear about his art. Aboriginal art is so different that western art and I really enjoyed challenging myself to create an art piece in the Aboriginal style as opposed to what I am used to. Aboriginals are really inspired by nature and looking at things from an aerial view. I was really inspired by the examples of art that they shared during the presentation and found it very useful for getting into the correct mindset for the art style.
I would say that overall my initial impression of Australia was very accurate. From our virtual experiences, everyone was very kind, positive and knowledgeable about their country. I had the impression that Australia was full of hard working, polite, and upbeat people and that proved true. Australia truly is a beautiful country and I hope to get to visit one day.
The first takeaway that I have or thing that I learned from the entire virtual experience would be just how unique Australia is in terms of land and animals. The land of Australia is very diverse from the outback to the coast and it is home to so many different animals, many who you can only find in Australia. The second thing I learned is how successful Australia was at handling COVID. While it means that we cannot travel to Australia as Americans, Australia has virtually returned to normal life. Australia made the decision to close its borders very early, but it saved them from experiencing a ton of losses due to COVID. COVID had a large effect on the tourism industry but it has also encouraged Australians to travel to different parts of Australia. The third thing I learned was that America and Australia are very similar in the way that their governments are structured. Both countries have a federal government and local governments and these branches handle things very similarly. They do differ in that Australia is a monarchy, so they do have a Queen.
Overall, this virtual experience has been so special and incredible. While I do hope to be able to travel to Australia in the near future to get to experience the culture and sights in person, this virtual study abroad has been the next best thing, especially in the world of COVID.
Here is a picture from our virtual Zoo visit! We got to see so many cool animals, many of whom are unique to Australia. Rob and Sharni, our guides, were so knowledgeable and I could tell how much they love the animals they get to work with.
Here is a picture of the art I created during the Aboriginal art class. It is an aerial view of the lake my family went to every summer growing up. My dad also went there in the summers when he was a kid. It is Gull Lake in Minnesota.
Throughout the week of our virtual experiences in Australia I often found myself saying to my roommates or anyone who would listen, “Did you know that in Australia….?”. So, it would only be fitting if I shared a few of my favorite “did you know” facts with you. Did you know that in Australia you do not tip your waiters/waitresses? Did you know that in Australia taxes are already included in the price that is listed so there will not be tax added on when checking out? Did you know that 80% of Australia’s animals are completely unique to Australia? All of these facts were things I had no idea about before learning more about Australia.
Originally, I thought Australia was nothing more than an island with a famous bridge, opera house, and some zoos. I have come to learn that there is much more to Australia than these few things. For instance, I learned that the culture of the people who first inhabited Australia, the aboriginals, is still very present there today. Something else I learned is that Australians love to cook anything and everything on the barbie (barbeque). These are just a few of the things I would never have thought of if it were not for my virtual experience.
Lastly, the pictures I chose to post are from two of my favorite nights “in Australia”. The first one is a picture of our class with a Kangaroo at the Rainforestation Wildlife Park. I really enjoyed seeing all the different animals they had at the zoo, especially the ones that are only found in Australia. The second picture is of our class standing in front of the Sydney opera house. Sydney was such a beautiful city and it was fun to learn about some of its history. Overall, getting to visit Australia was really fun and I learned so many things about Australia that I never knew.
One of the best parts of going abroad, wherever that may be, is experiencing the culture. Even if the countries appear to be similar at first glance, there will always be something that differentiates them. The pandemic has taken away the ability to experience these differences in person, but the virtual trip to Australia still highlighted some of these differences. From class presentations and our virtual cultural visits, I learned that the differences between Australian and American culture range from the food and how it is cooked to living a more laid-back lifestyle. As we experienced in our cooking class, Australians grill everything, even breakfast! The food tends to be healthier and more organic as well. On a broader level, Australians are more laid-back and do not have the go-go-go culture we have adopted here in America. This translates into conducting business in Australia as well. Businesses tend to be less concerned with hierarchies than in the United States. As we learned from Justin Maynard, who used to work in Australia, partners at the Big Four were likely to work alongside you and not use their title in the way it is often used in the United States. Finally, despite the laid-back culture, the timeline set for projects tends to be firm. Even if you must make the timeline longer than you would in the United States, this timeline is followed.
Before this course, whenever I thought of Australia, I mainly thought of the wildlife and Great Barrier Reef. While both are vital to Australia, there is so much more to the country. The pride Australians have in their country is evident to anyone you talk to. They are not only proud of their way of life, but their background as well. The respect they have for the Aboriginals is incredible to see and highlights the unique culture. While some of my initial impressions were accurate, learning about other aspects of Australia has deepened my understanding of the country. It has only increased my desire to travel there, hopefully in the near future. While I am sad that the trip was canceled due to COVID-19, I am grateful for the experiences we were able to have virtually. Australia is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture that I look forward to experiencing in person one day. Three things I learned/takeaways I had from this experience are: you can grill anything, even your breakfast; despite the impact of COVID-19, Australians responded quickly, meaning they will be a country others look to as worldwide recovery takes place; and while a virtual experience is no substitute for a live experience, it allowed us to experience a glimpse of Australia.
Photos: Group photo from zoo visit and picture of Wren and I trying vegemite.
Honestly, when I signed up for an Australia study abroad, I did not know what to expect. When I thought of Australia, the first thing that always came to mind was the Sydney Opera House; however, even a virtual trip opened my eyes to such much more to what Australia has to offer. My highlights of the virtual trip were getting to Zoom a family, the Taskers, as part of research for Australia culture; the cooking class, where we learned how to barbeque prawns; and the city tours around Cairns and Sydney. Something that stuck out to me was the preconceived notion that a lot of people read about Australians having a more laid back or lazy attitude, but I think the Taskers articulated it just right. Living near the beach, people will tend to be more relaxed; however, even on the city tours we were able to see people up bright and early going to work, and everyone we met with during the trip was putting in a lot of hard work to host their first virtual cooking class, tour, etc.
Despite COVIDs’ effect across the world and while tourism may have been greatly affected, the government in Australia has done wonders to make sure their economy continues to grow. Even our yoga instructor talked about how in this age of technology, so many people are willing to video conference to enjoy yoga taught by anyone around the world. Even though we weren’t able to take the trip in person the way we had all wanted to, I am grateful for the experience and the takeaways it gave me to prepare myself for when I do take my own trip to Australia in the future. I learned not only how to use the barbeques on the beaches to make shrimp, but also how to clean them. I learned the cost of living and prices in general are much more than here in the United States. I learned about the aboriginals of Australia and gained a lot of knowledge about the culture of Australia that I do not think I would have received on my own.
Some big cultural differences between the U.S. and Australia were how they handled the COVID situation, their outlook on work-life balance, and how involved they are with environmental issues. To begin with, many have heard repeatedly how advanced Australia is in nipping out the COVID-19 virus. They shut down their international borders early, had strict and mandatory stay-in-place procedures, and any outbreaks that did occur, did not last very long. Through my own research, Australia is one of the leading nations in economic growth post-pandemic. The country also had very few COVID deaths, something that I thought would have been substantially higher like the U.S.
Going into the course, I was unaware how well Australia had been doing during the pandemic. I was also shocked at other factors I did not know about the country, such as the huge housing market bubble in the metroplex areas. Some sources, I found, stated that the housing market was a ‘boom’ while others stated it was a ‘bubble’ waiting to pop. Australia has some of the most expensive housing in the world, putting the United States rent to shame.
Another aspect I learned about Australia was their view on work-life balance. We had a presentation where a family from Australia stated that the country is very family oriented. Maternity leave in Australia is up to 18 weeks paid while the United States has little to no pay and 12 weeks. The family also stated how friendly the community is around them and how that had helped during the pandemic.
Lastly, Australia has come to terms with their own environmental issues. The aboriginal people have become more prevalent in society and the Australian government has over the years begun the reconciliation with these peoples and their land. Australian society is now starting to see that it is not just humankind taking whatever in sight, but that the land is connected to humankind. We must protect nature at all costs, and it was nice to see how Australia is escalating in cultural and environmental protection policies.
In the end, there were three other takeaways I came across from my peers’ presentation about Australia. First and foremost, Australia does not have a lot of fast-food restaurants. If they do, it is pretty expensive to dine there. The reason behind this is because Australia is a very healthy country, meaning that most people cook at home or have fresh food at restaurants. Next, Australia is the smallest continent and largest island – the sixth largest country by land area. Lastly, Australia is home to thousands of native species of animal and plants not found anywhere else in the world. Nonetheless, some of my favorite moments included cooking traditional shrimp on the barbie and visiting the zoo virtually. Attached are some pictures from both!
Juliet the wombat! She was the cutest animal from the zoo visit in my opinion 😊
This virtual study abroad program exposed me to several cultural differences present between the United States and Australia. One of the more apparent differences is variance in the food palette. Many diet options in Australia are healthier and include more vegetables. More variations include the lack of fast food options and how expensive the cost of living is there. These distinctions make Australia’s cultural environment unique and distinct from other western countries.
I learned about how business is conducted in Australia and how it varies from the business environment in the United States. There is a difference in approach to work-life balance, with there being more time spent with the family and not working. Businesses address these social pressures by keeping the working week within their 38-hour work weeks and not surpassing it. It was also interesting to learn about Australia’s unique business environment companies have to function in while the country’s international borders are closed. This is especially true in the tourism industry, where native Australian’s are ‘discovering their own backyard’ due to only being able to vacation within the country.
I always assumed Australia had a very similar environment and lifestyle to other western countries such as the United States. But due to its location and unique history, Australia boasts its own novel culture. Americans and Europeans unintentionally overlook Australia with it being across the world; however, the country flourishes with a strong economy and acts as an influential figure in the Asia-Pacific. It’s essential not to forget the country’s pivotal role in the area it operates in.
In addition to all of the above information, I also learned about some interesting facts from my classmates’ presentations. The most significant difference that surprised me was that kids in Australia have year-round school. I assumed that school systems followed a similar schedule to the United States one, but clearly, that assumption was incorrect. I also learned that although they were the first people to inhabit Australia, the aboriginal people only make up three percent of the population. Also, I discovered that Holland imports tulips from Tasmania and that Tasmania have the cleanest air in the world.
While the virtual aspect of this study abroad was undoubtedly different from what I initially anticipated my experience would be, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned from this unique cultural exposure experience. If the choice between a virtual study abroad and taking another international credit arises, I would recommend engaging in the virtual experience. I learned about many different areas regarding Australia in both business and culture, and I believe I have grown and widened my sustainability lens from this experience.