Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Open 'Lies' in China

- Post is unfinished as of 6/6/2016-

I just came back from a week long travel experience with Macquarie International, my current workplace and pride of my tertiary education experience in recent memory.

And it has proven to me at the very least, the huge disparity between what international student's think they are getting with an offer from this university, (sometimes having sunk what is the equivalent of what is typically a year's salary in China) to send their children off to an institution, filling them with hopes and dreams of an fruitful, eye opening and expansive educational experience.

This isn't to say that it is a bad experience, but there are some huge marketing tricks (I would shy away from the term lie) that simply dupe so many students every year into walking through our doors.

1. Friendships experience (Social setting and adaptability)

2. English language proficiency

3. Ability to find jobs and work experience

In my case I have been incredibly fortunate to have experienced some of the best experiences this university has to offer. 1. student groups. 2. short term exchange 3. international projects 4.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Team Australia!

This post is unfinished as of 23/04/16

 Seeing how the country you were born and raised in is seen through the lens of the international community is occasional a sobering experience. It may shine a light on our problems that other nations may have solved in parallel years ago, while simultaneously presenting waves of gratitude wash over as you truly begin to recognise how lucky you are with the opportunities and circumstances you have been afforded with as a citizen.

 My experience however, was one of confusion followed almost immediately by one of annoyance. The narratives told to our international neighbours and the narrative told domestically were almost at complete odds with each other. Were we talking about the same bloody country? Let me explain.

 I’ll start off with something intrinsically legal: Government regulation. The story I hear commonly is that government regulation inhibits businesses from doing their jobs properly, imposes arbitrary standards on our food production, manufacturing and services sector. There is validity to this, with privatisation of our banks freeing our financial sector to strengthen to today’s levels. 

 But the Australian story in China trumpets our strong and effective regulations. In a country where  systemic poor food handling practices leads to routine outbreaks of poisonous or dangerous foods, doing business in Australia is an iron-clad guarantee that our banks will not collapse, our food will arrive un-spoilt and that our loans and dues are backed up by the enforcement of the government.

 Secondly, our track record on clean energy is ironically raised. Glossy magazines of the wind-farms our current ambassador to the US called a “blight to the landscape” emphasise the strength and innovation of the Australian energies sector. Indeed at one point we were leading the world in photovoltaic technologies, cut budgets and lack of public support has unfortunately left this in the dust.

 Thirdly, we sell ourselves as providers of a world-class education at a more value-for-money price range than our British or American counterparts.

 Little do they know that our high schools have been getting their money siphoned off into private schools, deregulation of our university fees have been at the heart of our 

 STRONG REGULATORY LAWS

 PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT

 WORLD CLASS EDUCATION SYSTEM

 INNOVATION

 Finally I want to address an issue close to home: Innovation. For the past 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to work part-time for what in my view is one of the world’s most innovative technologies. Once, I bumped into the founder of Google maps at work, and have witnessed some of the greatest technological minds speak at our training summits in the Google Pyrmont office. But this level of innovation is not indicative of Australia, and we are notoriously known overseas for taking the American stance of labelling Chinese innovation as an oxymoron: Isn’t that just a nation of copycats in the wild west of copyright protection and enforcement?

 In fact, chinese innovation has not grown and developed itself into this powerhouse despite its weak copyright laws. Rather, its historically weak legal structure has contributed to one of the world’s fastest growing industries in a national context, and it is apparent that the ever-important rule of law is fast catching up to be able to meet the contractual obligations to do business overseas: an ideal very much eyed by the Communist Party.

 Indeed, Australia has always pitched itself as an innovative country. In many ways we are; our citizens invented the notebook, the CSIRO invented plastic sheet banknotes, Aero-guard and WiFi (in conjunction with Macquarie University of course) and Google maps was invented and continues to be maintained in-house by a couple Sydney based software engineers.

 But as our government continues to sap money away from one of Australia’s most effective commonwealth bodies, a body that has contributed to the world in wireless technology and financial transaction regulations untold ways, it is not only Australia who loses in prestige and attracted royalties, humanity loses in lost innovation.

 Ultimately, this is a long list to digest and is inevitably interwoven with my own political views, despite my experience in working at what should be an intrinsically non-partisan arm of the government. But I do espouse this: That our key strengths, indeed what qualities huge populations abroad see Australia as, is slowly and purposefully being dismantled by this and the previous administration’s government. I am afraid that many things that we should be holding proud today may not exist given current trajectory. 

In my personal capacity, I hope change comes around sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

That One Time at Law Camp

Oh, to be in first year again. I can certainly tell you what was like in back in my old days. Getting shit-faced, making out with some random girl with an interest in politics and spending the entirety of the second day trying to stave away boredom as 200 odd students try to fit into a kayak and lake. Honestly, most of us were just biding our time to get drunk for the second night in a row.

 But of course, things look slightly different when you’re in the party organising things, especially when you aren’t allowed to drink a sip of alcohol. The students look vulnerable for what they are, lonely individuals looking to fit into a group of people who exist within a bubble of being so-called genuises of their generation (or whatever prestige a law degree carries these days anyway). They dance awkwardly, drink a little too much, over-compliment and smile just to find some sort of reciprocal from you as a respondent. On my part my core is still shy so I didn't befriend many other people either, but I guess I'm not so into that sort of thing at my age anymore anyway/

 Looking at the event on a logitical level, with this level of planning that goes into all the events throughout the day and evening, I truly have to tip my hat off to MT and MB for booking such a fun place to go to, the interesting tests of co-ordination and skill in the micro-challenges overseen by the executive, and of course ensuring that enough alcohol was present to give everyone involved a healthy buzz throughout the weekend.

On a completely different note, I’ve caught a bad case of feelings for someone. She looks a bit like an elf, or a pixy,  or some sort of fantastical creature with an equally fantastical level of grace and charm. Well, grace might not be the most appropriate word, but she will make the most senile, racist, old, conservative man with his lips puckered sucking on a sour warhead candy, laugh and melt a little bit inside. At least I melted on a few occasions, anyway.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

New Asia

This post is unfinished as of 30/1/16

I am in the middle of some of the best months of my life. These days I know I will look back with fond nostalgia. Waking up everyday with a smile and fervour to learn new things about my home country and its relationship (both diplomatic and economic) in the country you've set foot in. Interacting every day with genuinely friendly faces at security, friendly faces at work and friendly faces at lunch to open up your mind and to do so to others on different social and business settings.

 I am in Guangzhou, China right now and I am having the time of my life.

 For many in my generation, our career prospects are not always the brightest. We have three main things weighing down our hopes and dreams.

 1. Automation

This will undoubtedly be one of the issues that will affect the next generation the most, automation is set to replace a whole suite of entry level and mid-tier jobs in our future. Industries such as basic hospitality, fast food, accounting and even basic legal services have been flagged for complete and utter destruction in the years to come. With entry level jobs being the first of the many rungs on the ladder of career progression, this important first step may increasingly be more and more difficult to climb for young people across the world.

 2. Financial Crisis

Contrary to what you hear so frequently from the corporate media, global tremors in financial markets have actually been quite a recent thing. Based on my limited knowledge of economic history, the only truly global financial crisies have been the Great Depression (caused by a gross over-valuation of various American stocks) and the Asian Financial crisis (caused by bubbles resulting from the rapid, unsustainable growth experienced by East Asian countries such as post-war Japan and South Korea. 

 But the GFC was acutely felt by us. Millions of dollars wiped from the share-market, pensions, retirement hodings, property value and most importantly: jobs, were wiped out in a few short months. My dad was not immune, and he was subsequently let go from Leighton, one of Australia's premier civil engineering companies. 

 The bad news is that there almost inevitably will be another crisis. The writing is on the wall, as a global community we failed to address the systemic causes of the banking crash and the greedy, corrupt practices that toppled the first dominoes certainly exist today. 
 3. International Competition

Looking around Guangzhou, there are million of people in this city (15 to be precise). Many of them young, hungry, and most importantly: increasingly able to speak English. The one advantage that we in the West have in being able to freely communicate in what is essentially the world standard of languages has so far been quite effective in keeping our economies and industries stable. But one day, China and India will be set to be the worlds first and second most populated English speaking countries in the world. We can start to see the beginnings of this process already. Jobs in the manufacturing and technology sector have increasingly been shipped offshore in favour of cheaper, more skilled and enthusiastic workers abroad. Again, this won't affect our generation nearly as much but remains as a concern 

 It is with all of these considerations raised that I recognise that I am truly lucky to have found what I feel is my actual passion and path to achieve it so early on. 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Where is my hoverboard?

2015. Twenty fifteen. Two-thousand fifteen. However way you say it, it sounds like this year still remains somewhere in a far flung future. In fact, there was a running joke based on a particular scene in the 1987 film Back to the Future, where the listed date (the 25th of October), was the day that Marty McFly managed to take a peek into the future. And what a future it was, filled with hovercars, self-lacing shoes and the wackiest clothing one has ever seen. In many ways this was a year of unfulfilled expectations of a grand future, but in other ways

 But alas, the day is here. 2015 will soon be no more, and what was the future will now be the past. It reminds me of a quote by one of my favourite American stand-up comedians; George Carlin; “There is no such thing as the present. There is only the past and the immediate future”. In many ways this senile old man speaks the truth.What does it mean to actually be in the "present"? To feel your surroundings a little better? To appreciate the warmth, happiness, excitement and boredom around you? I don't know the answer to this question just yet and perhaps I never will.

Random digressions aside, I thought I would structure this post a little differently from my other end of year reflections. Instead of a flowing narrative, I've opted to create a rather disjointed list of positives and negatives, achieved and missed opportunities for the year.

Relationships

Every year of my university life seems to get better and better in virtually all facets of my life. My career horizons have expanded, the friendships I have developed age and mature, my appreciation of my surroundings and family and strengthened, I feel like my knowledge of world issues has increased through exposure and travel, and I have actually begun to enjoy some of the law electives and things I have studied at university.

 That said, 2015 is the first year since I started university almost half a decade ago where I haven't dated someone. And as much I would love to tell myself that solitary existence is very much an appealling one (apparently it soon will be once I hit the workforce and reach other milestones) I miss the warmth of a girl. I miss constantly being in someone's thoughts, the chase, the presents and my fucking sex drive isn't abating anywhere. It hasn't been the smoothest year in terms of mental anguish and I have been overseas a lot; but at my core I recognise that it is my lack of faith in my own strengths that has had the most profound effect on my psyche towards relationships. In all honesty I expected to have experienced much more in the field than I did have at the commencement of university, these expectations have unfortunately been left unfilled.

 Pop Culture

 This year I also made a point to return to those "wasted years" of my high school life where I mindlessly consumed animated media, pop culture and general comic book/ anime memorabilia. I did enjoy the experience but perhaps with the level head I have now I would have spent more time learning Mandarin than over analysing the mental processes of how Naruto approached his childhood of anguish. Visiting Supanova and SMASH made me realise that these sorts of consumption isn't restricted to high-schoolers or bored university students. Working adults dress up specfically for this event in homage to their favourite super-heroes and super-heroines, and I was pleasantly surprised to meet a whole cohort of genuinely kind and welcoming people. It will never be the influence or time waster as it once was, but this is an interest I will likely keep around for the years to come.

 China and Australia

 The more that time passes, the more the importance of the relationship between Australia and China is realised and reported on throughout our media. It makes me realise that my parents were wizards for forcing me to visit Chinese school in my younger days and kick myself for not learning it more thoroughly. Despite this, my foundation exists and continues to remain relevant in new ways to me whether it be being able to converse with elderly folk across Sydney, interact with international students as part of my role within the SRC, achieve status as the Sponsorships officer at my home ACYA society or even career progression here at the Australian Consulate-General Guangzhou. It will be one of my goals for the year to come to cement and build upon this existing foundation I have been blessed to earn from my younger years.

 General Achievements

 At the conclusion of my term at Google, I can definitively say that this is definitely NOT the greatest place on Earth to work at. Similar to the way celebrity worship works, Google has some sort of aura that everyone my age is attracted to. Whether it be the play room, free food, gimmicks or everything. But the people are the most important resource of any company, and to be completely frank the little contact that I have had with some of the staff there haven't always been the best. 

 For the first time in my life I also had the opportunity to make a TED talk. Sure it wasn't an official one, just a minute piece during "Fast Ideas" component of the whole presentation which wasn't even recorded, but it was a nerve wracking experience in and of itself, and something I will look back upon with fond memories.

 Unfilfilled expectations

 There also remains a real list of regrets and unmet expectations I had for this year, all of which I have no-one to blame for but myself. My health and wellbeing being first and foremost. I have not kept in shape despite constant promises to do so. After a brief stint in adhering to the calorie counter application it was disrupted by my travel overseas and what little progress I made was gone with the wind. My exercise habits despite feeling amazing and alive for the first time in years was also disrupted. I read a study that the biggest factor relating to a proper adherence to exercise stems from the convenience of having a gymming facility close. With my facilty being 1.5 hours away each way, it comes as little surprise that I don't continue. Along with my lack of driver's license and relationship goals, these three things will carry on to 2016 as the three things I need to work on the most.

 These are all that come to mind right now. This year didn't bring me my metaphorical hoverboard, but that's probably because I didn't deserve it anyway.

Monday, 30 November 2015

London Bridge is deteriorating

The British empire. Once ruling across over 25% of the entire Earth's landmass, several colonies trading ports and streams of income through the introduction of unfair trade policies, slave trade and institutionalized exploitation of its perceived 'enemies'. 

Fast forward a few quick centuries, and things look a little different.

Historic castles, bustling lanes, cramped quarters and the modernity of towering sky-scrapers standing before a backdrop of a perpetually gloomy sky. As stereotypical as it may have been, this was my impression of London before I touched down, abstract from all the history and ruin. (I thank the Sir Allan Sugar from the Apprentice UK for leaving me with such a slick impression in my mind.)

 To provide some background to our reasons for visiting (outside of the annual/biannual international vacation my family likes to take); in an age before mine, my mother undertook her undergraduate degree at the London School of economics, graduating in the class of 1983. Her story is one of wonderful and extravagant upbringing, forced independence, terrible misfortune and well-rounded adaptability and sharpness, something that I have already touched upon in a previous post.

But her sheer sense of nostalgia and longing to revisit the place where she undertook her education, the cobbled streets, milk vendors, gloomy weather and "halls of residence' she spoke so reminiscently of was the underlying reason for our visit. She spoke similarly of the grandeur of the castles, the theaters, some of the classier restaurants, the simultaneous politeness and aloofness of demeanor of the people she referred to as so quintessentially "British". If I were to analyse the psyche of my mum in a completely unprofessional context, I would actually refer some of these traits into her, coated with a generous layer of elegance grace and love.

This isn't to detract from one of the greatest parts of my visit: The sheer volume in number and enormity within of all the amazing Museums in the City. From the Imperial War Museum, to the Victoria Albert Museum of artifacts, to Tate Modern, I do not think any city can compare to the collected works of some of the most dizzying exhibitions I have ever seen (Take that New York!). Some things stuck out more than others, a Chinese illustration of the Yuan Ming Yuan Palace before the Western invasion depicted a beautifully crafted ancient Chinese place of worship (as much as religion fails to capture my attention) that anyone could garner respect for. The Tower of London provided a funny and yet historically accurate portrayal of the society and lives of the British aristocracy in a time long gone. 
And transport, oh the transport. Double-decker buses? Check. Amazing subway? Check. Easy access from the airport? Check. Ample space for tourists and visitors to use pedestrian allocated paths and bridges? Check, check check.

All in all, London is a place where the ruins hide an old and proud empire of a different history. At first glance you see two different cities, but in closer inspection you see the modern and the ancient seemingly together to complement each other. Parts of London are deteriorating, but as with many things, time will tell whether this will patched up in the years to come.

And then we arrived. My mother’s first words upon visiting Russel Square? “Goodness me what happened to this place, it looks deteriorated!”. Indeed she wasn't wrong. Outside our 'prestigious hote; in one of the most expensive and exclusive boroughs of London, next to the very London School of Economics she so lovingly referred to previously, the stones were falling out of the pavement. Moss covered all the corners, cold, distance faces looked out through covered hoods and seldom was English even heard on the normal streets. The cold dreariness appeared to soak into the very people around us, the service everywhere we went was generally rather unhelpful under the guise of a very English politeness. This continues on for an average tourist to bear witness to clear homelessness, urban decay and a general lack of trust and warmth seen in the eyes of the populace.


Friday, 23 October 2015

"Collaborative Consumption"

Every year Macquarie University students are given privy to attend a speaker series that changes topics every year. The speaker is usually someone who has achieved some level of accolade, and fittingly the event is named the “Distinguished Speakers Series”. Unfortunately, despite rather good intentions many of the speeches in the immediate past have been dry, dreary and hold little to no relation to our interests or aspirations. This year was different.

Rachel Botsman started off simply enough. The humble beginnings of an inventor, what spurs on someone to create a world-changing idea. The stories and fables and anecdotes continued - all pretty interesting mind you! But then she gets to the hitter. The largest hotel chain in the world owns no rooms (Airbnb). The largest consumer transport company in the world owns no vehicles (Uber). The fastest growing finance company owns no capital. And then it clicked. The world is changing from the focus on huge, multi-national corporations who hoard all of their assets for themselves, into huge multi-national corporations who still hoard most of their assets but use a new currency of choice; Trust. Trust that our rooms won’t be trashed, or our car seats destroyed.

It makes me think of what other underused resource we all have lying around us that remains unused. Australia’s dire lack of STEM undergraduates come to mind, along with the unbelievable surplus of said students that Asia produces. Its in interesting thing to take a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on around you, all the small, solve-able problems and fix them with whatever limited resources you have, where-ever they happen to be
.

Here’s to another day of problem solving!