Students warm to Aussie culture

IT was almost Kentucky fried students when 14 visitors from the Western Kentucky University had their first day in Warrnambool.

Fortunately for them, learning to surf was on their itinerary as they frolicked in the ocean waves along with thousands of other beachgoers at Lady Bay escaping 41-degree temperature.

The students came from freezing temperatures that have gripped most of the United States and relished the opportunity to swim in the sea — an excursion that at home takes a day’s drive from their inland state.

Learning to surf was among the quintessential Aussie things the students wanted to experience during two weeks in the country as part of their studies of Australian communications and culture. 

The students are also learning about Australian expressions such as “it’s your shout” and that the “boot” of a car is what Americans call a trunk.

The 14 students are studying either PhD or honours in communication or education, or completing final-year units on global communication.

Western Kentucky University communication lecturer Donna Schiess said the trip aimed to give the students an idea of what’s needed to become “culturally competent” to work in another country.

They spent more than a week at Deakin University in Melbourne learning about Victoria’s history before arriving in Warrnambool on Monday night where they were welcomed with a barbecue.

Their visit to Warrnambool is the pilot for what is hoped to be an exchange program between Deakin and Western Kentucky University.

The idea for the exchange was fostered by Deakin’s education school co-ordinator at Warrnambool, Terri Redpath, and Dr Schiess after they met at a conference in the United States in 2009.

Ms Redpath and Dr Schiess are researching the use of cross-institutional collaboration and technology as a way of teaching and communicating learning in a global context. 

The study tour will enable students from both universities to consider studying at either institution, including teacher placements. 

There are also opportunities to explore establishing a global classroom with online cross-institution units. 

“Like Deakin, Western Kentucky University has a strong commitment to online delivery and cutting edge technologies in education,” Ms Redpath said.

Future discussions will centre on ways to link students and course offerings. 

“This is at an early stage but this trip is an exciting start,” Ms Redpath said.

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