Travel Writing

Reflections

Tales of the Land Down Under: February 8, 2014

photo (51)Always have an exit strategy. This was one of the first pieces of advice we were given at our visit with the LAX Public Relations department during our 10 hour layover. This statement was something that stuck with me during my time in Australia as it became a recurring theme among the professionals we met with. No matter your path in life, you should always have a backup plan, and even you should have a backup for your backup.

This advice came to us from a woman with a significant role in the LAX PR department. Prior to this job, she had been in the television industry for close to 20 years when she realized that she didn’t want to be in that industry anymore. But instead of being stuck in a job she wasn’t satisfied with, she started adding skills to her resume in order to create a new direction for herself. She started her own PR firm and fine-tuned other skills that made her marketable to all different kinds of fields. This was a common theme that I noticed in all of our site visits across Australia. You should always fill your resume with skills that can be transferable to any direction your career path might lead you.

We made a habit of asking every professional who met with us about their professional background. This question always lead to an array of different answers; no two people in the industry had the same career path. The commonality between almost all of the professionals we met with was their incredibly diverse set of skills that could be applied to different jobs in the communication field. There were members of the ACMA that were previous lawyers, some were in politics, and there was even someone who had previously worked as a detective. Although they had vastly different backgrounds, the one commonality was that they got to where they were by being proactive and by adapting well to the communication industry as it changed.

Something else that had an influence on my learning experience in Australia had to do with the classes I took before I left. I had just completed a law class before Australia, and the class helped sharpen my ability to see both sides of issues and also gave me a better understanding of my own moral and ethical boundaries. I also learned how to be comfortable accepting the fact that more often than not, issues are not black and white. The skills I took away from this course shaped my ability to make comparisons between Australian and U.S. media. It gave me a chance to examine the differences in media through the lens of media law.

U.S. media law generally has a history of favoring the media over the individual. This is illustrated through case study after case study of landmark Supreme Court decisions. With this knowledge, I was interested to find out if this practice would be the same in another country with a culture that was similar to the U.S. What I found through the exploration of Australian media is that the country has a tendency to rule in favor of individuals over the media, at least in comparison to the U.S. From what I gathered at site visits to the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC, more libel cases in Australia are won by public figures than in the U.S. Additionally, another interesting thing mentioned at ACMA was that there are laws being drafted to protect citizens from the harm of online bullying in Australia. Such a law might not ever pass in the states because of our fierce protection of the freedom of speech. Those are just two examples of very different practices that would not be likely to occur in U.S. media law, and my perception of the two media systems was seen through this lens. I had an incredible time in Australia and would love to go back someday. This was an experience in which I learned as much about myself and my own beliefs as I did about media and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity.


On the road: Destination, Sydney

Tales of the Land Down Under: January 17, 2014

photo (50)Our travel day to Sydney came at the perfect time. After spending a full couple days in Canberra exploring Parliament and the War memorial, the class was ready to leave the stifling heat. We spent the day traveling by train to the big city and arrived in a much-needed 80 degree heat instead of the upper 90’s of Canberra. We arrived at Sydney Women’s college around 6 p.m. and were warmly welcomed to the beautiful campus.

After taking some down-time from the long travel day, the Sydney group gave their presentation on the city. The class then ventured out to King Street to get a late dinner. King Street is one of the major food hubs of the area with any type of food you could possibly have a craving for. Kelsey, Jessica, Rylie, Maddie, Emily, Emilie, and I sat down for Thai food. Many of us didn’t eat on the train and we were pretty famished by the time we sat down to dinner. Thai food was a great night cap, and we followed it up by treating ourselves to bubble tea and frozen yogurt to end to the evening.

Before heading off to bed, we came together as a class to watch a couple episodes of two Australian TV series: The Gruen Transfer and Summer Heights High. The Gruen Transfer was like a mix between Whose Line is it Anyway and an informational talk show. The show invites well-known advertising executives from ad agencies around the world answer questions about why certain ads persuade us to act. They also do a segment where two ad execs have to create a commercial based on a random pitch from the show. I found the show to be incredibly informative and entertaining and I wish that the U.S. would produce something similar.

Finally, we had our first Summer Heights High experience. After our professor’s description of the show I really didn’t know what to expect, but even after an exhausting travel day most of the class was roaring with laughter. The show is written by Chris Lilly, and he also plays all of the main characters. The crowd favorite was Ja’mie, a privileged private school girl who goes to public school. I have a feeling it won’t take long for our class to finish the series.


Adventures at St. Kilda 

Tales of the Land Down Under: January 11, 2014

photo (50)We started off Friday morning with class presentations at Newman College. Marisa, Siri, Nina, Rylie, and Alex all presented gave the class handouts summarizing their findings. For the first presentation, Marisa discussed the demography of Australia, and Siri talked about the geography and climate. Nina discussed the country’s early history up to World War I and Rylie gave us some facts about the country’s history post World War I. Alex informed the class about the current film industry in Australia, which was particularly relevant given our recent site visits to several major film organizations in Melbourne.

The overview of Australia’s history gave me a better understanding of the country’s similarities to the United States. The Australian people are fiercely independent because of their strong desire to establish their own culture apart from British influence. Alex’s presentation on film also gave me an understanding of the differences between our two countries. We learned that there was a boom and bust cycle for the Australian film industry and that during the times the industry was suffering, American-made films would overtake the market.

After this bust cycle ended, the industry felt that more Australian films were needed. A theme that was brought up during our visit to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation was that Australian-made films highlight the Australian identity and are an essential aspect of the culture. This difference in culture shines through in the Australian films like Kenny and the Castle that we have watched since we arrived. Australians are very proud of their unique sense of humor and this is something that comes across in their films and separates them from Americans.

After class, we were given a free day to roam the city of Melbourne. Since the weather had reached the upper 80’s, the hottest day of the trip so far, the class decided on a beach day. We ventured out to St. Kilda and spent the afternoon lounging on the beach and playing in the surf. While we got separated on the tram ride to the beach, we came together as a class by mid-afternoon to play some Frisbee on the beach, read books, sunbathe, and go swimming. Later that evening we split into two groups for dinner and Maddie, Emily, Marisa, Rylie, Emilie, Siri, Nina, Taylor and I went to one of our favorite burger places on the main street in town, Lygon Street, for a hearty dinner and a nice cap to our adventurous day.


Welcome to Melbourne
Tales of the Land Down Under: January 5, 2014

IMG_0224After our breakfast in the Newman College dining hall, the whole class ventured out to the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI). We hopped on a tram about a block down from school and took the quick trip down to Federation Square. The architecture in Melbourne is unlike any city I’ve ever seen. The brightly colored buildings are scattered along the road which makes for a scenic ride into the city. Each building looks like it was built in a different time period with influences from cultures around the world. When we arrived at Federation Square, we stepped off the tram in the shadow of an impressively large yellow building. We made our way towards a modern building made of glass that resembled something you might see in Seattle or Portland.

The ACMI experience was one I won’t soon forget. The museum was an interactive experience that took us through the history of the moving image and into the future of the film industry. Although we were there for two hours, that wasn’t enough time to see everything that was in the museum. It was interesting to learn about the evolution of film and how the industry has drastically changed over the past decade. I thought it was interesting how Walt Disney’s work was revolutionary because of his use of color in animation. An interesting piece of the exhibit was a room where we learned about the most used scream in the movie industry. The Wilhem scream is something that becomes easily recognizable once you hear it. The high pitched wail is in the Star Wars movies, Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story. There was also an exhibit about the Matrix movies, because the special effects were done by an Australian film company. Marisa, Maddie and I staged a fight in a matrix-inspired dome so we could see what it looked like in slow motion.

The second gallery was a Shaun Tan exhibit about a picture book that was made into an animated short which won an academy award. We were able to look at the artist’s detailed sketches, as well as watch videos about how he planned the transition of his work from print into a moving image. We then ventured upstairs to watch an episode of the classic Australian television show Skippy the Bush Kangaroo before our class parted ways. After an episode of Skippy, some of us ventured into the final part of the gallery, which was the music video exhibit. Emilie, Jessica, Kelsey, Maddie, Emily, David, Ramy, and I decided to take a look at this gallery and it ended up being one of the best parts of the museum. We walked downstairs and the first thing we saw was Beyoncé’s Single Ladies music video playing on a gigantic screen in front of us. We observed several displays from various music video sets from bands like OK go! and Arcade Fire. One of the oddest coincidences of the day was stumbling upon lip-dub videos from Shorewood and Shoreline High Schools in Seattle. Overall, it was a fantastic site visit and one I’ll remember for a while.