Semester 2 2015 Winners

Academic Achiever

Mazin Hakim, University of Melbourne

Mazin Hakim, Academic Achiever pdf

Since my school does not offer an engineering program, one of the main reasons I decided to study abroad was to gain engineering experience and an introduction to what it would be like to study. With my intention to pursue postgraduate studies in biomedical engineering after I graduate from Wabash College, I wanted to test the waters, and where  better to do so than the biotechnology hot spot of the world — Melbourne, Australia! Targeting both experience in and outside the classroom, I have participated in my engineering and physics subjects, attended biomedical engineering networking events, but most recently, I almost by chance found out about the 2015 3D Printing Showcase at University of Melbourne.

After spending nearly an entire Friday afternoon looking around the showcase and seeing all of the amazing innovations and the inspiring capabilities of 3D printing, I must say that I was left practically speechless. Among the biotechnology themed prints, the best one was the lattice – inspired metal spinal implants. The second best was the high resolution anatomically correct bust of the human body. After speaking with the graduate students in charge of the implant research, I learned about how the technology is used by creating a 3D scan of the patients in order to custom shape the implants and provide a support structure in the exact location that is needed. These are actual technologies being used right now in order to improve the quality of living for many people in need. Apart from having engineering research oriented prints, there were also many booths with pop culture themed models. These ranged from futuristically printed fashion accessories, to bulbasaur flowerpots, all the way to a full scale, single print replica of Iron Man’s helmet. Naturally, engineers cannot be all work and no play, right?

After stopping at almost all of the booths I was about done with the showcase, but as it turns  out, here was where the fun began. Just as I was making my last rounds through the booths, I spotted a friend from my college. Tom was talking to the director of the “#Sharks Den Innovation Challenge” and almost as soon as I said hello, I was asked to enter the challenge with him. Turns out it was the middle of the second day of the challenge and his partner had something come up and had to drop out. With only 23 hours left to have an idea, design and print a prototype, and deliver a four minute business pitch to a panel of judges (Sharks), naturally I said I would join! Although it was a tentative yes at first, I am certainly glad I pushed through the challenge.

Tom already had the idea ready to go and began the draft of it on Solid Works (a CAD program). Basically his idea was to design and market a 3D printer that made custom circuit boards for electronics. Where this would be a useful technology would be in providing access to tools for scientific education (just as 3D printers have) for low budget high schools and even at the university research level. I spent the next eleven hours attempting to understand his idea, learning how to do a real business pitch, and staring at the blank page that was supposed to be my speech. Luckily, around four in the morning I was finally able to understand the big picture, escape the inevitable “writer’s cramp”, and write half of the pitch. After a power nap, we woke up and got back to work, seeing as we had to be ready to pitch in the arvo! It came down to the wire to get the entire presentation in a respectable state and muster the courage to pitch to judges (including the Dean of Engineering at Melbourne Uni!), but after the pitch, we were congratulated on our presentation and design.

Now we did not win first place and earn the awesome starter pack which included 200 hours of free 3D printing, but I feel that we did earn a very different and valuable prize all the same. For Tom, he gained some extremely valuable feedback on his design and on what he needed to do in order to make it a first place idea. He also gained great connections for actually creating a business. For me, I stuck to my goals by experiencing and learning about engineering in a first-hand environment. What I learned at the showcase complemented my previous 3D printing experience through an internship in the US, and through the design challenge I learned how to deliver my first ever business pitch. Not to mention I got some cool 3D printed hand-outs and freebees at all the booths! Overall, this narrative serves a representation of how my semester has gone academically, not necessarily how I am going in my subjects, but rather on how I am working everyday toward achieving my academic goals while embracing a constantly new and dynamic environment that is Australia.

 Awesome Artist

Jerry Ho, University of Adelaide

jerry ho

Australia is highly photogenic. This fueled my creativity to photograph these locations in an inspired fashion. I wanted to produce an image that made everyone say “How”, “Wow”, “Amazing” and more. That’s the exact reaction I acquired when I updated my Facebook cover photo to the photo provided above.

I walk through the door each day with my camera strapped to my side awaiting the next beautiful moment the new day brings. I turn on my artistic eye and imagine every sight as an intriguing composition. Every captured glance reinforces the memory of living as a being in Australia. Each stitched panorama I made of every landscape I captured produces a reciprocal mental image of Jerry standing in third person smirking as he captured the next best shot.

With photography, I created a dreamscape for my future nostalgia and present amazement.

Open Observer

Arden Lee, Murdoch University

Arden Lee

When preparing to come to Australia, I wasn’t having the more common anxieties, like making friends or homesickness. I was most worried about getting my wheelchair on the plane and there safe and sound. I thought getting to Australia would be the hardest part—because if I’ve managed to get to the literal other side of the world, how hard can the rest be?—but I was only partially right. Planes are not the only form of transportation designed for able bodied travellers. I was stuck on a coach bus for fifteen minutes because the lift stopped working, I saw my wheelchair almost fall into the Indian Ocean when being transported onto a boat, I caused my friend to miss out on a holiday because the accessible car rental would be too expensive. In the end, though, these were minor hiccups and were completely overshadowed by the overwhelming positives. Being in a city—albeit Perth being the most isolated city in the world—allowed me to be so much more independent. While I could get around New York City (metaphorically) by foot easily enough, the public transportation in Australia is actually completely accessible and nowhere here is off limits. Subways in New York consider themselves accessible even though there is almost always at least a two inch height difference between the platform and the car, and that’s supposing that I could even get to the platform, seeing that only 103 of the 422 stations have elevators from the street level. Here, I could go somewhere 40 km away within minutes of deciding whereas at home, I needed days to tell someone, for that someone to take off a day at work, and then for that someone to drive me. I’ve felt what’s it’s like to be so independent and I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to go home and be stuck in one place for so long.

Being in a wheelchair led me to believe I had so many limitations—many were so surprised two and a half years ago when I decided on studying at a school just a state away and living there rather than commuting to a local college. One could imagine their shock now, hearing that I’ve been away from home for almost five months, in a different country on the other side of the world. I, myself, am surprised that I went cave exploring, whale watching, and mountain hiking—all things I would never dream of being able to do. And in between those unbelievable excursions, I’ve conquered the common anxieties—I’m doing well in my classes, I’ve made friends from all over the world, and I don’t know how I’m going to leave this country in just a few weeks. I would have missed out on all of this if I listened to those people who didn’t believe I could do this. They suggested that I study in a country closer, or at another American university, or even that I should only go on three week program because all of those options would be easier. But I’ve learned that “easier” rarely means “most fulfilling,” and I’m so glad I picked the latter.

Spectacular Sports Star

Mia Konstantakos, University of Melbourne

I have been competitively swimming since I was six years old. Growing up, swimming has been such an important part of my life. When I started thinking about college I knew that I wanted swimming to be a part of that experience. During my junior year of high school I began talking to college coaches, and it was clear by the fall of my senior year that I was going to swim for a division III University. During the spring of my senior year I had another realization of what I wanted to achieve during my college years. I travelled to Italy with a group of students from my high school, and immediately got the traveling bug. It was during this trip that I realized I wanted to study abroad at some point during my time at college.

However things became complicated when I actually got to college and joined the Varsity Women’s Swim team. I quickly found out that most swimmers at F&M did not go abroad. Because our season dips into both the fall and spring semester, it was essentially unheard of for a swimmer to go abroad. But I simply couldn’t let go of one of my dreams just because of swimming. So I spoke with my coach about the possibility of going abroad and he simply said that the decision was up to me, but if I came back to the spring semester out of shape and not as prepared as the rest of my teammates, I would not have a spot on the championship competing team.

I was determined to continue to swim while abroad. I quickly learned that there was a club team that practiced in Melbourne University’s pool, and I contacted them immediately and began practicing with them a week after I arrived in Melbourne. Soon after, I learned that Melbourne University offers scholarships to elite athletes. I applied to this program, and was accepted, which allowed me to receive free gym access, strength and

conditioning sessions, and a trip to the Gold Coast during break in order to compete in the Australian University Games. I also joined the team for my college, Newman, and was able to compete in an intercollegiate meet and score points for them. At the Uni Games, I competed for three days strait in an amazing outdoor pool. The meet was even live streamed on their website, and my friends and family back home got to watch me compete. There were even some Australian Olympic swimmers competing alongside me at this meet.

Not only was I able to swim and stay in shape while studying abroad, I was also able to compete and make friends along the way. I am so excited to tell my team mates back home about my experience, and I hope I can be an example to the underclassmen on my team that are interested in studying abroad. You don’t have to give up your dreams of studying abroad because of athletics; in fact both can be achieved in a way that you never thought possible.

Terrific Traveler

Meric Atesalp, University of Melbourne

Meric Atesalp

You can travel as much as you want and wherever you feel safe, just let it not interfere with your schoolwork.” That was the promise I gave my parents when I left home. Having been raised by a semi-nomadic family, Australia was a gateway for me to reach a part of the world I hadn’t ventured before. Last semester at Columbia, I could barely explore beyond the school library (not even NYC), and thus, whenever I had free time I chose to work on my travel plans in and around Australia. Straight out of the plane, thanks to the wonderful opportunity IFSA gave us, I enjoyed a few days in Sydney with new friends, tried to live like a local. But to me Australia was more than its beautiful cities. As soon as I got to Melbourne I hit the roads with a few newfound friends to marvel the Great Ocean Road everyone was talking about. We camped near the 12 Apostles, enjoyed cozy winter nights and made some new friends on the road. My next travel project was somewhere further, I don’t take pride in this, but we skipped a week of school with a good friend and flew to Cairns for some new adventures. Renting the first van we see, the Minion Caravan, we promised each other we would explore every major sight in Northern Queensland. Not wasting any time in Cairns, we hit the roads and found ourselves in Kuranda, a hippy arts town, enjoying our newly purchased baggy pants and bracelets, almost getting dreadlocks by the local artist Amber Moon. Enjoying some beaches on the way, we got to the Daintree Rainforest where we did jungle surfing to explore the flora of the region. At this point two lovely German backpackers had joined our crew. Singing songs and telling stories, we drove our van through endless banana fields, discovered that Ayr has the cheapest petrol, skydived at Mission Beach (a feeling that cannot be explained here), tasted all the ice cream, and got a great deal for a cruise in Airlie Beach, snorkelled, scuba dived in the Reef and met the majestic fauna of the oceans.

My wanderlust was not satisfied so as soon as Spring Break I hopped on the next flight to Bali. With a group of 8 people who were all experienced backpackers, we hired our scooters and left the touristy Kuta and Seminyak. We enjoyed every sunset we could, spectated the charring Fire Dance of Kecak, and paid respect to Hindu temples with small sacrifices. I enjoyed surfing on the Indonesian waves, ate all the Mie Goreng, explored remote islands of Gili, swung on a swing in the middle of the ocean, tried to snap our incredible distant relatives at the Monkey Temple and got a hug from one, haggled my way into getting free tasting of the Luwak coffee, the most expensive in the world and avoided two almost bike accidents (I’m a new driver after all!) But the highlight of my trip was when I woke up at 2 am with two amazing friends to travel to Mount Batur, which we hiked with hundreds of other pilgrims to meet the most majestic sunrise over an active volcano.

Now I am back in Melbourne, and before finals I will travel to Tasmania with some IFSA friends, afterwards hopefully I’ll visit Western Australia. I am not taking the group flight to enjoy the entire month of December by working for several weeks and then traveling in New Zealand and Thailand.

You can follow my journey on!

Special Mention – Open Observer

Alexander Hartline, University of Melbourne

Alexander Hartline

The Day I Died

I rolled out of bed with my eyes glued shut, creeped lazily down the stairs, and poured myself a cup of coffee. After stuffing a heaping bowl of Rice Krispies down my throat, I climbed into the basement, and went back to paradise.

In the cozy basement of my home, I raced around a crowded and dangerous city, battled monsters at the top of a volcano, and explored the seas. Every moment was an adventure. And the best part was that I could do whatever I wanted. I was not limited to one world; I had the entire realm of gaming to explore.

Loafing around and playing so many games made me need to get up and move. I climbed back up the stairs, took my bike outside, and put in earpieces that brought me to a different paradise. Suddenly, I was a great hero with epic music as the vessel of my imagination. I braved perilous journeys to fight ancient monsters and save cities from ruin.

After riding around for a while, I went back home and returned to paradise in my basement. I was exhausted — probably because of such a long day of adventure. I ate dinner and then got into bed, where I would sleep the night away. Life was perfect.

The next day I got everything packed, said goodbye to my friends, and left paradise to go to Australia. For the next few weeks, I would struggle to feel a connection with people that I meet. I would sit down to study, and then find myself with no progress an hour later. I would struggle to make it out of bed and feel relieved to return halfway through the day. It felt like I had been away from paradise for too long. I went to JB Hi-Fi, bought a computer mouse, and set up my laptop in my room.

Finally, after three long weeks in Australia, I was home. I was back to the world of adventure. There were no limits, no troubles, and no stresses. For the next month, I would continue to travel in between reality and paradise. It started as an hour every day, then two hours a day, then four hours a day. With each week, I grew more and more comfortable with paradise, and spent all my hours in reality wishing I was back with my laptop. Before I even noticed, it was already time for mid-semester break.

My friends planned a nice trip to Bali. I was somewhat reluctant to go, but I figured that the trip would be good for me. We all met up, got a taxi to the airport, and got on the plane. And on that plane ride, I died.

No more adventures. No more paradise. The world I created for myself was set aflame, and would continue to burn indefinitely. I was no longer the Alex that traveled from each imaginary world in my head, free of any care. He died on that plane. From that moment forward, I would embark on a struggle that I have been facing my whole life. I needed to ground myself in the world that we all live in. I wanted to be present.

I constructed paradise for myself because I did not want to face reality. The truth was that my basement was not cozy, it was cold and damp. On my bike I was not adventuring. I was rounding the same 5 cul-de-sacs that I had been rounding my whole life. For the entire summer, I lived the same day over and over. And in Australia I was squandering my time on hiding in my room. Each day was a groundhog day to be lived repeatedly. The only way to escape paradise was change.

Each hour needs experiences that I have never had before. Each day needs conversation with friends, who mean everything to me. Each desire that I have needs an attempt to be fulfilled. I need constant change in order to survive and in order for paradise to stay dead. My trip to Bali would be the beginning of my journey back to reality.

After arriving in the airport, I went to pass through customs. The line was fairly short, since they had more than a few customs officers. One of the custom officers smiled in my direction — he looked fairly friendly. I went to approach him, but someone in the line next to me went ahead. So I went to another desk, and was confronted with a man with a relentless frown. After giving him my passport he said, “hjk dfs erdfg fasdk return ticket?” I gave him a confused look and asked him to repeat himself. He prompted me again, but I just could not understand, so I chuckled nervously. He called over the senior customs officer, and I was escorted to the customs office.

Completely confused, I figured that the issue was that my return ticket was on my phone and not printed out. —Failing to print the ticket was a mistake that would come to bite me twice, but more on that later.— I asked if that was the issue, and he said “kjhl asd kjnbsd liuads.” I was thinking, “Great. I am already in trouble because I cannot understand, and here I am again.” I told him I did not know what he was saying. Frustrated, he said to me, “You do not know that word? ‘LAUGHING.’ L-A-U-G-H-I-N-G.” Apparently I was pulled aside because my nervous chuckle was interpreted as a disrespect of authority. I apologized profusely and was passed along without further problems. I met back up with my friends, and was eager to get to the villa that we were staying at.

To make travel easier, my friend Jack rented a car for the trip. Half of our group got in a taxi, and I joined the group that rode with Jack. We got behind the taxi to follow him to the villa, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. The taxi flew off, and we floored it to keep up with him. The taxi swerved between cars while scooters passed us on both sides. We hopped lanes every few seconds to keep up with the maniac, but somehow kept up fine. It seemed as if we were going to make it there safely.

“Empty?! They gave me a car with no fuel?” Jack exclaimed with a few omitted expletives. We were low on options. We had no idea where the gas station was, were still struggling to keep up, and had no line of communication with the other car. We could only think of one possibility. Jack put the car in high gear and managed to overtake every car ahead of him until we were parallel with the taxi. Stef, who was in the front passenger’s seat, rolled down the window and managed to scream to the taxi that we needed fuel. After he got his point across, we promptly found a gas station and got back to the villa, somehow, safely.

Back in paradise, I had played racing games all of the time, but I never experienced anything like this. I felt real fear, real excitement, and real relief to be alive. I felt connected with the people that I rode with. This was a good step towards realizing how badly I needed to come to reality.

The next night was one of my favorite nights there. My friends and I discovered a Balinese pastime: Bintang. We got 6 crates of the Indonesian pilsner, and bonded together all night. I had a few too many, though, and ended up chundering all over my phone and breaking it, which is the funniest phone death that I have ever heard. This worked well for me, though, because I was no longer attached to my phone for the rest of the trip. I was truly present.

Over the next few days I would encounter experiences that I have never imagined. I rode an elephant, surfed in the ocean, snorkeled at a reef (where I found Nemo), climbed to the peak of an active volcano and watched the sunrise, peed in the cauldron of that active volcano, visited temples, bartered at markets, skinny dipped in the villa’s pool, and feasted like a king. With each exploit, I felt more connected to my friends and to reality.

The trip went by quickly, even though I did so much each day. In the last few days, my friends would slowly return back to Australia as their departure dates came. I was scheduled to be the last to leave, along with a few of my friends. Or so I thought. Turns out I booked my ticket to be earlier than the last group. Since my phone was filled with chunder, and I did not print out my return ticket, I did not bother to check on my laptop until the date of departure. I had to buy a one-way return ticket. For some reason, premium flatbed was cheaper than economy. I managed to fly business class, but spent $360 USD for the new ticket.

My friends and I all made it back to Australia safely, but Rob and I got stuck in a slow customs line, so we were the only two left at the airport. Rob bought some duty-free goods while I waited at baggage claim for a cling-wrapped cardboard box. The box never came, and I asked around until I learned it was at oversized and fragile baggage claim. Rob went and got it for me, and we got in the line to exit the airport.

“I’m glad we got my box, it has all of my gifts for friends in it. Wait… DUTY FREE.”

Rob looked at me, and then looked down. The bag of duty-free items he bought was missing. He hopped out of the line and frantically raced around the baggage claim area. I lost track of him and proceeded through the line to exit the airport. After ten long minutes, he emerged with a triumphant look on his face and a green duty-free bag. We had made it out of the airport and went on our way home, somehow without a major crisis.

In reality, I live in a world of adventure. Video games are no longer my paradise, life is. All of the experiences that I had in games do not even compare. In Bali, I raced around a real city, climbed a real volcano, and explored a real ocean. There were no limits set out by some game developers; I set my own limits. This trip to Bali and Australia brought me back to the world that I want to be a part of. The Alex that was addicted to paradise died on the plane ride there. The rest of me survived and has something to prove. And so far, I am just getting started.