Brooke’s Blog :)


Described as “the ultimate cosmopolitan” by members of our very own Global 2000 class, Skye Maes has accumulated a vast and plentiful wealth of travel, backpacking and study knowledge from many diverse cultures over the past decade. In 2006 she embarked upon two very contrasting study abroad experiences; the first in South Africa on intercampus exchange at Monash University, and the second at Leiden University in The Netherlands. An independent, confident solo traveller, Skye offers profoundly valuable, first hand, mature, intelligent practical advice, especially powerful in equipping other solo female adventure seekers with information necessary to ensure a safe and memorable overseas experience- you wont find these handy hints in any Safari Brochure!

When recounting tales about her time studying abroad Skye demonstrates and emphasises the crucial importance of an open-minded attitude and ability to adapt to circumstances that may not align with original expectations (much of which may be based on cultural stereotypes disseminated through politics and the media) of what the country, people or culture would be like. Thinking that students attending Monash South Africa would be driven, serious academics, Skye was surprised to find that they “had a love of life unlike I have ever seen”, and quickly realised that her “good grades” objective would have to be temporarily put to the wayside.

Culturally, though Skye saw no evidence of traditional gender discriminatory customs such as men entering rooms before women, and women avoiding eye contact with senior community members as a sign of respect, she does note that although women do have equal rights in South Africa, she “often saw African girls and women deferring to males”. As such, this continuing dominance of males in the patriarchal society is a social reality that must be taken into consideration when interacting socially within South African communities.

The general gist of Skye’s recommended approach could be summarised by ‘adopting a different, laid-back kind of attitude, and be prepared to renegotiate your expectations’ in accordance to your surrounding environment. For example, in one conversation Skye told of how it is common practice for many women in South Africa drive straight through red lights at traffic intersections in order to avoid stopping their car and opening themselves to risk of car jacking, mugging. Whilst in Australia, this is illegal and we would no doubt expect to receive a tidy fine, in South Africa the practical importance of safety outweighs institutional impositions, a revelation that can only be passed on through inside, personal experience.

In keeping with this theme of safety, Skye’s most poignant advice came from personal experience when she stressed: “whatever you do get South African private health insurance…the Australian SA embassy will most likely say comprehensive travel insurance is enough, believe me it is not!”

“How do I know? I was in a car accident with four other students. Two of us- both Australians- had to go to hospital however I was the only one who could get into a good hospital as I had SA health insurance. The other Australian didn’t. Because I didn’t want to let her go alone, I went in to the public hospital with her. BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY – IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM DO YOU WANT TO HAVE TO USE SA PUBLIC HOSPITAL!”

This traumatic experience also revealed bureaucratic anomalies in the international embassy system to Skye, crucial information which she was then able to pass on to other travellers:

“The other Australian got her visa through the Australian SA embassy. I got my visa from the London SA embassy and they were a nightmare, I had to go back 8 times and wait for 2 hours to be seen each time. [However] One of their many requirements was SA private health insurance… You would think that SA embassies around the world would have the same requirements for the same nationalities, they don’t.”

Ultimately, Skye’s varying study abroad experiences demonstrate that whatever our destination, the only thing that study abroad guarantees is that we will be challenged, changed and surprised by who and what awaits us….


Like many people, my first port of call when I changed my mind about going to South Africa instead of England on study abroad was a lonely planet guide (South Africa, Lesotho &
Swaziland, 7th Edition, November 2006
). Although my reason for choosing it was because I had heard it was a fairly reputable source of information, it wasn’t until I actually started reading it (from cover to cover) that I acknowledged just how valuable such independent, realistic information was. Lonely Planet proudly proclaims “100% independent, ad-free travel advice since 1973”, and when reading the countless reviews on activities and accommodation throughout the country, I realised how easy it could have been for any of the authors to be given ‘perks’ along the way to portray certain places, or the whole country in a positive light to entice naive, idealistic, wealthy travellers to embark to South Africa in droves. However, blatant accounts of the realistic incidents of daylight muggings and violent crime on Jo’burg’s train lines reveal that although the authors all have an obvious love and affinity for the place, they do not let this cloud their recount of the real dangers that exist in this society, that may put quite a few people off. In saying this, the guide has a wealth of advice for minimising risks as a traveller, such as “never look as though you may be carrying valuables; don’t carry anything you cant afford to loose; always have some ‘decoy money/wallet’ readily accessible to hand over if you are mugged” (pg 608). Overall I’ve found this guide to be a great starting point for introducing me to the general experience of being a traveller in South Africa, though obviously for my study abroad trip I will need to find out a lot more region specific information that goes beyond that provided in this guide (though it has directed me to some of these other very valuable sources too!).

South Africa’s own government website (
http://www.home-affairs.gov.za ) was very useful in providing information regarding necessary visas, working/studying permits and other documentation (such as vaccinations) that I would require in order to be let in the country and allowed to stay. Costs of living, activities and cultural considerations were also provided, and although useful, the obvious bias the South African government has in presenting its nation in a positive light to entice international tourists, businesses and trade would have an impact on its objectivity. Also the information provided is from a South African about
South Africa (an insider looking in) and the view and cultural assumptions they have may differ from an outsider travelling around- eg. Customs they may take for granted that we/I may be unaware of. I was hoping to be able to find more information about the university, Ruimsig and
Gauteng the surrounding area.

The Monash Abroad website provided more specific information about the campus itself, university accommodation and transportation, however I was hoping to find more information from the university’s view in regards to: safety in the area and how to minimise risk; more information about the local region (because it has been hard to find from other general sources), a database to get in contact with past students who have studied there and students from Australia that may be going when I am; an undergraduate handbook so I could know what actual units (not just disciplines) were offered in Monash South Africa, without having to trawl through each subject available across all the campuses to see if they were available there. Obviously the website is designed from an administrative view, providing initial contact information about the campus from which we can then explore deeper.

Word of mouth and people has been a wonderful resource, providing heaps of points of view, experiences, recommendations, tips and contacts for when I finally do get to
South Africa. Although there are always personally biases when talking about ones experiences, overall, all those people I have actually talked to explained all the things that they initially found confronting/frightening, and then spoke of ways they managed these, focusing mainly on how wonderful, helpful the people are over there, and to use them as the best resource for information. Many people who haven’t been to
South Africa originally question why have I chosen to go there, and ‘do I know how dangerous it is’. That’s why it has been a real relief to meet people, like Skye, who prove that as long as you are open-minded and informed in the way you conduct yourself whilst over there, you can have the most amazing, liberating experience of your life!!! BRING IT ON!!!


Form 2: Danish…(I think/hope after all that!)

Steps taken to comprehend and complete the form:

  1. Tentatively filled in obvious words like ‘email’ and ‘fax’
    à identified possibilities for other words such as TELEFON (Telephone-home or mobile?); NAVN (Name-Surname maybe?) FORNAVN (First name-does ‘FOR’ mean first?); TITEL (Title, eg Miss)
  2. Look for terms such as date of birth, name: Copied FYSISK, NAVN and FORNAVN into google.com search
    à Noticed that a lot of the web pages that came up had http://www.something.dk
    à  I thought that maybe .dk was equivalent to Australia’s .au and the United Kingdom’s .uk –therefore thought if I could find out what country .dk stood for, I might have a better chance in correctly translating 
  3. From Google search ( FYSISK, NAVN, FORNAVN, ‘.dk’, Translation) I found a website(https://equal.cec.eu.int/equal/jsp/dpComplete.jsp?national=6&lang=da&cip=SI ) that provided me with my first real clue as to what language and country the form was from and written in because on the top right hand corner of the web page there was a option to select what language the page was displayed in, and currently, it was in ‘Dansk’ and Dansk is Danish!!
    à So I’ll follow the Danish lead for to see where it takes me!
  4. www.google.com search again (Danish, English, Translation):
    Try various translation options to get a comprehensive/reliable(hopefully!) understanding of the text
    http://www.translation-guide.com/free_online_translators.php?from=Danish&to=English which links to http://www.tranexp.com:2000/InterTran?url=http%3A%2F%2F&type=text&text=Navn&from=dan&to=eng
    àSuccess!! Navn = name; Fornavn = First name therefore language is Danish and my form is from
    Denmark!!! Yay!

5. Let’s start translating!!
Fysisk Person = Physically Body; physically; bodily?;
Navn = name (surname); Fornavn = First name;
Officiel Adresse: Official Address- I took this as town and state
Postnr = item, mail, post, record, entry?-I though this might be the actual house number; Postboks/by = PO Box city-maybe the postcode? 
Som regel den adresse, der er anført på identitetskortet : As a rule the address there’s stated at the identity card- address as stated on passport
Land = Country
Momsnr: Value Added Tax, VAT, value added tax, vat, turnover tax


RETLIG ENHED =who completed this should enclose a officially MOMSDOKUMENT date and signature UPRIGHT unit- need officially approved and signed photograph?
FØDSELSDATO = Birthdate/Birthday (FØDSELS = Birth, therefore
FØDSELSLAND = country of birth; Sted = place, spot, location)

6. Couldn’t find translation for Pasnr; Id-Kortnr etc so I tried equating English words that might feature on a Bank form, such as Driver’s Licence and Passport Number (which translated to Pas Antal- so Pas may equal Passport)

7. Searched for government websites to try to find the form…and found it at:

Now I can back track the web address to the home page of the European Commission, and luckily for me, there is an English version available, so now I can retrace my steps to the form, and hopefully find an equivalent version in English…Yeah!!!
àFor the PO Box # section, I just picked a random one because our pseudonym information didn’t have one (PO Box 17) 8. I have a friend who has moved to
Copenhagen and fluently speaks Danish, so I could email him as a point of reference for the last few words I couldn’t find, or any that I was unsure about, or even just to double check that I had filled in the form correctly before sending it in!
9. Also, while actually overseas, I would hopefully have the options of being able to make use of an English/Danish Dictionary (or Africaans as my case may be in travelling to South Africa); get in contact with friends/officials, a university language service, or the Australian Embassy in order to help me complete any forms correctly, communicate with people, and find my way around. This exercise definitely highlights the inherent assumptions that we have in functioning in everyday life with the fluent use of language available to us. The extended time it took me to complete this form-one that would usually take less than two minutes- reveals a need to those of us intending on studying/travelling overseas in non-English speaking countries to familiarise ourselves as much as possible with the basic neccessities of the language before departing. Also, even for those of us travelling to English speaking countries, our unfamiliarity with our surroundings ensures a need to allow extra time when planning any activity etc, as different cultural customs, transportation etc will take time to get used to.   

After all the steps I went through in trying to understand and complete this form, I definitely think I have gained a valuable insight into how we can easily get ‘Lost in Translation’!

 Assessment 2: Form 2 Completed



                                          Multicultural Australia



Australia is an immigrant nation. Our roots entwine back to some of the most remote regions around the globe, and our path to nationhood through immigrant settlement and colonialism has been a comparatively recent historic phenomenon. Our heritage as a European settlement was founded barely two centuries ago, in 1788 with the arrival of Captain James Cook aboard the Endeavour, and since then, an estimated nine million migrants have made Australia home. As Chris Sheedy of the Sunday Times (The Age, 11/03/07, pg10) asserts: “In this age of national security, it’s difficult to imagine a time when passports were unnecessary for international travel-but it was less than 100 years ago”. More than that, it wasn’t until 1949, with the passing of the Nationality and Citizenship Act that the stamps on the front cover of our passports changed from ‘British Subject’ to ‘Australian’.


Many of Australia’s other immigration policies of the past have been driven by a basic lack of understanding and appreciation of the value of other cultures. Through British colonialism and the ideals of European supremacy the seeds for The White Australia policy were sown. Immigration flows, especially in the twentieth century, were dictated largely by global events. Thus, the appeal of a ‘White Australia’ heightened in response to an increased fear and suspicion of outsiders and desire for national protection that two World Wars wrought. While the inherently racist policy was abolished in 1959, its effects still permeate our society, evidenced by the social and economic disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The irony that they, as the only group of truly indigenous Australians, are dealt with by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs highlights the deep seated alienating concept of ‘the other’, prevalent even throughout officialdom.

Implemented in 1934, The Dictation Test is another example of an immigration policy based on westernised stereotypes, as it was used to conceal Australia’s policy of outright racism, by conducting a test that was intentionally confusing- even when performed in English! Although the 1958 Migrant Act abolished the test after the Nazi’s program of mass genocide highlighted the danger of stereotyping members of society, the ideas behind the Dictation test- exclusion based on ‘otherness’- are hauntingly similar to the newly proposed Australian Values test required in order to receive citizenship today.


This begs the question:


Is there a typical Australian? Or does the very idea of a typical Australian deny the diversity of our heritage?


Stereotypes, such as the ‘true blue Aussie’ and other religious, cultural and racial labels, are formed by misguided, simplistic preconceptions of a group as a whole in order to categorically differentiate them from ourselves or other members of society. Such stereotypes are primed to develop and foster until they are challenged by evidence that contradicts their inherent assumptions. In a global society, evidence to the contrary is provided by exposure to, and the formation of relationships with, members of a stereotypically labelled group.


As a country with diverse heritage and multifaceted-cultural connections, we face immense difficulty in defining one unique, stereotypical set of ‘Australians values’. However, this needn’t be seen as a hindrance because our common value and goal as Australians could be to actively acknowledge value, protect and learn from the rich assortment of cultural migrants who choose to call Australia home.
Victoria, Australia’s capital of multicultural diversity, provides the perfect environment for the cultivation and compilation of the numerous facets of our migrant heritage, by facilitating the integration of people from all walks of life in order to break down the stereotypical barriers for acceptance and communication.

Thus, our future immigration and governmental policies could be developed to provide a model- worthy of worldwide emulation- showing the successful integration of diverse cultures, emphasizing acceptance and the importance of maintaining rich global, ethnic, cultural, and lingual diversity.

To implement rules enforcing that immigrants must speak English is very narrow minded in a globalising world, as in decades to come, English may not be the ‘dominant’ language and nation states may be no more than ‘gateways’ to the rest of the world. As such, decreasing our exposure to other languages, cultures and customs will ill-prepare us in our ability to participate in an ever expanding globalized community. In a democratic society, our Government’s duty is to provide us with access to knowledge and information so that we may perform our democratic rights as citizens to our upmost ability. Thus, in an era of every increasing social, economic, political and environmental interaction and dependence, should our approach to our responsibility of global citizenship not mirror the same rigorous preparation?

Ultimately, even the name of our country highlights the importance of our combined migrant (some may say ‘alien’) heritage- so maybe its time to really emphasize the value of the ‘Alien/alian’ in all of us!


Hoffman’s “Life in Translation: A life in A New Language” prompts us to consider more than the superficial, external challenge of learning and communicating in a foreign language. She delves into and exposes a world where, although we may be able to fluently speak another language, the challenge is found in connecting and renegotiating a new culture, language and customs in terms of the old (and vice versa). The sense of isolation Eva (or should I say ‘Ewa’) describes at loosing her “inner language” and ability to rationalise the outside world in term of her own “personal story”, triggered a question I had not yet seriously considered- are our identities essentially denoted by our language?

I really liked Hoffman’s quote (p53): “The cultural unconscious is beginning to exercise its subliminal influence” because it made me think that we will not really realise how much of ourselves and our identities are intertwined within the assumptions and customs of our culture until it is no longer present. Maybe the only way to discover the effects of national culture on the individual (looking deeper than mateship, thongs, beer and bbq’s) is to unleash yourself into a world that is foreign to us, thereby highlighting our ‘natural’, cultural instincts.

Quickly on Hall-I think he follows on from this idea, in that when our cultural habits/practices are emphasized in a different country/surrounding, we can also gain a brief and trivial understanding of the effects of racism, in being labelled as the ‘other’ and being defined by qualities we didn’t know existed or we didn’t purposefully create. (“This ‘look’ from… the place of the Other”- Hall p148)

From Halls point of view we are all about to undergo a “spiritual journey of discovery” (p146)- cool huh?!?!


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