What is your course? What do you study in the course?
I'm currently doing a 4-year double-degree program at the Australian National University in Canberra. The program consists of a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics and a Bachelor of International Relations. As the names suggest, this program merges the previously separate fields of political science, philosophy and economics into one single degree to provide for a more holistic understanding of public policy, with the other half involving the more applied field of international relations and foreign policy.
For my first semester, I have learned about how political actors interact with each other, the debates surrounding free will, the student protests of May 1968 in France, whether judges are as politically independent as they claim, and much more. The breadth and the depth of the program is really exciting and stimulating.
What is your favourite subject at university?
My favourite subject so far is Introduction to International Relations: Foundations and Concepts. It is basically a continuation of VCE Global Politics, covering what I had learned in Year 12 with a more detailed level of analysis.
My favourite part of the subject is a simulation we did in tutorial on the Syrian Civil War. We were tasked to negotiate a peace agreement between the Syrian government and rebel forces. It is during these negotiations that we were able to put IR theories into practice and experience firsthand the ever-changing dynamics of a bargaining interaction that we have learned from the textbook and the lectures. I represented the United States. Attempting to stay true to the tactics of the Trump Administration, I tried to be as aggressive and disruptive as possible, while offering no coordinated plan of my own. Without surprise, no deal was reached at the end and the war continued.
What has been your experience of ANU so far?
My best experience so far at the ANU has been living at Bruce Hall, an on-campus residential hall located on the edge of the campus and directly beneath Black Mountain. This is my first time living away from home. I think the biggest advantage of living on campus is that it's a lot easier to make new friends and build up support networks, which are very important during the transition from high school to university.
Another aspect of my ANU experience so far that I must mention is public lectures and events. Living on campus means that these lectures and events are often held within walking distance, so I go to them as often as possible. The fact that I am in Canberra also means that a lot of these lectures and events are about politics, economics and foreign policy, my fields of study. It's an easy way to get in touch with experts and learn from their unique experience and perspectives. For example, I had just been to a whole-day symposium on Korea-Australia relations organised by the South Korean embassy and a talk by the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on the upcoming Australia-EU free trade agreement. These opportunities would not be available if I had chosen to stay in Melbourne.
How did you manage the move interstate? What were the challenges? What are the benefits of moving to study?
ANU's first-year accommodation guarantee means that I did not have to look for a place to live when I decided to move interstate. As I mentioned before, the main challenge is the transition phase. Moving away from home can seem daunting at first, but once you meet new friends and settle into a routine, the obstacles take care of themselves. To help us settle in and make new friends, older residents at Bruce Hall organised a lot of icebreaking activities for us during Orientation Week, from pod meetings (residents living near each other are organised into a "pod") to frisbee. The proximity to friends and the homely environment greatly contributed to my relatively easy and quick transition to university life.
The main benefit would be to cultivate your independence and to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Living away from home is a great way to stimulate rapid personal growth and learning. Six months ago, I would not have imagined that I will be able to live independently for a period longer than a week, but half a year later, here I am, writing to you from one of the common rooms at Bruce Hall, still lingering in the now largely empty building while others have gone home for the mid-year break.
What tips do you have for Year 10 students making VCE subject selection decisions?
When choosing your subjects for Year 11 and 12, it's important to consider interest and diversity. Once you satisfy all the prerequisites for your university degree(s), pick subjects you find interesting or those that can expose you to new perspectives. I would avoid following any predesigned template such as the (in)famous "Asian 5" model, and instead recommend making your own VCE plan. I would encourage you to experiment and find out what interests you, because if you do that before university, planning your degree(s) will be a lot easier and it will save you a lot of time and effort.
Another advantage of selecting your subjects from a wide spectrum is that you are exposed to a wide variety of perspectives which you can use in an interdisciplinary way. There are more intersections between the different subjects than you might think. For instance, my knowledge in federalism (VCE History: Revolutions) and the Global Financial Crisis (VCE Economics) greatly contributed to my understanding of the contents in VCE Global Politics. And while you can look at Medea from a purely ethical perspective, you may also look at the whole play from a political science angle, such as how Medea manipulated the Chorus to enhance her own bargaining power. Exposing yourself to new perspectives can greatly contribute to your understanding of subject materials and make connections others wouldn't make.