Dig in overseas

by Lauren Ahwan

Excerpted from the Herald Sun, Upskill Training and Education Section, June 9th 2012

About 12 per cent of undergraduates, or almost 13,000 students, undertake some form of overseas study. That is more than a third increase than in 2009. Another 5500 postgraduates study abroad.

This compares with less than 10 per cent of US undergraduates who head off for global study experience.

Flinders University School of International Studies dean Professor Malcolm Cook says overseas study provides essential contacts for students wanting to work abroad after graduation, particularly if it is coupled with working in the country of study.

For those wanting to work in Australia, the benefits still are significant.

‘‘ Overseas learning and work experience as part of their education can be very beneficial as employers are increasingly looking for points of differentiation between applicants,’’ he says.

‘‘ As the Australian economy continues to internationalise, there is a growing demand for students who can quickly adapt to working overseas or with foreign firms and interlocutors.’’

Cook says students from all disciplines can benefit.

‘‘ Often the most ambitious students seek out these opportunities and then make the most of them,’’ he says.

‘‘ We had one student who independently wrote to the UN in New York, asking for an internship opportunity, and was successful.’’

In July, archaeological students from the University of Queensland will travel to Malawi to take part in the Malawi Earlier-Middle Stone Age Project, investigating the evolution of human behaviour.

After the two-week formal field school period, students can stay for up to a month as research volunteers.

School of Social Science Dr Jessica Thompson says excavation work taught on campus is limited to ‘‘ a fake dig – a sandbox’’ so the field trip provides valuable real-life experience to participants.

Students from previous trips are highly sought after by employers.

‘‘ Everybody in archaeology is ultra-specialised so if you are looking to go into particular areas, then it’s really, really important that you have the experience in that area,’’ Thompson says.

Julia Maskell, 20, took part in the Malawi trip last year and is using the stone artefacts recovered from the site for an advanced research project.

‘‘ There’s limited field experience in Australia and (as an undergraduate) it’s harder to get into,’’ she says.

‘‘ We haven’t even done excavation work at uni yet – we don’t do that until next semester – so the learning curve has been pretty steep.’’

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