An explanation, of sorts

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I thought it would be worthwhile to give a little background on what I’m actually doing hopping on planes all over the globe, visiting fancy universities and meeting such amazing people.

I’m travelling as part of the 2018 Aurora Education Foundation Indigenous Scholars International Study Tour (the Tour, you can read more about it here). I’m one of 18 high achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students selected to come on the Tour to learn about the possibilities of postgraduate study overseas. Each of us will be lucky enough to meet with leading academics in our fields.

We’re visiting some of the top universities in the world: Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Colombia, and NYU in the US, and Oxford and Cambridge in the UK. With me on this trip are doctors and scientists and teachers and lawyers and all manner of other amazingly successful Indigenous Scholars. It’s truly such an honour and a privilege to be travelling among them.

The Study Tour is organised by the Aurora Education Foundation, who do amazing work supporting Indigenous students from high school right through to postgraduate study. The Aurora team, led by CEO Richard Potok, are some of the most lovely, warm, and dedicated people I’ve ever met. They truly care about the work they’re doing and the positive impact it’s having on the lives and communities of Indigenous Australians.

Probably one of the best things about this whole journey so far has been meeting people. I’ve never been surrounded by so many academically inclined Indigenous people before, and it’s wonderful. I feel like part of a community. I’ve already made friends from all over Australia, and I’m sure these friendships will last no matter where we end up in the world.

If you’d like any more info about the Tour or Aurora, feel free to flick me an email through my contact page. I could literally go on about these fabulous people for days.

Stanford Day 2

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It was another long day today. I caught the bus to campus at 8.05 for a 9am group breakfast and info session. We learnt all about applying for graduate programs at Stanford and what we would need to include in our applications.

Following breakfast I met with a student services officer for the PhD program in Modern Thought and Literature. She had a dog in her office who was the sweetest little dude! We talked about my research interests and she suggested some other academics who might be a good fit for supervision, and she told me that MTL is where all the weirdos end up—sounds like my kind of place!

Then it was off to lunch at the Native American Cultural Centre, which was such a warm and welcoming space. We met more current students and learnt that Stanford offers courses in four Native American languages! MTL has a language requirement that you learn two other languages during your course, so if I were to come here I’d definitely consider one of the Native languages.

I got terribly lost on my way to my next meeting and arrived fifteen minutes late, but thankfully the academic I was meeting didn’t seem to mind all that much. She spoke with me about the Stegner Fellowship, which is Stanford’s non-degree writing program. It sounds absolutely amazing but I’m not sure if I’m in the right place with my writing yet to tackle something like that. I will definitely keep it in mind though.

I wrapped up the day with a meeting with another current MTL student, and we got along like a house on fire. I think I’ve made a friend! Maybe one day she’ll visit Perth and I can show her all my favourite cheap eats.

Tomorrow we’re bussing it across to Berkeley, but it’s pretty much a free day. I’m planning to do boring things like wash my clothes and track my expenses (woopsie! I haven’t done it yet…), and maybe find a nice spot outside to do some reading in the afternoon. I also have a bunch of emails to reply to and an article to write…

It’s just go, go, go over here at the moment!

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The view from my lunch spot on Sunday. There are so many cool cars here!

Stanford Day 1

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So today we went to Stanford!

First impressions: the campus is beautiful, the book shop is well stocked, there is A LOT of merch, and the PhD in Modern Thought and Literature sounds amazing.

We started the day with a bus ride in to campus and killed time in the book shop for an hour until the start of our tour. Our guide showed us landmarks such as the library and the church and the edible blackberries. We also learnt about fountain hopping, a favourite pastime in the warmer months.

We had lunch with some current Aussie students, then split up for academic meetings. I spoke with a student studying in that amazing PhD program I mentioned and left feeling energized and excited. PhDs are between five and seven years here though, so I’m not super keen on the length.

We had another get-together in the afternoon at the Bechtel International Center and chatted with more students, and ate more food. Then it was back on the bus and home briefly before heading off to an NBA game. I was surprised by the atmosphere—it’s exactly like it is in the movies, larger than life and somewhat surreal. It was a good experience but I think once is enough for me!

Tomorrow is another early one, with a day full of information sessions and meetings. I’m learning about the Stegner Fellowship (a creative writing program) in the afternoon which should be super cool!

Also, I picked up a (signed) copy of Markus Zusak’s new book today, and had a nice chat with the guy in the bookshop about Australian authors. And maybe ranted about sf to a few people, as per usual…

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Golden State Warriors vs Phoenix Suns

Today was a BIG day

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After breakfast (consisting of a banana, half a bagel, a boiled egg, and a black coffee) a group of us headed in to San Francisco, first stop: Golden Gate Bridge.

I tell you, I could have spent all day by that bridge. It’s beautiful, and a wonderful place for just sitting and thinking. After a foray into the gift shop the group split up, with the four other girls hiring bikes to ride across the bridge and myself finding a nice sunny bench on which to sit and wait for a bus into Sausalito.

On the journey I chatted with a lovely woman from Austria (who said she likes Australia much more than the US, and thought Perth was fab). Once in Sausalito I found a little burger joint where I ate my lunch by the window and watched the world go by.

The girls joined me not long after and we wandered around Sausalito, found some more food and some ice cream, and a SOCK SHOP! I may have bought six pairs of socks today…

Then it was onto the ferry, past Alcatraz, and on to Pier 39 for dinner at Mangoes. We dramatically underestimated the size of American portions and all ate only half of our dinner. Next time we will share. The burritos were huge!

We’re off to Stanford tomorrow for a campus tour, then in the evening we’re all heading in to San Fran to watch an NBA game (the sporty ones among us assure me that this is THE NBA game. I mistakenly called it the NFL. Nobody heard though so it’s all good).

Again I am writing from bed, so now it’s just a matter of closing this laptop and getting some shut-eye. I know I will sleep well tonight!

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Being a cool cat by the Golden Gate Bridge

Hello Stanford!

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I’m writing from my bed in the Stanford Guest House (pictured below) where I am sipping a cup of tea and listening to the sounds of crickets outside.

I heard a crow earlier today, nothing like the ah ahh ahhhhhh of our Aussie ravens; it was the caw caw that I’ve heard so much in movies but never quite realised was a sound made by real animals.

The trees are different here. The shape of them on the Stanford logo is accurate.

The flight from Sydney to San Francisco was about thirteen hours, most of which I spent napping. We had a bit of turbulence at one point which gave me a bit of a fright, but I’m back on solid ground now so I’m happy! I watched the movie Hereditary on the flight and thought it was odd—I’m not sure I really understood what was going on, or even what genre it was supposed to be. But it kept me glued to the screen the whole time so I guess they did something right.

Tomorrow a bunch of us are thinking about taking the train in to San Fran proper, about a two-hour trip, to go see the Golden Gate Bridge and some other attractions. If I have time later in the week (maybe Thursday or Friday) I’d love to go do a tour of Alcatraz as well.

But for now I’m going to finish my tea, read a bit of Leviathan Wakes, and have an early night.

And then tomorrow, adventures!

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My room in the Stanford Guest House, near the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (we’re down the road from a particle accelerator!!!)

Last Day in Aus

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Tomorrow we’re leaving Australia at 10.45am and arriving in San Francisco at 9am. Real world time travel, guys!

It is a thirteen-hour flight though, which I am not looking forward to. But I have my trusty sf books to keep me company and my own imagination if reading gets too exhausting.

The reception last night was amazing. I was expecting to go back to the hotel early (thanks fatigue) but I ended up staying for the whole thing because everybody was just so fascinating to speak with. I particularly enjoyed speaking with past scholars, two of whom are inspirational Indigenous writers, and one WHO STUDIES AI AND ROBOTS!!

Today we did the last of our workshops and Aunty Doris came to share her story with us. What a phenomenal woman. (Give her a google, she’s worth reading about).

We also learned more about the outreach program and how to give back to our communities at the end of this trip. Teacher friends, hit me up if you’re interested in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at your schools and I’ll connect you with Aurora.

This time tomorrow I’ll still be on a plane. Wish me luck!

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Group shot from the Sydney reception. These are all the 2018 Scholars!

Day Two

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I had a wonderful conversation with one of the other Scholars today about science fiction (surprise surprise), and I’ve been thinking about stories ever since.

Last year for my Genre Fiction class I wrote a short story called Free to Good Home. After a few rounds of edits, I sent it off to two science fiction magazines and got rejected from both of them. I was disappointed but excited, because rejection is just part of the process. Stephen King, as a young writer, nailed his rejection letters to his bedroom wall to push himself to keep improving.

I wish I had Mr King’s resilience, I tell ya.

Anyway, after our chat today, I started thinking about Free to Good Home again. I can understand now that it was lacking, not quite ready, but heading in the right direction. I’m thinking that a rewrite is in order (and there’s no time like the present!).

In between sf ramblings, we had some guests come and speak to us about scholarships for studying overseas. They all sound super amazing and competitive and way out of my league, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t apply, right?

Even if I don’t get in this time, it doesn’t mean I won’t ever get in. Maybe it’s just not the right time, maybe I’ll be not quite ready, but heading in the right direction.

Off to a fancy reception and dinner tonight. I’m pulling out the big guns (my sweet new hounds-tooth blazer and the nice jeans).

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My second ever rejection letter, nailed to my virtual wall.

The Ed-venture Begins!

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I am writing in a hotel in Sydney (doesn’t that sound super profesh and writerly). Our room is on the 20th floor overlooking the city. I’m reminded of a piece I read a few years ago:

But in those days I wanted to see everything happening outside, even when what was happening outside was too close to the inside for comfort. You never knew when there would be a revelation. At night the cities were like jewelled cobwebs on black velvet. (James, 1986, p. 5).

Isn’t that beautiful? Cities like jewelled cobwebs on black velvet. I love that image.

Sydney isn’t what I expected. It’s big, and busy, and sort of grey. The footpaths are different. There was a building clad in corrugated sheeting, multiple shades of yellow, holey like swiss cheese. I couldn’t stop staring at it from the back seat of the taxi.

The rest of the Scholars are lovely, and intelligent, and wonderful company. We ate pizza tonight in our hotel room, sat around talking about science and stories and passions. I can’t believe this time last night I was at home packing, having just submitted my Honours thesis. In a few days’ time I’ll be on a plane again, San Francisco bound. What an adventure.

I’m looking forward to New York. I’ve been invited to sit in on a science fiction studies class (I’m very excited). It’s difficult to find universities which offer sf studies at undergraduate level, let alone postgraduate, so I’m sure I’m in for a treat.

I’ve brought three books with me for plane reading—Gnomon by Nick Harkaway, and Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey. I’m thinking a space opera is on the cards in my writing future.

And now to read and rest!

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Sunrise over Perth

James, C. (1986). Introduction. In Flying Visits: Postcards from the Observer 1976-83. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company.