IST-China (Future Leaders Program) blog post by DANIEL ELKINGTON

copyright owned by author (2016)
copyright owned by author (2016)

The silence was becoming more and more worrying. I’d been told that at some point there would be a “pre-departure workshop” and there would be various assignments. But with less than two weeks until the plane took off, I was hearing nothing about anything. Was someone just really unorganised? Was it all going to happen the weekend before the plane took off? And then, out of the blue, on Swinburne’s Blackboard Study Portal, all the information appeared. Lots and lots of information, information published weeks ago. Someone in an office had the job of clicking a checkbox next to the name “Daniel”. That someone had not succeeded in their job. I happen to be that “Daniel”, I study Software Development at Swinburne, and I’m participating in the Future Leader’s Program Study Tour to China.

Scrolling through the Blackboard information was an incredibly stressful experience. A huge assignment which everybody else had known about for a month was due in a couple of days. I was behind in the first two phases of activities. I had missed the essential full-day pre-departure workshop. This caused me to receive a grade of 0 for the first assessment task. Zero. I couldn’t remember ever receiving a grade of 0 for anything. What’s more, my visa still hadn’t been processed. With failed assessments and no visa, it was looking more and more likely that I wouldn’t be going to China.

I’ve always been someone who is afraid to ask questions, afraid to ask people for help. Overwhelmed with anxiety, wiping away tears, I reasoned that there was no other way about it. I would have to drop out of the program.

I had really been looking forward to it. I’ve never been outside Australia. I’ve learned some basic Mandarin and was curious about what the immersion experience would do this skill. I was interested in seeing how people in China use technology and software, and I was curious about how a multi-disciplinary team such as the one I would be a part of would work. And as I reflected, I suddenly knew that the experience the tour would give me was irreplaceable. I arranged a meeting with one of the unit convenors. I had never done that before.

He was understanding. He briefly walked me through what I had missed in the workshop. My non-attendance won’t be counted against me. I was given information about the imminent assessment, and a small extension. And he told me that nobody had their visa yet.

I calmed down. All I needed to do was read through the information I’d missed, find some time to throw something together for the pre-departure assignments, collect my visa, and the trip would be on. And when I was actually on that international plane, my first, flying out of Australia and across the ocean, the most difficult part of the whole trip would be over, surely?