Michelle Kizer, Brooke & Glenn Grindlinger Award Report
Exchange Student at UNSW, Sydney, Australia, Fall 2012
My experience in Australia has been, by far, the most significant time I have spent in my life. I had several opportunities to enrich my ILR education at the University of New South Wales, learn more about where I may fit in the professional world, and experience exponential personal growth and awareness of myself.
At UNSW, I received a credit and three distinctions for classes in workplace training, pay and performance, strategic HRM and negotiation. Overall, the courses have provided what I identify as key HR skills and knowledge necessary to enter an entry-level generalist position. They have been a great complement to the numerous ILR classes I have taken on labor relations. Further, the teaching of such material through an Australian lens has given me the international labor perspective I favor learning about in my ILR coursework. Perhaps the most distinct difference I learned about was the approach to training. Falling along a continuum between voluntarist and regularist systems, the Australian training system requires various registered training providers to adhere to a set of criteria while providing training for people. Of course, no system is flawless, but this is a step towards ensuring that people who receive a specified level of training have the same set of qualifications.
As a result of the coursework I took at UNSW, I am more certain of my future in HR. I was very much fascinated by the process of creating a strong training program that adequately addresses business needs, and am considering becoming a training provider. More generally, learning about the differences between American and Australian labor processes makes me strongly consider pursuing a doctoral program in international labor. Thus, if I do not take an active HR role in my career, I will still remain informed through research on Australian HR practices and labor processes.
Perhaps the most growth has been in my personal life. It was liberating to indulge in another culture in Sydney. My return back to the States has revealed the extent of my assimilation; from ordering chips with tomato sauce to allowing all cars to pass before I cross the street, my mind and mannerisms are still very much in Australia. Through being in a new place, I have become more attracted to learning about different cultures. I have learned the stories of so many travelers and Australians who have become close friends. These interactions also extended my sociability skills; upon returning to Ives, I have stopped to make friends with new people and rekindle otherwise baseline friendships.
Moreover, the Grindlinger scholarship has supported traveling to places I never imagined I could see. I swam in the Great Barrier Reef (and have a scar to prove it), skydived over Sydney, danced with a Santa flash mob around Christmastime in Melbourne, visited the most easternly point of Australia in Byron Bay, and soaked in sun in Gold Coast. With each new experience I have realized the fragility of life, and feel compelled to live a life that is balanced with happiness and purpose. Perhaps the Australian cultural values of balancing work with leisure (or fearing death from slipping off of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania) has taught me that life is short, and should be enjoyed.
I sincerely thank Brooke and Glenn Grindlinger for providing funds to support my adventures down under. I would neither have been able to see all that I have seen, nor receive the necessary direction as to where I may consider focusing my HR career. My semester abroad has truly been an amazing experience, and I plan to return back to Australia to once more surround myself with people who have a zest for life, and engage on a deeper cultural level than before.
- Michelle Kizer, Brooke & Glenn Grindlinger Award Report