Chyanne Eyde, Brooke & Glenn Grindlinger Award Report
UNSW, Sydney, Australia, Spring 2013
I came to Cornell to study at the ILR School with interests in educational cooperation and reform that remarkably resemble my career interests today. Even with that continuity, I like many of my fellow seniors considered myself unsure about the future. Unlike most seniors, however, I made the choice to work through my professional misgivings far from the Hill by studying abroad this spring, my final semester as an undergraduate. Studying abroad in Australia poses several challenges, most all of which were dramatized by my status as a second semester senior. The financial support of the Grindlinger Award allowed me to combat these challenges and also explore my career interests.
I have a strong background in international educational research, but with so much to know about and so many changes occurring in education, I was eager to learn about schools and government in Australia. To do this I undertook three main activities. First, I undertook an independent study through the ILR School on how the Australian education system developed and how it influenced classism. I poured over many books and was lucky enough to engage in many thoughtful conversations with UNSW professors on this subject. This research would have been far more difficult back at Cornell where interest and knowledge about Australia is understandably limited among professors and books on the country’s education system are far more difficult to come by. My next two activities would have been entirely impossible outside of an abroad experience. With the help of the UNSW Study Abroad Office I began to volunteer at a local public school while abroad in Sydney. At South Coogee Public I was able to observe and assist in two kindergarten classrooms during their reading lessons. This weekly experience helped me reflect upon how the diversity and density of Australia’s urban areas differ from those of other cities I am familiar with, like New York City and London. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the students (and seeing their adorable school uniforms) and seeing how the teachers utilized parent help and technology.
Finally, being in Sydney for an extended period allowed me to achieve one of my main goals for my semester, to connect with a teachers union in Australia. The NSW Teachers Federation allowed me to visit their headquarters and discuss openly with several staff members. This experience mirrored one that I had in London with the NUT, the largest teachers union in the UK. Just like in London, I asked these trade unionists about their relationships with political parties and about marketization of education. In addition, I was able to tour the Department of Education in downtown Sydney, a great experience considering I had just interned for the American Department of Education during Cornell’s winter recess. By speaking personally with Australians involved in education I got far more than I ever had from reading Australian newspaper articles and blog posts previously.
I cannot emphasize enough how important the Grindlinger Foundation Award was to my decision to go abroad. Without the financial security it offered I would have considered my going abroad too large a burden to place on my parents, who had just been highly affected by Hurricane Sandy. Without the impetus of the Grindlinger Award I may have never uncovered the links between my past research on changes to education in the UK and USA and changes occurring in Australia. I also certainly would not have spent an entire semester pouring over books on the history of the Australian education system in an effort to fulfill a graduation requirement. Most significant to my family, without the support of the Grindlinger Award I would not have been able have gained all of these experiences and also returned to the United States in time to walk at my graduation ceremony.
Before embarking on my semester abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, I received an email from a professor offering his regards and his hopes that I would find solace and growth in the experience. I am happy to report that I found both of these things, in addition to an enhanced sense of self-confidence. Thanks to correspondence with teacher unions and public workers in Sydney, I will even return home with a better understanding of the complexities behind macro-level changes occurring presently in education internationally and a desire to learn more.
- Chyanne Eyde, Brooke & Glenn Grindlinger Award Report