Updated: Jun 1
International students are often dismissed as temporary loafers.
I came to change things.
Why did you decide to come to UTS/Sydney/Australia for exchange?
Because the first year of my master's degree is in Denmark, and the alternative would have been to stay in the cold for even this semester. (laughs)
All joking aside, the Erasmus Mundus Master’s in Journalism, Media and Globalisation offers the possibility of doing a period abroad during the second semester of the first year. With UTS as my only choice for Australia, I chose it for two main reasons.
Ever since I found my passion for Strategic Communication and Public Relations (when done right), I started looking for who the best in the field were, where they trained or taught and ways to contact and learn from them. Hence, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to, first, study these subjects in an Anglo-Saxon country and, two, be in the presence of heavy hitters like Maureen Taylor and Jim Macnamara. It's very exciting to study and work alongside the same people who are creating my subject as we know it today, both here and back in Italy with FerpiLab.
Moreover, as a student of journalism, I believe it is crucial to maintain an open attitude about the relationship between journalists and PR professionals. Too often we are reduced to entrenchment in two opposing factions that hardly talk to each other. By studying both fields here at UTS I am glad to be discovering interesting synergies.
How did you become a Wellbeing Representative at ActivateUTS?
I have always been genuinely interested in the topic of mental health and how the stigma around it could be alleviated.
In the past, I often came across situations that required the support of a mental health professional (regardless of whether the person was aware or not). I myself turned to similar professionals to clarify some doubts about my university.
Having studied in three different countries (Italy, France and Denmark), I also had the opportunity to find out about the different support networks (not) available for young people and students. For this reason, when I ended up on the Get Involved page during one of my rounds on the ActivateUTS website looking for events where I could make new friends, I couldn't help but want to know more.
With one thing leading to another, I learned about the fantastic Wellbeing Representatives, "students who are really passionate about mental health and wellbeing and want to support others by increasing awareness of mental health services at UTS" - the perfect description of what I was looking for. After expressing my interest at this link, I was contacted shortly afterwards by Andrew Minutillo, Social Program Coordinator, with a request to sign the Program Code of Conduct. I believe that, on top of being light years ahead by just having an initiative dedicated to connecting students to mental health services, guaranteeing its seriousness wherever possible with such an agreement is crucial to reinforce trust in these programs.
How did you land the role of Marketing Coordinator at ActivateUTS? What does your job consist of?
I learned about this position by chance while shadowing Tara (ActivateUTS Clubs) during the first ActivateUTS Clubs' Day. Soon after, I sought out the marketing manager to ask for clarification about the position. As the conversation had been particularly insightful, I thought that including the information obtained during this chat in a short motivational letter, in addition to the CV, would have enhanced my application.
I believe that having already been a Wellbeing Representative and an Executive member of a leading UTS society helped confirm my interest in the mission of ActivateUTS.
My work there is threefold: marketing, events and website. As marketing, I collaborate with the team in devising communication campaigns for individual events or initiatives (stay tuned for the upcoming ones, I am so excited about what’s coming). Among the events where I help are the Wednesday Meet & Eats, during which you can meet and sign up with the sponsoring companies while grabbing a free bite to eat. Finally, I also work on the website updating the information and solving any ticket that gets submitted.
The thing that impressed me most while working on ActivateUTS is the working context I found there. As young as the Marketing team is, age is one of the department's strengths, unlike I have seen in the past. In fact, it is proof of how it is possible to achieve excellent results by really betting on young talent and giving them a hearing. I would like to emphasise this because the development of talent in the communication sector is a theme dear to me (and generally all other young people who are called “lazy” or looked upon with contempt). In the debate that took place during the conference for the presentation of the official Italian translation of the Global PR & Communication Model and my undergraduate thesis, we emphasised how, if a company wants to remain sustainable in the long term, it will have to encourage generational turnover and the inclusion of many young talents. Moreover, for those interested in finding insights on how to attract young talent, I suggest the research "The advertising industry: should I stay or should I go?" by my previous employer, the European Association of Communication Agencies.
What has been the best part of being on an exchange so far?
Absolutely people. As great as the place is (I live in Bondi Beach), UTS being brand new and open 24h and the classes interesting, nothing beats the lovely people I met here.
It may be that we are all far from home (us Europeans in particular) and that the "loneliness of the international student" plays a role, but I definitely found an extremely welcoming and positive bunch of internationals. Being natural one spends more time with some people rather than others, I really feel like I am surrounded by only great people.
While certainly living in Bondi [Sydney's busiest beach, ed] is an excuse to always go to the beach together, there is no shortage of opportunities to bond while living la vida loca in the city centre. Venues like The Lobo and other hidden gems, Club 77, Soda Factory, Ivy and ARQ are must-try places whether you like techno, house, or are simply looking for a fancy cocktail.
Which classes are you attending? How do you find the study programme?
Here I take three courses: Strategic Communication and Integration (taught by Maureen Taylor and Jim Macnamara), Business of Screens (led by Liam Branagan) and Journalism Major Project (with the past Mundusian Belinda Middleweek). In the first one, we produced a research paper and are now working on assessments 2 (putting together a Strategic Communication portfolio) and 3 (creating a strategic campaign as CCOs of an energy company). In the Film Production course, we learn everything (and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING) behind a film production crew. Marketing, legal, distribution, logistics, EVERYTHING. In my case, I want to make a documentary about the mental health of male university students, with a feature on Australia's Indigenous population. Finally, in the Journalism course - which I later found out was the concluding course of the journalism master's degree - we learn how to hone reflective journalism and production skills and then go on to complete a final paper.
I find the Australian method quite similar to the Danish one: lots of reading at home and lessons based on actually reading them. It can be tiring to have to read several academic papers in preparation for each lesson - but definitely worth it in terms of personal growth. Also, there are often hands-on activities during the classes where you can connect with your colleagues and actually put into practice what has been taught.
Can you describe a normal day as an International Student at UTS?
I try to wake up early and start the day with a swim at Bondi. Then, I hop on the train and I get to UTS to study in the silent area of the Library at levels 8 and 9 or in one of my secret spots until lunch. I may or may not stop every now and then to go down at the Food Court to get an espresso (or 5) to boost my studies. Personal favourites? The Terrace for the lovely people or the Little Roaster for their small Cheesecake.
After the study sesh I try and meet with some friends to grab a cheap bite on campus or at the Woolworths at Broadway Central, followed by a $2 espresso with Rina during Cornerstone's Happy Hour. Later, back upstairs to study until either class starts or I head to the ActivateFit.Gym to "pull some weights, bro" and bring chaos to Kaustav's shift at the gym's desk. Then, I meet with some friends to go to Spice Alley or make a “barbie” in one of the student residences around UTS.
How did you spend your StuVac? Have you submitted an entry for our Reel Award?
During StuVac (the one-week holiday in the middle of the semester where Australian students study and International students travel) I was one of the few leftovers who stayed in Sydney.
Besides working, I really wanted to connect and vibe with some of my friends I could hardly manage to meet during class time. During the week I enjoyed the Student ticket at Dendy Newtown to see the movie Air with my friend and Wellbeing Rep Ethan, later feeling like a true Aussie when eating a burger with a beer while watching the AFL play live at Bar Broadway. I also went for an outing to Cronulla with a friend – out of curiosity since it’s the end stop of the line T4 I take every day to come to UTS.
During the weekend, I joined a party in North Sydney and visited the Ramadan Markets in Lakemba - a must-visit for everyone who wants to experience a true cultural immersion (or have an excuse to feed your friends), regardless of their religion. Finally, I created a core memory by living the true local life of the Chiswick neighbourhood watching my friend play in the Abbotsford FC vs Hurlstone Park FC game while drinking an espresso taken at a convenience store.
And no, unfortunately, I haven’t created any content for your Reel Award but I find all the entries very nice!
What are your future plans after you finish your exchange semester?
At the end of my semester here I will return to Italy, where I will zigzag among my (much missed) friends for a couple of weeks before leaving again and finishing the second year of my Master's degree in Amsterdam, where I will specialise in Political Communication. Tbh, I'm also thinking of deferring my studies for a year and staying in Sydney working - but nothing is certain yet.