In VCE, this phrase meant doing many many MANY practice questions and papers at home. It means so much more to me now however. It now means learning all the ‘soft’ skills in life and gaining perspective. I just back got from Cambodia and I can honestly say I have had one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. In Cambodia I was working with the microfinance division of the NGO ‘Journey within our Community’ (JWOC), through the Melbourne Microfinance Initiative. Microfinance is all about giving out really small loans to people to allow them to develop their businesses and I worked as part of a team providing consulting services to help solve the problems that JWOC were facing.
Now, as far as countries go, Cambodia has had a pretty terrible history, suffering through the Khmer Rouge and even being subjected to the recent floods last year. But despite its sobering history, from what I’ve seen on this trip, the people of Cambodia are some of the most resilient, happy and optimistic people I know.
While working with JWOC, I’ve personally met with lots of these borrowers in the countryside and city. I’ve been to their houses and the majority of them live in huts that are half the size of most bedrooms, and double as a grocery store. Despite their meagre surroundings, they still were smiling (although it was probably at my attempts to speak the local language Khmer!). I found it almost surreal. It stunned me, the fact that humans have the ability to accept their situation and smile, but also have the determination to improve upon their situation.
Through meeting all these borrowers, I have been able to learn a great deal. And this is not in the academic sense, but instead in the sense that I was able to learn about the wide spectrum of people that live on this planet, learn about what it really takes to be content, and learn about the importance of putting life in perspective.
As we progress through our lives and careers, it is not how fast you can differentiate or how smart you are that determines your success. As much as you can learn in the classroom or in a lecture theatre, something this trip in particular has taught me is that there are so many things that you learn outside the classroom that are much more important. Talking and connecting (no pun intended) with people is what makes you successful in the long term, and it’s the experiences we have that shape the way we view the world and leads to the ability to have interesting conversations.
Travelling is an excellent way to gain these experiences and I encourage you to take some time in your life to travel by yourself or with a few friends. Your bank balance might not be too happy, but I can assure you it is well worth it! Your VCE studies are no doubt important and I wish you all the best for the exams that are looming ever closer, just remember that there is always more to learn beyond the classroom!
Daniel Tram is Connect Education’s Maths Methods lecturer. He is majoring in Actuarial Studies and Economics at the University of Melbourne. Daniel enjoys debating for the University team, playing tennis and roaming the world.