At 17, Sarah Michel found herself at a restaurant in Japan, attempting to translate her order. Little did she know that this moment would spark an important and fulfilling career.
'It was a daunting experience, honestly. There isn’t a lot of English spoken in Japan so I couldn’t revert back to my comfort zone. That’s great though - it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes; everyone is trying to understand. Someone jumped in to help and I formed a bond with them, just trying to play this mutual game of understanding.'
Sarah says that moment of connection through cultural communication defined who she is today. With fresh confidence and a thirst for knowledge, she completed her anthropology degree and set out travelling the globe, experiencing different peoples and cultures. Eventually, her journey would take her to USQ, and to a role that suits her perfectly.
An ode to wanderlust
Today, 11 years since joining USQ, Sarah is a Global Education Program Coordinator. Working within the student mobility team, she helps students develop their own intercultural understanding and social capability.
'I like to say I inspire students to undertake an overseas study experience. The whole point of these mobility programs is for students to learn more about themselves. From the same process, they gain a greater sense of independence, resilience, and the ability to communicate with someone cross-culturally. All these things really add character to a person.'
Sarah applauds the diversity of USQ’s international office, and enjoys connecting with people from many different countries and backgrounds. She also continues to ‘experience’ and grow through another important source.'
'The thing I love the most about my role is being able to introduce students to a possibility that they may not have ever considered before. And I love that they bring it back to me - I get to experience the world through the lens of my students.'
Flights to nowhere: A new way to experience the world
There’s no doubt the current pandemic, including travel restrictions, has been a challenge. However, Sarah says universities, including USQ, have started shifting their focus to delivering virtual study abroad programs.
'This virus may have put a ban on travel, but not on the experiences we can facilitate. We are innovating. We’ve started developing online virtual modules and offerings that focus on key competency outcomes. The good thing about going virtual is that students who may not have been able to travel previously due to family or work commitments, can still participate and get access to cross-cultural learnings. Even during COVID, there are still ways we can learn more about the world, and become closer with our overseas neighbours, not further away.'
Thank you, Sarah, for helping students step outside their comfort zones and experience new cultures abroad.