19 AHS Students go on first ever study tour to Australia

June 14, 2014
Rafael Nazareno; photos by Jon Bilog and Ma. Jennifer Concepcion

"Building friendships down under." Photo montage by Ma. Jennifer Concepcion
From April 28 to May 11, 19 students from the Ateneo de Manila High School including myself, represented the Ateneo in a study tour in Gold Coast, Australia. This trip marked the first study tour for the AHS in Australia, and it also marked the first time the school had its students stay with foster families.
We arrived in Gold Coast on April 28 and we were immediately in awe of just how beautiful everything was, especially the scenic views, the city, the absence of traffic, and the people. Especially the people.
On that same day, we had our first taste of what school would be like in the Varsity  College, the school which we’d be going to. “As we grow older, we lose the ability to think divergently, creatively.” This is what the Science and Math head, Mr. Rackerman, said about people. He said that this is what the school is doing its best to fix. I very much admired the way they conducted classes there, where students sit in groups with whoever they want. The reason for this is that the school wants the students to be able to look for a solution from their own perspective, by collaborating with others.
     One of the main points I noticed in all the classes is they want to impart to the students that there’s never only one answer to a problem. There are an infinite number of possibilities to solve a problem, and it all depends on how divergent your thinking is.

George is a machine that assists engineers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane to assess the tensile strength of objects. In this photo, it seems to be testing Robin's head. Photo by Jon Bilog.
      Also, I truly admire the Australian Public School system and I commend the Australian government for how much they put into education. I can say through the classes we sat in that the quality of education at the Varsity College is very comparable to our own education at the Ateneo. One of the most noticeable things at Varsity is that every student is in ownership of a laptop, supplied by the school from government funds and their partnership with Microsoft. Hopefully, the experience at Varsity could help the Ateneo with new ideas and a new perspective on the curriculum.
We were lucky enough to see Queensland University of Technology, a highly rated engineering school. Real rocket science being taught at the Queensland University of Technology. Photo by Jon Bilog

I also fell in love with Bond University and was in awe of the campus, the fast track degree system, and especially all the opportunities they present to students for careers and pathways to other universities. 
What I enjoyed and what I miss most though about Australia is the time I got to spend with my foster family. I will never forget seeing the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, with soft, white sand, crystal clear water, draped with the rays of the sun and the view of Gold Coast in the background. I savored every moment playing with my foster siblings in the backyard, watching movies with them and shopping after school. One of the highlights of the trip was when we went to the theme park on the last day. For me, it was the perfect way to end the trip because it was all about having fun, and just for a couple of hours we could forget we’d have to leave the next day. However, despite all the fun and exciting things we did, what I truly will miss most are the lazy afternoons at home just talking, laughing, playing, and eating because those are the moments I felt at home, the moments I felt love and had a sense of belonging.
On a deck overlooking the beach at Burleigh. Photo by Jon Bilog.
“Travel while you’re young because you might never get the chance when you’re older,” said my foster mom before we left. I truly believe this and I invite all my fellow students to join these study tours if they have the chance. These experiences can truly change your life. It can help you grow as a person because it exposes you to what is happening outside your own country. Given the chance, I know I’ll be doing this again.