The process of learning

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I believe the way that we learn roughly looks like this:

 

Process of learning image

We can gather information about the world from a whole range of sources – from books, conversations, videos, observation etc. Then some weird, wacky and wonderful process happens in our brains, in which information is analysed, compared and integrated, and this in turn forms our understanding of the world. This can generate original ideas about the world around us, which we can try out by conversing with people, by practically applying them in the form of creating products, launching organisations etc. Ultimately, by throwing our ideas out in to the world, we will gain feedback about our ideas, which provides further information about the world and on and on it goes…

 

This ties in with my view that learning is very much an iterative trial and error process in which we basically try something out, get it wrong but by doing so gain information, and at each stage our ideas become more refined and valuable to the world. This is counter to the dominant philosophy currently held in education which only values the first step – gathering information about the world. It does this by having us read books and listen to teachers tell us about the world. We are then tested on whether we are right or wrong – on our ability to retain and regurgitate knowledge. Even as begin to reach step 2 and develop our own ideas about the world, we do so within a very limited set of criteria. At university we are systematically evaluated and analysed on our ability to evaluate and analyse! Somehow there is even a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in the way we develop our own ideas about the world, by its very nature stifling creativity and learning. Steps 3 and 4 are not encouraged in schools and thus our learning process is sadly stunted.

 

My own learning about the world has accelerated since I left formal education, and this morning I was weighing up how my ideas have developed over time. At the moment I am living in Swindon and I notice that my learning is being stunted somewhat, because I am not in an environment in which I can practice the third stage; trialling my own ideas in the real world. I am consuming books at a vast rate, but in order to refine that information I need to have conversations with people – ideally people whose ideas are more developed than mine and who will challenge me and highlight the flaws in my thinking. I also need to be able to try launching initiatives of my own to see whether they have the real world value that in theory I believe they do. By doing this (and I know I need to get to London in order to do so) I will get some things right, more things wrong and overall gain feedback which will further the learning circle.

 

I’ll touch briefly here on a tension that exists between this natural learning process and the societal norms we experience. I grew up believing that to be wrong was basically akin to committing a sin, and my peers behaved in a similar manner. Making mistakes and ‘failing’ is hardly talked about in our society, but as I found in the entrepreneurial world, when it is talked about you can almost feel the relief in your peers as their shoulders visibly lighten. ‘Yes!’ they often say, ‘I made that mistake too!’. Why learn from our own mistakes if we can learn from the mistake of others? What a valuable learning experience. And why not share our own errors so that others can help see the lesson in them? To show us that our mistakes are not unnatural, but actually wholly to be expected? Amusingly, I still watch people as they vehemently argue that their point is right rather than acknowledging an opposing view and by doing so developing their ideas further. Their fear of being wrong is stunting their learning and growth, and will long continue to do so unless they can overcome it.

 

We are in a lucky position today whereby the information we can gather about the world is enormous. We have vast libraries of books, and then the biggest library of information ever known to man – that thing called the worldwide web. I notice the value of this in my own learning. I will start with a fairly broad subject, and as my ideas become refined I narrow down further and further. In a sense it can be frustrating, because just as I think that I have developed an original and valuable idea, someone will point me towards an individual or organisation who has already developed this. And so I gather more information from them, and in time I will be able to generate my own original and valuable ideas about the world. This same process has been practised by every person in every discipline in the history of humanity’s understanding about the world, as we build up our global knowledge bank. It was Einstein who said it best, ‘If I have seen a little further, it is only because I have been able to stand on the shoulders of giants’. This is how it sometimes feels, that as I read a great mind like EF Schumacher I am able to integrate his exceptionally developed ideas in to my own understanding of the world and then build further upon that – not because my mind is in anyway comparable to Schumacher’s, but because his ideas are accessible to me. I feel incredibly fortunate that libraries and the web offer me free, easy access to these ideas and these minds; this is a unique period in history that many do not appreciate.

 

By not making the most of this information, by not listening to talks by or having conversations with thinker-doers at the cutting edge of field, or by reading their writing, working alongside them etc we are essentially declining to learn anymore about the world than someone could have in the past. And even those whose ideas were developed many decades ago but still have great value like EF Schumacher and whose ideas are accessible to us, if we do not learn from them then we are declining to learn more about the world than someone could have many years ago.

 

The neatest way to sum this article up is to turn this theory of learning on to it and weighing up its place within that. It is obviously an attempt to trial my ideas in the real world. Next I will get some feedback which will further inform my ideas & knowledge. Someone may point out flaws, or more likely tell me that I’ve basically just regurgitated a theory someone else has already pioneered. In which case I’d look at their theory, assess its flaws and my ideas will be developed further.

 

And on and on it goes…

A school from the future

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In my last blog I went to town on the current system of education and questioned what a better, more modern one would look like. Just a couple of weeks before leaving Australia my call was answered, as by good fortune a friend told me the Northern Beaches Christian School and its education innovation centre; the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning. I jumped on their free tour today and checked it out.

It’s very, very impressive. The ‘learning spaces’ (not ‘classrooms’) are open and bright – one of the first things they did was knock the walls down between rooms to remove that closed feeling that I remember the rooms had when I was at school. Classes are allowed to mix with one another, and even with different age groups. They use the phrase ‘guide on the side rather than sage on the stage’ to describe their teaching paradigm. The learning is student-directed, with the teachers moving around and helping students along. For the most part, the students get on with it using their own initiative. A lot of the learning is focussed around real-world scenarios and collaboration. There is not such a feeling of competition as typically emanates from educational institutions. Students bring their own computers in to school and do a lot of the work from there, with an e-learning platform providing the template for their lessons.

As they bring in more innovation and non-traditional methods the student performance on standardised government assessment has improved. The numbers of negative behavioural incidents has dropped by 80% from the time they began adopting a different pedagogy. Their graduates adapt well to university, because they are more accustomed to self-direction and adopting their own learning structure. The skills they prioritise are ‘soft’ skills – those such as communication, self-management and problem-solving that will prove valuable no matter how much the world around us continues to change.

Those are the details. But it was the feel of the place that stays with you.

You could tell how engaged the students were. 9 and 10 year olds without a teacher supervising them and getting on with their exercises – and clearly enjoying it. You could tell that it was a place students were happy to be, rather than waiting until they could go home. No bells. No students being disciplined. The kids were quite confident chatting to the adults walking around and answering their questions. Trust was placed in the kids to learn as was best for them. It was student-centred; not teacher-centred.

I’d like to go again – 2 hours is barely a glimpse.

It’s obviously not as straightforward as picking up this system and replicating it elsewhere. A school is so complex, with dozens of staff and 100s of students you have enormous interaction and so many layers of processes taking place. Having not worked in a school myself (next step..?) it’s hard to understand all of that. They are also open that they do not currently have a ‘model’. It’s more of a series of continuous innovations. In fact, they suggest it works well because they are continuing to move forward. Not everything works, and you need good responsible staff in charge of such innovation because these are the children’s lives you’re experimenting with here.

What struck me when I was reflecting afterwards, is that of all the non-traditional schools I’ve looked at, there are some startling similarities in the themes that emerge. Student-centred. Teacher as a guide. Open spaces. Real-world skills and learning applications. Collaboration. Fostering many forms of intelligence, not just academic. It is surely no coincidence that educators have questioned the current system and looked to innovate have come to such similar conclusions as to what must change.

If schools such as this were to become the template, rather than the current traditional, industrial model of education, the paradigm shift would be astronomically complex. SCIL say that the transition from traditional to non-traditional is one of the toughest things and you inevitably see resistance when the status quo is changed. It’s not just a model for the school you need, but a model for the transition. Do you transition existing institutions? Or start new ones and let the old ones die out? And for public education (North Beaches Christian School is a private school), you need a massive change in policy around the way education is administered. That requires senior government figures with vision willing to put their necks on the line for something that will radically change the status quo and that people will resist. It requires long-term evidence-based models to compare with the outdated ones.

It’s not easy, but in my mind there’s no doubt it needs to happen. As Ken Robinson says, we are failing to make use of our most valuable resource – human potential. The role of public education in this is massive.

If you’re interested in other models of learning, Ken Robinson’s ‘Out of Our Minds’ is well worth a read. I also strongly recommend watching this:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByO41gE3dPQ

 

I’m slowly compiling a list of the great examples I come across…

The education system: Please reboot

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Whilst assessing the year ahead and weighing up a possible move back to the UK, a surprising realisation hit me; that as a recent graduate it seemed easier to get a job by starting an organisation rather than joining an existing one.

On an individual level, this is in part down to my having spent the last few years embarking on similar endeavours, but the increasing number of graduates who I’ve seen reaching a similar conclusion suggests there are systemic issues too. Basically, unless you have experience, contacts or in-demand specific skillsets it’s very hard to find work in the current economic climate – and young graduates fresh in to the world of work are the ones who suffer the most because of this. Unfortunately, the current educational system is doing a woefully inadequate job of fulfilling its primary role; to prepare young people for the world of work. Degrees don’t count for much to employers given that nearly everyone seems to have one, and a degree simply teaches you how to write about stuff, not actually do stuff.

It does seem somewhat farcical that we spend 3 years and £30,000 learning mostly how to write essays or exams about our field of interest, rather than actually practice in it. If you were to design a new education system from scratch, it would little resemble the current one. These faults are hardly surprising, given that the free, compulsory system of education was designed originally for the industrial age in the 19th century. Governments are notoriously slow at updating existing systems, and are far more inclined towards minor incremental changes over large whole-scale change, even though the latter is sometimes needed. For example, the curriculum in Australia recently went through a considerable review and re-design, and the very conservative outcome was largely seen as an enormous missed opportunity to bring it up to date by those within the sector.

I know that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around at the moment due to the world’s faltering economic system, but it doesn’t feel right that graduates are unfairly penalised by the existing systems. I grew up with so many outstanding young people who would bring value to any organisation, but now can’t find paid work having had their creativity and open-mindedness beaten out of them by an education system that values sitting in the library over getting out in to the working world. Personally, I’d have found a 3 year internship in various working environments a more valuable use of my student debt and time than my degree was. Heck, the world, and consequently the job market, are changing so fast that many of us will end up working jobs that don’t even exist yet (think about the impact of the computer revolution). Surely time spent learning a broad range of real-world skills would be better suited to that future than time spent on one narrow discipline.

And this is, after all, the generation who is about to inherit a world buried under a mountain of debt, waste, and facing a plethora of considerable environmental issues. It’s a generation we need to invest heavily in; let’s actually make the most of the tremendous potential locked within our youngest and brightest. An education system that fosters real-world skills and knowledge would be a good start.

 

 

The genius that is Sir Ken Robinson vocalises this debate far better and more elaborately than I ever could here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=player_embedded

If you’ve never watched an RSA video before then you’re in for a treat!

Fatigue…why are you bothering me?

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These past two days I spent bushwalking at the Royal National Park. I took the famous and popular Coastal Track from Bundeena down to Otford. Prior to beginning on Sunday, I had a feeling that I really needed to do this walk and had been feeling pretty fatigued in the lead up to it. Now a day and a half later, having gotten up at 5:20am on Sunday to begin the 4 hour journey (cycle, train, ferry) to the walk’s start point, and having covered the better part of 30km on foot (over some tough terrain) and 20km on bike whilst spending last night sleeping uncomfortably in a tent, I now find myself feeling distinctly refreshed. I feel incredibly relaxed, my mind is not jumping from one task or decision to the next and I keep laughing at the most unlikely things.

Otford (the walk’s end point) found itself one of the main objects of my amusement. Having seen signposts to it from the beginning, starting at 26km and gradually getting whittled down by our relentless walking, it held this magical allure as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (the Coastal Walk, of course, being the rainbow in this tenuous analogy). I had rather hoped to find a pub when we reached it, or at the very least a cafe where I could grab the hot chocolate I had been daydreaming of when we set out on pouring rain and harsh winds that morning. To find that it contained little more than three roads, three houses (one was in construction), some signposts (mainly containing the names of Otford’s roads, in case you couldn’t find one of the other two) and a railway station stimulated feelings of disappointment outweighed by feelings of amusement. I found it all very funny, which made me rather happy.

However, this piece of writing is not dedicated to Otford’s charms or lack thereof. In fact, no piece of writing ever should be dedicated to Otford. If it was, I wouldn’t read it (I might out of curiosity when no one was looking).

It’s about Fatigue.

So.

Naturally upon acknowledging my feelings of refreshment upon finishing the walk, the next thought to enter my head was ‘why?’. Indeed. And then I asked myself why we ever feel tired. What causes this?

Our first instinct often is that we need more sleep. Or a holiday. Somehow we summse the lack of sleep and/or holiday is at the root of our feeling worn out. I don’t doubt this can be the case, but I would venture that the roots of fatigue can be complex, and often cumulative. I believe that doing one kind of activity for too long can wear us out, whether it be the same job, the same routine, the same lifestyle. If you don’t change it up, those areas of our brain being utilised by these activities don’t get a break in which to recover.

For instance at the end of my time travelling I was exhausted. It wasn’t a hard lifestyle; I was able to make up each day as I felt, never worried about somewhere to sleep or food to eat. But I felt so fatigued by that lifestyle. Travelling has great variety true, but although the places change and the people too, the conversations you have and the type of things you do in each place become quite repetitive. I was shattered, and yet raring to get in to my new work and new life in Sydney. On the face of it, that sounds more exhausting, but I had so much energy for this different challenge – much more than for travelling.

Reading is a great love of mine as a means of winding down, but in recent times that’s not always helped. If I’ve had a brain-bending day that challenges me to work through problems, then reading a non-fiction book that engages me in a similar way does not help – it just wears me out further. However, reading a novel does help.

The realisation that I think I’m coming to from this rather anecdotal blog, is that when we look at how much energy we are using, we should not look just at the activities we’re doing, but how they work our brains. My long walk refreshed me, because the parts of my brain usually utilised by the work I do were able to go on holiday. In fact, trying to access them actually required a lot of effort. Instead I had been thinking about my environment, watching for the terrain, taking in the sounds, picturing Otford…

In recent weeks I’ve not been bouncing out of bed in the usual energetic manner, ideas and connections weren’t flowing like I’m used to and physically I hadn’t been feeling too well. Yet, I had changed little in my lifestyle (if anything getting more sleep and downtime) and this presented physically. I find it fascinating that this can be so; that mental fatigue presents in a physical way. I feel that mental health and physical health are so intricately connected, and as society begins to accept and discuss mental health, the depth and extent of this connection will only increase in our consciousness.

It also demonstrates the value of building in to our lifestyles activities that work different parts of our brain. Activities that require such focus that you don’t reflect on work. Perhaps sport or creative hobbies.

I’m certainly going to take that lesson on board, and reflect a little more in this subject in the mean time.

And next time I feel tired, I might just take another long walk. To Otford.

P.S. One more thing. If there’s one takeaway action, it’s this: spend a day without turning on and using your phone or computer (or tablet). Acknowledge how uncomfortable feels, and how remarkable it is that this was probably the norm a few decades ago. What I found, is that it is also very relaxing. Your stress levels noticeably drop.

The entrepreneurial craze: Driving a new-look modern life?

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Since I started spending more time with these somewhat eccentric, entrepreneurial types, a certain trend became very apparent. Irrespective of how well their companies are going, or what stage they’re at, they’re buzzing with life and energy. They apply the same passion and enthusiasm to other areas outside of their work, giving you the feeling that they’re incredibly engaged with their life – every day of the week. It’s infectious.

More and more people seem to be taking up this new way of life (graduate entrepreneurship in the UK is on the rise). But why? It’s high-risk, goes against nearly everything we’re taught growing up, you work crazy hours and offers seemingly little stability (who would try to start a company during a recession!?). Not a great career choice, huh?

Let’s have a look at the typical route through modern life first. It goes a little like this:

  1. Go to school, work hard and develop a good work ethic. Earn good grades to get in to a better university.
  2. Work hard at university, get a good degree, get on the career ladder in a field you want to work in.
  3. Spend the rest of your life working up the career leader to get a bigger paycheck so you can buy a bigger a house, a shinier car and have a fancier wedding.
  4. Teach your kids how to repeat.

Is it just me, or does that sound a bit dull? Not only does it sound like less fun than a Justin Bieber concert, but it also doesn’t really work anymore. My generation is struggling to complete step 2. There are far more graduates than there are jobs available, and most employers will pick experience over youthful enthusiasm.

Increasingly, I’m seeing people fruitlessly searching for jobs or getting unexpectedly laid off. This reality of the stable, settled life is being shaken up. Cracks are appearing and spreading in its foundations, slowly but inevitably. I’d argue that stability and security nowadays is more dependent on our own adaptability than it ever has been before. There are so many changes taking place, and the global financial crisis has truly shaken things up. I can’t see the 21st century becoming much more settled either, the world faces a great challenge and uncertainty.

This modern life hardly inspires passion either. I’ve always felt depressed when I’ve looked at that route, partly because I can’t bear the thought that I already know what the rest of my life looks like. I’m not the only one. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the purpose? The challenge? The surprises? You will be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t like more of these things in their life. It’s hard to put my finger in, but in the UK I gradually picked up on a growing feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration people had with their lives.

A friend of mine, Avis Mulhall, recently appeared in the Irish times to share her story. Particularly poignant for me was this quote from her interview: “I was earning between €120,000 and €130,000, I was in a long-term relationship, we had two houses and two cars, and I thought: ‘Is this it?’” That sounds pretty impressive for someone yet to hit 30, but Avis was far alone in experiencing that ‘Is this it?’ feeling.

It’s created a huge demand and market for these magic quick-fix solutions. Because that’s we’ve learned to look for in our hurried lives.  I see so many ads along the lines of ‘Find your life purpose in THIRTY SECONDS!’ Wow, perfect! I can squeeze that in during the X-Factor advert break AND boil the kettle. Splendid.

But it’s a little harder than that to build a life that you live with purpose and that gives you fulfillment. It takes months or even years, depending on how settled you already are. It requires a full-on change of attitude and way of thinking, not just small tweaks.

What I’ve seen in entrepreneurs, particularly those that are driven by good causes, is that they’ve managed to crack this. They’ve found a life in which they feel engaged and in the moment every day of every week. They love their work, and it makes everything else – travel, relationships, music…all taste a little sweeter. They’re a little more tuned in to all that life offers – whether it be joy or sadness. There’s no such thing as a weekend off and it’s hard to make ends meet (you manage, though), but it’s completely worth it, and you get to take complete charge of your own life. It’s awesome.

Compared to your average employee, these individuals seem so much more excited about their lives. Hardly surprising when you’re allowed to be creative, to contribute to something bigger than yourself and make the seemingly impossible a reality.

I don’t know whether this increase in entrepreneurship will continue, but more awareness of it as viable life choice will hardly do any harm. I really hope we’ll see more people rejecting the notion of spending 5 days a week for the rest of their lives doing an activity they don’t enjoy or believe in (sounds exhausting to me), and doing this to pursue aspirations of consumerism that bring little more than temporary fulfillment. Whilst I wouldn’t proclaim everyone go out, leave their jobs and try to start up a business, I do think a bit more of an entrepreneurial attitude could go a long way.

I hope we’ll see more people rejecting the status quo, the fear of judgement, of failure and chase whole-heartedly after their dream.

Because we all have one, don’t we?

“Once a man crosses the abyss that separates him from his dream, there is no going back.”

– Unknown

An expastry-what!?

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Two weeks before I was due to touch down in Sydney, a friend of mine referred to me as an ‘expatriate’. I did a sudden double-take and my eyes hovered on the word for a moment, trying to understand the implications. She was right, of course, and despite this having been truth for a few months by this point (I left the UK back in February), it still shocked me. Perhaps it was the in-limbo feel of travelling that had prevented this simple fact from dawning on me, but nonetheless here I am expatriating (in its simplest definition) my way around Australia – or a very tiny, miniscule part of it at least. I can’t quite get over how vast – and largely barren – this piece of land is.

To all those who question the value of TV and cinema as a means of educating the youth, I’m on your side in that it definitely doesn’t provide an accurate image of Australia. Not every Australian greets you with g’day, I’ve not seen a kangaroo, it does rain and the seagulls don’t all shout “MATE!” Although I wouldn’t hold that against Finding Nemo, it’s still a magnificent film.

I find myself reflecting back to my work in Cardiff on student mental health. A lot of our conversations would come round to trying to answer the question, ‘why is mental health so shockingly poor amongst students?’ A popular answer – and with good reason – was that students aren’t prepared for the shock of going to university. The living away from home, looking after your own money, not knowing anybody, not knowing the city, academic pressures…  Well, nothing quite prepares you for expatriatism either.

Like the beginning of university, it’s a period in your life packed with excitement, apprehension and unknowns. Unlike university, you’re not thrown in to an environment that is full of other people experiencing exactly the same. And of course no university is as damned expensive as Australia (except, I would have thought, those in Australia). $12 for a pack of peppers? Really? In Cardiff I could go to the cinema for that price. Twice.

For me, there’s another crucial difference to the transition in to university life. University was always the next stage of my life, and to be honest I’m not sure I even gave any thought to the possibility that there were other options at the time, never mind what they might be. But moving to Sydney was very much my decision, and the decision to move to another country to live, particularly for the reasons I had, is hardly a natural or expected next stage of life. I really, really, wanted to move here, and I am absolutely thrilled to b here.

A few other questions that have surfaced a few times during the last month. What makes a place home? How does one go about building up a life from scratch? Not straightforward questions to answer. And becoming an expat is tough. Google ‘expat mental health’, look at the first few results. It’s hardly surprising either.

It wasn’t my motive, but many people take this route so that they can begin a new life from scratch, and leave certain things behind. Your identity and way of life gets largely reset. Within that is the most awesome opportunity – who do you want to be and what do you want your life to look like? I was pretty happy with the sense of identity I had in Cardiff, but it doesn’t entirely carry over to here. I wasn’t an expat in Cardiff (moving from England to Wales really doesn’t count).

An area of my life I have realized I had taken for granted somewhat, was being so close to an amazing family and a group of friends that I find to be incredible people. Building these relationships takes a lot of time – many months, years… I’m learning that I have to be very patient to allow those kinds of friendships to grow here. It helps that I’ve been warmly received by those I have met, and that I’ve come across many fascinating individuals here in Sydney already.

Much of what I’ve written has given focus to the challenges of expat life – but there’s another side, of course. The weekend I wrote this I spent one day ‘bushwalking’ in the Blue Mountains, and another at the beach. In winter. I marvel at a city that has great energy and buzz to its centre, but whose culture is also shaped by its beautiful coastline and sandy beaches, and that on every other side of the city is stunning parkland.

In amongst all of that, there’s another half to this great challenge I’ve taken on, and that is the co-creation of a not for profit. Again, not something I’ve done before. The vision is highly exciting because of the scope of its ambition. However, it has led more than a couple of people to remark that I must be a little crazy – and they’re probably right. It’s hardly a stable, settled route through life, although the current picture of graduate employment shows no sign of offering that anytime soon. So what have I got to lose?

An increasing proportion of young people are taking a similar path, for good reason. This is in part due to the reason I’ve stated above, and in part because there’s a growing recognition that simply ‘having a job’ is perhaps not the most thrilling, or fulfilling way to live your life – and there are other options. The thought of working for a big company, helping it to make money, sitting in an office, working 9-5 and always having to answer to someone turns me off more than a great huge bowl of couscous (I don’t like couscous, by the way).

I had an awesome opportunity to work with a developing student-led mental health organisation when I graduated (Mental Wealth UK), and learned a lot through that. It was exactly the sort of opportunity I was looking for, and so is this. The approach itself is nothing revolutionary – it’s been done before and in fact, when you step back and look at it, it’s very obvious. But it works, and we know this from four years of positive results from Mental Wealth UK, and over a decade of impact from Active Minds in the USA.

Mental illness and psychological distress is a huge problem amongst university students. Huge. If you took 5 average students in a university in Australia, you would be able to diagnose one as having a mental illness, and another 3 that are experiencing serious raised psychological distress of some kind. So you have just one lucky person who you might describe as being ‘mentally healthy’. A lot of research has come out over the past few years, and it’s forcing people to sit up and take note. The issue is there. We’re confident (and we’ll find out over the next six months) that our strategy to tackle this works. The information and knowledge of how to stay mentally healthy, how to recognize the signs if you’re struggling, where to go if you need help…it’s all already out there. We’re just flipping the form of communication from staff-to-student to student-to-student. Peer to peer. Who do students talk to most of the time if something’s bothering them? Their mates. As with any good idea, you know it’s good because it seems so obvious that someone would have done it before. As yet though, this hasn’t happened in Australia, but there are signs to suggest that the student enthusiasm is there and it just needs a spark to set it off.

But this blog isn’t specifically about that, and that’s all the attention I’m willing to give to it for now. I’ve developed a real (healthy, I hope) fascination with entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship particularly. The people are always lively, engaging and a little bit (sometimes very) eccentric, and they create these seemingly impossible initiatives. After a while, you find yourself questioning what really is impossible, and challenging yourself to prove that it’s not. It’s thrilling, it’s challenging, it’s full of uncertainty, full of disappointment, of extreme highs and lows, opportunity and ultimately the chance to create something that is bigger than yourself. You live and breathe the work you do, and your whole life becomes an adventure – not just when the clock hits 5pm and on weekends. I had absolutely no idea that it would be the path for me, yet here we are.

I’m also curious to find out if there are any other individuals around here doing similarly. Packing up their roots back home because of an opportunity to build a company elsewhere in the world. Given the title of this blog, I’m wondering though if there’s a likelihood of attracting pastry chefs in exile. If there’s a niche out there for that, I might just wing the blog that way for a bit…

The whole blog won’t be just about expat life and entrepreneurship. As you’ll see from the blog description, my interests diverge greatly and this could go anywhere. Although I probably won’t give much attention to arthouse cinema, the cockroaches I share my kitchen with, or classical music in the 18th century. Pretty much anything else is fair game though. But told from the point of view of someone living the expat life and trying very, very hard (perspiration will, inevitably and unfortunately, occur) to set up a potentially wonderful organisation.

Splendid!