“Welcome to Incredible India!” my colleague exclaims, as we exit Delhi airport approaching a taxi that has certainly seen better days. Like many Australians, I have travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia. India, however, is a whole new experience. So when Erin Lynn, Founder of Generate Worldwide, approached me with the idea of running a study tour together some six months ago, I jumped at the opportunity. India has certainly always been on my bucket list. That my partner’s family hails from Kolkata might have something to do with this. But it was that first meeting with Erin when her passion for the country really rubbed off on me, and sent us both on a journey of creating a purposeful travel opportunity for young people to not only learn more about the social, political and culture histories of this ‘incredible’ country, but also to develop personal and professional skills that would see them better placed to compete in an increasingly globalised labour market.
The mission of YOA is not only to connect young people with opportunities for personal and professional development, but also to connect them with their community, leaders and peers, both local and global. What better way to do this than to facilitate a structured travel experience where one can learn not only more about another country and its peoples, but also about themselves. Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of travel in this regard. A recent report from theEuropean Commission found that ‘young people who study or train abroad not only gain knowledge in specific disciplines, but also strengthen key transversal skills which are highly valued by employers’. Skills like adaptability, flexibility, teamwork and cross-cultural communication. The study also revealed that ‘graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market. They are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad and, five years after graduation, their unemployment rate is 23% lower’. International travel is thus not only important from a personal perspective, in terms of increasing cultural awareness and understanding, but there is also an economic argument to be made about supporting young people to engage internationally. This is particularly relevant in the context of youth unemployment reaching epidemic proportions both in Australia and aboard.
Over the next two weeks 14 young Australians will undertake a study tour of Northern India, journeying from Delhi to Amritsar, Dharamsala, Haridwar and Agra, to explore the themes of democracy and governance, social stratification and religion. Over the course of this travel and learning experience we have asked each of our study tour participants to reflect upon and document their own personal journey. This daily blog will culminate in an event two weeks after our return on March 3, where participants will share their experiences directly with the YOA community in Melbourne. We invite you to follow us online using #YOAIndia2015 and join us on this truly incredible journey!
Margaret Quixley – Founder, Young Opportunities Australia