Education and Arts

The Immersion experience

Michelle's picture

The Bachelor of International Development Studies equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to work for organisations that aim to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people. A key feature of this course is the third year immersion experience (four week community-based learning), which will expose you to the everyday life of a community in a developing country.

Hear from Dr Michelle Haron, Project Coordinator of the Bachelor of International Development Studies Immersion Experience Program.

1. Tell us about the Bachelor of International Development Studies, Immersion experience program? Is it work experience or just an overseas holiday for the students?

The Immersion Experience Program (IEP) is a compulsory part of the Bachelor of International Development Studies (BIDS) degree.  The Immersion Experience (DVST304) is a unit worth 30 credit points and is undertaken by students during semester 1 of their third and final year of study.

It is not an overseas holiday but it can certainly be great fun and a fantastic challenge. The IEP involves being located in a developing country and experiencing the everyday lives of the people and communities that live there.  The IEP is designed to be the cornerstone of the degree by tying together the student's academic learnings from first and second year into an intensive fieldwork experience.  During their IEP, students meet with NGO's (Non-Government Organisations), CBO's (Community Based Organisations) and other community leaders, visit culturally and historically significant sites, and take  part in cultural activities.

2. How long does the program go for? (Weeks, days)

All IEP's run for a 4 week duration.

3. What countries do students visit?

In 2015 students will visit Cambodia, Timor Leste and Thailand (in particular locations on the border with Burma).

4. How many students go on each experience?

Group sizes range between six and eleven students.

5. Do you have one group at a time or multiple groups going to different countries?

In 2015 there will be five IEP groups departing for different destination countries at different times (ie Cambodia on 20 April, 1 May and 1 June, Timor Leste on 8 May and Thailand on 21 May).

6. What type of support do the students have while they are on the immersion experience? 

An external provider organisation who is experienced with hosting similar immersion groups designs the itinerary and is responsible for students while they are overseas.  One or two facilitators will travel with each group and help with logistical, cultural, safety and academic aspects of the trip.  Students are covered by ACU's Travel Insurance for the duration of their trip and are also members of International SOS.  Students can use International SOS for advice and assistance regarding safety and medical issues both in the lead up to departure and while they are in-country.

7. In what way does the program align with the course? 

The learning outcomes of the Immersion Experience are designed to draw on and tie together many aspects of the degree including intercultural communication, feelings of being the "foreigner", cultural appropriateness, socio-economic conditions in a developing country, NGO development practitioners in action, theory and practice in development, etc.