Year 9 Big Experience

This experiential learning program enhances our students’ understanding of their local community and develops an appreciation of Australia’s place in the wider Asian region. Students participate in out-of-classroom activities designed to develop independence, initiative and teamwork, and expose students to new experiences and points of view. In March 2019, our year 9 students embarked on their much anticipated Big Experience: a three-week journey to a South East Asian country with a strong focus on service and environmental sustainability.

A selection of our students share their insights on how this Big Experience developed their skills, competencies, knowledge and attitudes pertaining to global citizenship, the environment, agency and coagency, social justice, diversity, and the acquisition of a global perspective.


Global Citizenship

What is a global citizen? It is someone who is aware of the world and has a sense of their role in it. They also value respect and the importance of diversity. How did the Big Experience and the power of travel provide us with an understanding of what it means to be a global citizen? This was evident as we were concerned in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia about the problems that need to be addressed to make the world a better place for everyone. Our group had the chance to experience a perspective on culture that was totally new to us, away from our ordinary “Bayside Bubble”. When at temples we had to culturally respect the rules, for example – not facing the soles of our feet to Buddha and removing our footwear. We were also able to encounter the issues other global citizens are trying to tackle such as poverty, the provision of clean water and sanitation. We saw this when we were given the chance to go to the school with the NGO, where they could access clean water and soap. We went there to share our knowledge and give them an understanding of maintaining healthy sanitation. While there, we were able to explore and understand another culture as at home it is very different. During our stay we also had the opportunity to donate and participate in giving food to Buddhists in Laos at dawn.

– Zara, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia



Throughout our Big Experience trip, our group progressively understood how bad the pollution was for the environment of the countries we visited including Thailand, Laos and Cambodia (TLC). On our first day, the streets appeared to be fairly clean so we didn’t notice that it was very dirty. It looked as most of us had imagined but we didn’t notice the pile of rubbish on the sides of the streets because our eyes were glued to the sky, staring up at the amazingly unique structures surrounding us. Towards the middle of the trip our group realised that these countries had very different environmental laws compared to Australia and at that point, we learnt that their definition of sanitation was very different from our definition. Their food was left out in the open at markets because there were no fridges, their bins were broken or poorly maintained so there was rubbish everywhere which is when we discovered that they didn’t really worry about their environment. Leaving the trip, many of us were left shocked and felt that we should inform our country about the problems that persist in those countries regarding pollution. An example of the pollution in TLC was on the Mekong river cruise – although we were in a completely remote place, there was still rubbish collected up on the banks and just floating in the water. So I do think that members of our group will attempt to spread the word about ways we can help clear the pollution.

– Marcus, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia


Agency and Coagency

Throughout the trip to Vietnam, we all had to develop our ability to do things autonomously and take personal responsibility without having our parents looking after us. We had to manage our passports and other belongings, ensuring we packed up our hotel rooms and did not leave anything behind. We needed to check after every bus trip or plane trip to ensure that we had everything. We also had to be responsible for being hygienic and ensure we ate enough food for our active days. During the trip, we often had to step outside our comfort zones without the emotional support of our parents. We were encouraged to try new things, we even ate bugs and cold local fish that was in a jar. Getting out of our comfort zones is important as life isn’t always going to be easy.

As a cohort of students and leaders, we learnt that communication and cooperation are critical. During the build, developing these skills ensured all the students knew their job responsibilities and how they interrelated with other jobs. Many of us also found that without our parents being present, it was necessary to check in with others to make sure they were enjoying the trip and felt well. The development of these communication and cooperation skills will be useful for our futures.

– Katie, Vietnam


Social Justice

In a nutshell, social justice (a term which is often thrown around but is sadly seen less in action), aims to promote equality in societies and aid in solving global issues. Social justice is vital for creating an equal and safe environment for every member of our global village.

On the Big Experience we witnessed some of the many injustices in our world whether right in front of us or behind the scenes, they were there gnawing away at the fabric of a just society. One aspect that really struck me in Vietnam was how divided the people were based on their wealth. It was seen that there were lower class and upper class districts within some of the cities, creating a hierarchy within the society. Another distinction was observing how badly treated some of the workers were. With very poor working conditions and low wages they were barely getting by. Ultimately, the government must take some responsibility for causing a bigger gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged, as they did not seem to protect the most vulnerable members of the society. The family for whom we had the opportunity to build a house included a father, a mother and their two disabled children who did not receive any government support. I can make a difference by educating people to be more aware of global issues and to actively engage with volunteering programs which invest in every child’s education across the country in order to create more opportunities. I implore you to do the same.

– Matthieu, Vietnam



During my trip to China, I was thrown into a completely different lifestyle and became part of a different culture. I noticed straight away a cultural difference in how people act towards each other and how they present themselves through clothing and food. China is a very traditional country and the people are very open about sharing their traditions and differences especially with foreigners. Being part of a family meal in China and seeing women dancing in traditional costume really helped me appreciate the love and respect they have for their history and ancestry. It made us think about different cultures and how another country welcomed us with open arms. It gave us a new perspective on life and how we should welcome people no matter who they are or what they are like. It helped us communicate our differences and see that sharing our values and caring about things is important to us and others. Moving forward in life to jobs and working with others, it is important to appreciate everyone has different traditions and thoughts which we need to value and understand. The Big Experience in China helped many of us grow as people and have a wider mindset and gave us more opportunities to accept others and their cultures.

– Sara, China


International Perspective

Exploring our world is the greatest journey that anyone can brave but for most students, that journey and the world it conceals, can seem impossibly far away. That’s not the case for us anymore. The Big Experience was an amazing first step, or more accurately, leap into experiencing the rest of the world. It was truly a wonder to watch as many of the people in my tour group began to see the world, not as an outsider, but as one who truly belongs. As a student from overseas, I have always seen the world in a global sense but this experience also made my lens wider, providing me with an incredible view of the world as a whole, but also of the finer details. We were shown the world but more importantly, we were shown ourselves, and how we can genuinely make a difference in the lives of others. The true greatness of the Big Experience does not come from the trip itself

“We were shown the world but more importantly, we were shown ourselves, and how we can genuinely make a difference in the lives of others.”

but rather the feeling of community and kinship, not only with your trip mates, but also with the wider world. This feeling is the reason that humanity is not a group of faceless mobs attacking each other but instead a unified species.

– Joshua, China