Last week I got shocked. And I’m not a very impressionable person. Poisonous snakes, tornadoes and an unexpected overdraft on my bank account don’t trouble me excessively. But last week I got shocked.
During our lecture the professor informed students about the possibility of spending a semester in one of four European universities, Malmo, Utrecht, Rome or Krakow, to put in short, of taking part in the Border Crossings program. She told us that so far only one student applied. And, as I found later, the original deadline was sometime in February.
I got shocked, because back in Poland just from my course at least two other girls applied, and this year I got plenty of e-mails from people who want to apply for the next semester asking about the program. And yet here just one student applied.
James Cook has 13,316 students, of which over 10,000 are undergraduate. Let’s say more than half of them studies science, medicine or any other course that doesn’t qualify them for Border Crossings. That leaves around 4,000 students who don’t want to go to Europe. But this estimate may be much mistaken. After all, James Cook doesn’t provide detailed statistics on how many students do particular courses. I continued to lower the number to calm my conscience. How many students of Cross Cultural Communication, International Relations, Development Studies, Law, Languages, History,Politics, Conflict Studies are there? Two thousands? One thousand?
If it’s one thousand that still gives me a crushing number of only 0.1% of James Cook University students who want to go to Europe. That is shocking. Most of my friends if they heard someone is giving them an opportunity to cross few borders would just ask when the plane takes off. Some of course would pretend they couldn’t hear me, but these are in minority. Why no one here wants to go to Europe? Is it because they are not used to travelling? It’s Australia. The nearest city up north from Townsville is five hours by car. A trip to Brisbane is a whole day drive. There is nothing but travelling in Australia unless you can stick to a daily route: house-work-supermarket. And even these can be very spread out to European standards.
Still, this kind of travelling is convenient. No borders to cross, no incomprehensible languages on the way, little effort to be made. Even I noticed that I think differently about a half-continent road trip to Alice Springs than hitch-hiking to Spain. Is that the problem then?
I started talking to my Australian friends. Soon I found out that none of them ever heard of Border Crossings. Some are excited about the program, some turn away. But why have no one heard about it?
Now two of them are applying. That leaves at least one empty spot. If you’re reading this, another 0.1 per cent, don’t waste time and go get it.