Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An opportunity in Australia

Having recently returned home from my four-month Endeavour Fellowship at UWA in Perth, I wanted to share a little bit of my experience. I also want to encourage international artists to apply for the Endeavour program. It's substantial money and, in my experience, not that hard to get. It's certainly worth the effort to apply. Complete information is available on their website.
I was able to rent this sweet little cottage near campus
The program I applied for was the Endeavour Executive Fellowship. This provides up to $18,500AUD for travel and expenses for a residency for "professional development." (Four months is the maximum. It's not necessary to spend that much time there.) This means my program was not part of a research project or academic degree. They have other fellowships for those (with more money associated with them for longer periods). The "program" I described was not a formal conference or classes. I described my program as generally wanting to make personal professional contacts with colleagues I've worked with for the last several years.

If you've ever considered an extended trip to Australia, this is a great way to do it. If this is something you want to try, do contact Jay Jay and/or myself. I can happily advise you about the nuts and bolts of applying. But Jay Jay is the guy who would be your institutional sponsor.

I tried hard to arrange my fellowship to coincide with the worst part of winter at home in Kentucky. Since they don't notify people of their application results until late November (guidelines say December), it was a mad scramble for me to get my life together enough to be away for four months beginning in early January. As it was, there was a brief delay in getting my visa approved, so I did not actually leave until 18 January. Just in time to avoid what would be a pretty brutal winter, arriving in Perth in Australia's hot mid-summer. I returned home in mid-May, just as Australia heads into winter and the nights were getting cool. I now get to enjoy a second long summer at home.

My stay in Australia was definitely a learning experience. The first thing I learned is that everything there costs about double on average what it does at home, even accounting for exchange rates. And since they are on the metric system, I was a bit taken aback to see chicken for sale in the grocery for $18 a kilo. Despite that, the fellowship is sufficient to live on if you live frugally, as I do normally anyway. I was fortunate to find housing within walking distance of campus, but I paid a lot for the privilege. The alternative would have been relying on bus schedules and the associated costs of transportation. I thought about buying a cheap bike while there, but ultimately I decided I needed the exercise and I enjoyed the walk to the office every day. But a bicycle would have made going to the grocery store a lot easier.

Aside from the mechanics of getting the grant, arranging transportation and housing, and figuring out day to day living, the experience of being in Perth for an extended visit was an awesome opportunity. I connected with JayJay pretty much daily and he was an outstanding host. He provided me with a very good computer in a nice office space that I shared with three physicists (who spent most of the time writing arcane equations just like on the Big Bang Theory show). I joined his family for the kids' swim meets, Scrabble tourneys, etc.

The UWA campus is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I've ever seen. It was a joy walking to work every day through the gorgeous trees and other foliage, listening to the birds, watching the peacocks mingle with the students on the lawn at noon. A stunningly blue sky that yields to the equally stunning Southern Cross at night. I often walked home late at night when the campus was basically deserted. The place never failed to awe and inspire me.
The back side of Winthrop Hall at night


And most of all I met some wonderful friends from SL who basically adopted me as one of their own and who I'm sure are now lifelong real life friends. Everyone I met there was generous and kind and seemed generally happy to be living in such a wonderful part of the world.I''l be blogging about some of my experiences later, either here or on my own blog.

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