International travel has long been associated with opening and expanding the minds of those who travel; and exposure to differences in culture, language and environment often has profound effects. Academic travel—visiting an international college or university for the purposes of teaching and learning—adds an additional layer of experience, resulting in exposure to research and teaching which is being filtered and reinterpreted through a different cultural lens. In this reflective commentary, we discuss a number of experiences encountered on a two week academic study trip to Coburg, Germany, in June this year—but first, a description of our travelling party and impressions of the Bavarian region.
We were a party of four from the School of Social Work and Social Policy at La Trobe University, Bendigo Campus—Jennifer returning for a second visit to Coburg University after six years; Steven, a Year 4 Social Work Honours student ready for adventure in an already packed year of activity; Matthew Holmes, an Aboriginal graduate now working for the Department of Sustainability and Environment in Bendigo; and Catherine Cameron, a Year 3 student who was making her first journey outside of Australia. It was early summer in Europe with the fields and trees a lush green, crops growing thickly, the market places smelling of field strawberries and colourful flowers, white asparagus wonderfully juicy and tasty, and NZ apples everywhere! We were generously accommodated by the staff and students of the Social Work course at Coburg University and, in particular, Tina and Nadine provided constant assistance with translation on our visits, which ensured full appreciation of both pleasure activities and for study and teaching purposes.