Jörg Stephan (Germany) - University of NSW
Course completed in Australia: Exchange year – International Law
Institution: University of New South Wales (UNSW)
Current position: Seconded National Expert at the Secretariat-General of the European Commission (Simplification and Administrative Burden Reduction Programme), Belgium
Studying in Australia taught Jörg Stephan to think differently. “You are forced to really adapt, to get involved and to learn a new way of life,” he says.
“It gives you a totally different perspective on Europe and your own country so that you start to question things, to think about other approaches.”
It’s an attribute that has come in handy in his current job: Stephan coordinates the work of a high-level group at the European Commission tasked with reducing the bureaucratic burden for businesses in Europe. Simply put, he’s trying to cut down on the red tape for which Europe is – or was once – renowned.
And his time in Australia helped him get here.
Studying and learning to live in a different culture, he believes, was great preparation for working in an international environment.
“It gave me a good outside perspective,” he says.
“The language skills, as well, helped me to work in my current position.”
As a law exchange student at the University of New South Wales, Stephan was struck by the differences between the German and Australian systems.
“There is much more interchange between teachers and students in Australia,” Stephan explains. “It’s very open, with easier access to teachers. And their approach in class is more creative.
“I loved the uni life,” he says. “It was relaxed but at the same time you had to work to get good results.”
Being an international student was, he says, both liberating and difficult.
“Australia is a very European culture in many respects,” he says. “It’s western and so it was easy to fit in.”
But while there are similarities, there are also some big differences as Stephan soon discovered.
“In Europe if you travel 1000km, you end up in a different country with a different culture. In Australia, it can be that far just between cities!”
Stephan visited every Australian state and territory, and learned some valuable lessons along the way ‒ don’t jump in a rocky pool in the middle of nowhere to cool off when you have the rental car key in your pocket!; don’t stay too long in the Australian summer sun when you’ve just arrived from a European winter (it burns!), and as cute as they are, you really don’t have to take photos of every kangaroo you see in the distance!
“It is a great country to live in, study and travel,” he says. “It has fantastic cities, beautiful landscapes, and relaxed people.
“My favourite thing about Australia was the Sydney ferry trip from Circular Quay to Manly, because that is ‘as good as it gets’ when it comes to beautiful short trips in one of the best cities in the world.”
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