Thomas Vitart (France) - University of Technology Sydney
Course completed in Australia: Exchange year – Communications
Institution: University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
Current position: Chief of Protocol, Australian Embassy, Paris
Thomas Vitart was shocked by Australia. Shocked that he found it so easy to fit in!
“I felt at home within a few weeks,” he says. “I was amazed by how easy it was to integrate into Australian society.
“I think it was easier to move from Lyon to Sydney than from Lyon to Paris.”
The efficiency of the registration process and lack of red-tape made for a stress-free welcome. All Vitart’s administrative formalities for university were done in less than a day. In France, he insists, the same procedures can take months to complete.
Vitart knew very little about Australia prior to a chance attendance at an information session at Lyon 2 University on studying in Canada and Australia. It convinced him to apply for a one-year exchange program at the University of Technology Sydney as part of his Master in Information & Communication.
“The idea of Australia interested me for the language, the experience and the adventure,” he says. On a study level, he was drawn by the wider choice of communication, advertising and public relations subjects that were not available at his French university.
“The quality of the tutorials was excellent,” he says, singling out the dynamics of the small groups and the practical, pragmatic nature of the classes with their “ready-to-use knowledge”.
“A lot of students at the Master’s level already had jobs, so you were studying with people who were already working as journalists, in PR or in advertising.
“I had the feeling that everything was possible in Australia.”
The multicultural environment – both at UTS and in the wider community – also had a profound effect.
“It made me more objective,” he says. A skill that he puts to good use in his current position.
Now based in Paris, Vitart is the Chief of Protocol at the Australian Embassy, a job that draws heavily on his Australian experience.
“I would have certainly never pushed the door of the Australian Embassy in Paris if I had not spent a year in the country,” he admits.
An understanding of Australia – Vitart also gained an Advance Diploma in Australian Language & Culture – and keen communication skills are integral to a role which sees him planning and co-ordinating visits by Australian government ministers and senior officials, corporate leaders and dignitaries, and accompanying them as they meet with their high-level French counterparts.
He jokes that one of his career goals after completing his studies in Australia was to go back. This job it would seem is the next best thing.
When quizzed on how to make the most of studying in Australia, Vitart advises “living the full experience”.
“I joined university clubs – scuba diving, surf-riders and bushwalking,” he recalls. “I enjoyed going surfing before and after uni, sharing a large house with an amazing Australian flatmate, being able to see the whales during the winter, to surf with dolphins in Byron Bay, camping in the bush on weekends and travelling by car around the country during holidays.”
It is, he stresses, all about finding a balance – doing the best possible academically, enjoying the university’s social activities, and keeping enough time to discover the country and its people.
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