La Trobe University lecturer and study tour organiser at the Albury-Wodonga campus, Dr Susan Gilbert, said the program, held every two years, was part of La Trobe’s commitment to giving local students an international perspective.
‘The study tour is available to any student studying an Arts degree at La Trobe,’ Dr Gilbert said. ‘It’s also available to non-La Trobe students and to interested members of the public who want to join the tour to learn more about the Ottoman Empire.
‘Turkey is an important player in modern international and economic affairs, so this experience of travel and study will deepen students’ understanding of both the historical and the modern world.
‘The Ottoman Empire is a place where Western and Eastern cultures meet, and over many centuries these cultures have combined to build a unique national history,’ Dr Gilbert said.
For the three local students – Jock Wiltshire, David Spurr and Kym Amery – experiencing history through visiting key sites of the Ottoman Empire was a powerful and intense learning process. Along the way, they benefited from the expertise of La Trobe University Associate Professor Adrian Jones, who specialises in Ottoman History.
A highlight of the three-week trip for Albury’s Jock Wiltshire was a visit to the University of Sarkarya, where the La Trobe students were hosted by Turkish students and their lecturers.
‘Visiting the University was a fascinating cultural exchange,’ Ms Wiltshire said.
‘One of the Turkish students asked us why Australia and New Zealand had attacked Turkey in World War One. From her point of view, it didn’t make sense that a country with so little relationship to the Ottoman Empire at the time had something against them. It was illuminating to gain a different perspective on Gallipoli, which looms large in Australian history.’
David Spurr, a retired Albury schoolteacher who is studying a Postgraduate Diploma in History, agreed.
‘At Gallipoli we spent some time at the Turkish memorials, which was a powerful reminder that the campaign was not just an Australian conflict,’ Mr Spurr said.
The students visited Turkey as part of a biennial History study tour with 29 other students, nine non-student travellers and two staff members.
For Kym Amery, from Wangaratta, the study tour was significant. It was her last unit of study towards her undergraduate degree – the first major step towards becoming a teacher.
‘I’d never been on a study tour before, and immersing myself in the history of a place while I was actually there was a whole new experience,’ Ms Amery said. ‘We really got a sense of the continuity of history in Turkey – we looked at the period of the Ottoman Empire, but some of the buildings date from a time even older than the Empire.
‘I enjoyed the trip so much that it really confirmed for me that I’ve made the right choice in wanting to change the direction of my career and become a History teacher,’ Ms Amery said.
Suzi Macbeth, Media and Communications Officer: T + 61 3 9479 5353 | E email@example.com
Image: Istanbul at twilight; credit Jock Wiltshire