While many people around the world were in lockdown in the first half of 2020, Srinath from India had a very different experience.
Being located at UQ’s rural Gatton campus gave him more freedom and found him forging close – but physically distant – connections with his classmates.
Gatton’s secluded and spacious rural setting allowed Srinath to embark on his 'walkntalk' project, to get to know the diverse global student community who live in the Gatton Halls of Residence.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Srinath Balasubramanian (Sri) from India. I’m pursuing a Master of Agricultural Science with a specialisation in Plant Protection at UQ’s Gatton campus.
I chose this program as I’m passionate about agriculture. Also, I found that Australia shares similar climatic conditions to India growing almost the same crops. Plant Protection is unique as it deals with how to protect crops from various pests which in turn protects many lives from hunger and starvation.
I feel a great sense of wellbeing that I'm enrolled in a course that works to feed the community – it's a known fact that without food our own existence is doubtful.
What motivated you to start the walkntalk project?
The project was started with an aim to talk to students from all continents, which I began with the students living in the Gatton Halls of Residence. It eventually turned into my final project for the Leadership in Rural Industries and Communities course.
Most of the population were international students who were stuck in the Halls due to international travel restrictions and I was among them. Before the start of this project, I was well aware that my fellow residents were exhausted from increased screen-time due to multiple online tutorials, assignments and their usual Facebook, WhatsApp and Netflix use.
I knew conducting another project via virtual media platforms would not be very inspiring and motivating. After much thought and consideration, I started the walkntalk session.
Walkntalk is a series of interview sessions with people from different backgrounds while walking. As we were amidst the coronavirus restrictions, physical distancing was observed throughout the sessions. Most of my walkntalk sessions took place during evening walks on the outer ring-road surrounding the campus, overlooking the cows, horses and birds. This taught me a lot about life and made me appreciate my surroundings.
In general, many students, including me, believe that life is more interesting in a city. But the truth is, every day is filled with miracles and surprises for those who wish to observe, listen, and explore, regardless of where we stay. If you are curious, Gatton is no less surprising.
Meet Srinath’s classmates
Eshwar from India
Eshwar is from Chikmagalur, a hill station in the state of Karnataka in India. He completed his undergraduate studies in agriculture and is now studying a Master of Agribusiness to prepare for his future career managing his family's commercial coffee estate.
He enjoys hiking, off-road driving, and playing football. Eshwar explains how Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, evolved to become the ‘electronic city’ of India at the turn of the century with the advent of IT parks. Alongside these mega-structures of modern industry exist important cultural sites, temples and monuments built in ancient eras.
Val from Singapore
Only a few years ago, Val discovered her passion and interest for wildlife, which lead to her studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at UQ Gatton. She loves running marathons and taking part in a variety of sports.
Srinath and Val were surprised when they found out they both grew up speaking colloquial dialects that are a mash-up of English and the local language. Like ‘Tanglish’ (a blend of Tamil and English), Singaporeans have their own mixed dialect called ‘Singlish’.
Credits: @Alaric Martell
Jason from China
Jason is from China’s ‘City of flowers’, Guangzhou. He did his bachelor's in animal science in UC Davis and now is studying his second degree at UQ in veterinary science. Jason describes life, food and fun in his home province, with a bit of local history.
Guangzhou is previously called Canton. It is the birthplace of famed Cantonese cuisine and an important trade centre historically for the maritime Silk Road and still today.
Srinath is overwhelmed (and hungry) when Jason explains all of the different varieties of food he loves from home. He also talks about his fond memories of favourite spots to go during his school holidays, such as the Chimelong Paradise theme park and Chimelong Water Park.
Hai Tong Wong (Woody) from Malaysia
Woody is from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. He's currently studying the Bachelor of Agribusiness. He is passionate about classic literature, jazz and classical music, and recently took up stargazing.
Woody explained how his family’s 750-acre durian farm is managed with just 20 people and a good irrigation and drainage system. They grow the Musang King variety of the popular luxury fruit, also known as ‘the King of King of Fruits’. The name 'durian' comes from the Malay word ‘durio’ which means ‘thorns’.