Tell me a story……

Once Upon a Time in a small town, a young girl called Elsa was listening to a story told by a senior called Dorothy.

Dorothy spoke of a time where technology did not exist. If you wanted to communicate with someone you would write a letter. Or better yet you would give your friend a call.

Instead of using an i-phone to play music, Dorothy would use a record player, which would blast her favorite tunes.

Listening to this story the young girl was transported through time and imagined that she was in Dorothy’s shoes.

It would be a shame if Dorothy never had the opportunity to bond with Elsa. Not only did they learn from each other, but also they had the unique opportunity of peeking into different worlds that they never knew existed.

My name is Bev and I am the founder of Celebrate Living History which is a program dedicated to connecting young people with seniors. I am passionate about bringing generations together to bond over stories.

I have been working with journalism students from Griffith University and Swinburne University since 2012 and loved that I have the opportunity to connect generations. What I enjoy most about Celebrate Living History is the opportunity for both young and old to connect with each other and most of all for both generations to realise that it does not matter how old you are, it really is about the person inside. Regardless of age everyone has a story to tell.

This year I heard about the Winston Churchill fellowship, which is an opportunity for Australians to travel overseas to research a topic of their choice in their chosen field. My dream is to use my journalism skills in writing, video and audio to document stories of folks who are passionate about connecting young people and seniors around the world.

I stumbled across the Intergenerational, Intercultural Encounters and Second Language Development Project while researching potential people to interview. The folks at Monash University and Queensland University of Technology aim to bring together upper secondary school learners of Chinese, German and Spanish with older speakers of the language with the focus on promoting mutually beneficial inter-cultural, intergenerational encounters.

What I enjoy about the project is that it brings together young and old with the focus on connecting over language. Both generations learn from each other and most of all break down stereotypes to become great friends.

Churchill Fellowship Information session at Melbourne University.

Churchill Fellowship Information session at Melbourne University.

Even though the project is based in Australia, I wanted to do a test run for the Winston Churchill fellowship and interview Queensland University of Technology Associate Professor Marisa Cordella-Masini who was one of the main researchers involved in the language program.

For three years Marisa joined a team of researchers from Monash University to investigate the effects of regular meetings between Year 11 and Year 12 language learners with migrant seniors.

Marisa says one of the most powerful parts of the project was the ability to break stereotypes between generations.

“We are breaking the stereotype of young people thinking old people are useless and not able to contribute in society which of course is a clear misunderstanding and at the same time we are breaking the stereotype of older people thinking that young people are all rebels. Young people are really fantastic and wonderful,” she says.

Some of the other great benefits of the program were the ability for generations to learn from each other. Instead of reading a history textbook the students had the opportunity to ask questions about momentous events from a senior who had experienced the occasion firsthand. While the seniors could also learn about what goes on in a teenager’s life such as why they are so passionate about technology!

In addition the program was an opportunity for the seniors to play a mentorship role, not only assisting in students doing well in their language studies but also playing a part in helping students achieve their life goals.

The interview took an interesting twist where the spotlight was suddenly switched onto my life goals and why I was entering the Winston Churchill fellowship.

Marissa asked if there was an opportunity to pursue journalism professionally. I replied that when I graduated I tried to find a job where I could use my degree in Communications but time after time I was rejected.

It was due to this rejection that I learnt to think outside the box and its also one of the main reasons why I created Celebrate Living History, the only opportunity available was the one I formed myself.

Since graduation I have formed a unique path and delved into aged care and customer service! While I find this work rewarding, I truly believe that I need to use my skills developed over the past four years of working with university students.

What I love most about the Celebrate Living History program is the opportunity where I help students connect with a senior. And most of all use my journalism skills to help the student create the best story.

One of the paths I would like to pursue is in the education sector. I would love to use my skills in either a TAFE or University setting.

Marissa says one way to get into the university with my experience is to pursue a research assistant job.

“Usually we take on students who are doing a post graduate but if you can show evidence that you have been working in a particular area. It can be a way to get into the university,” she says

“But if you would like to work in a university environment to become a lecturer, there is no way you will be able to get in without a doctorate and that is the minimum requirement, to be really be active in the field,”

“To test the water to see if you like the environment the best way will be to get into a research project to see and work with colleagues closely. You will be able to see whether you like it or you don’t like it, and you have not invested three or four years of your life.”

Last of all I asked if Marissa had any tips on how to write a successful fellowship application.

“The key point for a research project is to be quite clear. It has to be a language that everybody can understand,” she says

“The language has to be simple it has to be clear, because sometimes when we are so expert in one area we tend without noticing using jargon and expressions that make the discourse quite clumsy. It has to be quite direct about how you are doing the project. And if you do that I think you will have good chances.”