Australia trip 'experience of a lifetime' for Fort Hays State University student

Anna Hand Internship

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
Growing up in a small town in central Kansas, Anna Hand was heavily involved in high school activities in Ellsworth.

She found similar opportunities at Fort Hays State University and got involved with travel abroad programs immediately upon her arrival on campus in 2012.

"I decided when I came to college, I was going to live it to the most," said Hand, who in her first two years in college made two trips to Peru and one to Costa Rica through school projects, as well as visiting Europe twice on her own.

Nothing though, Hand said, could have prepared her for an internship in Australia this summer.

Hand, a political science major who will be a senior at FHSU this fall, just returned from a six-week trip to the Melbourne area, where she worked for the organization "Youth Generation Against Poverty."

She earned an hour of college credit for her internship, which is mandatory in her major, and Hand said it was an experience of a lifetime.

Not only did she get to plan a program she hopes to launch on campus at Fort Hays State this fall, but she got a taste of marketing at the same time. YGAP also owns a restaurant, "Feast of Merit," in Melbourne, and Hand said the restaurant was just starting to market a spice product. She learned a lot about marketing in a short time.

"It taught me that marketing is something I can use in anything I do," she said.

Hand had learned about YGAP through The Intern Group when she was searching online for international internships. While researching YGAP, she thought its mission of "a world without poverty" sounded interesting.

When she applied with The Intern Group, Hand had five cities from which to choose, and her first choice was London. However, the only vacancies available at the time were in Australia, a 16-hour flight from Los Angeles.

"I never wanted to go to Australia. I hate flying," Hand said, "but I really wanted this internship."

So she took off on her own in June and arrived in Preston, a suburb of Melbourne where she stayed in a hotel with several other interns.

"There were a few surprises," she said with a laugh. "The toilet in my hotel room was in my shower, which was something I'd never seen before. It wasn't like I was expecting a five-star hotel or anything, but that was really different."

Then Hand learned she would be traveling about 90 minutes to work each day, and the same trip back to her hotel at night. "I got to know public transportation really well. It was a real eye-opening experience."

During her free time, Hand got to know other interns. "I made some really good friends while I was there," she said.

Two of Hand's favorite activities were attending a horse race and an Australian rules footy match, which she described as a mix of football, rugby, soccer and basketball. She was pleased to learn that the mascot of the local footy team in Richmond, another suburb of Melbourne, was the Tigers -- the same as FHSU.

"I had my Fort Hays State jacket and windbreaker with me, and it was perfect, because their colors were black and gold just like ours," said Hand, who purchased a Richmond Tigers scarf to bring home with her.

It didn't take long for YGAP to recognize Hand's strengths.

"I think they were impressed that I was involved with Greek Life and the causes they donate to and the service hours we do," Hand said.

Hand soon began work on developing a college environment strategy for introducing the program "Polished Man" on the Fort Hays State campus. Polished Man is an initiative by YGAP that challenges Australian men to raise funds and awareness about child abuse and violence against children.

Hand has plans for several campus activities for two weeks in early October for an American version of "Polished Man."

Until then, she is busy preparing for her senior year at FHSU. She is a member of a sorority, recruitment chair for Panhellenic Council, a senator for the Student Government Association, president of Kansas Young Democrats and a member of the professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi.

Oh, and Hand is enrolled in 19 hours for the fall semester.

"It'll definitely be busy," she said, she is excited about organizing the Polished Man initiative.

She said the trip will be one she remembers for a long, long time.

"I didn't know anyone when I went, and I thought it would be really hard, being away from family and friends for six weeks," she said. "Then I got down there -- and I think people where we live are the nicest people there can be -- but somehow Australians are even nicer. I didn't think it was possible."

Cutline: Fort Hays State University political science major Anna Hand, Ellsworth senior, sports Tiger apparel representing both her university and an Australian rules footy team while attending a football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground this summer.

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