ANU Spaces – Carly Gordyn

8 November 2019

It has been a while since we've profiled a student or staff member who has told us a little about themselves and their favourite space on campus, so we thought we'd kick things off again with Carly Gordyn who is wrapping up her International Relations PhD at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.

Carly, thanks for speaking to us! Firstly, you've had a busy few years with your PhD and lots going on. Can you tell us what you've been up to?

It has been very busy! I'm doing my PhD on the history of Australia-Indonesia cooperation in managing irregular migration. Shortly after I started my PhD I started volunteering for the Asia Pacific Youth Organisation, where I was involved in organising the Youth Conference running alongside the APEC Conference in Beijing. I've had a great amount of opportunity to travel with my research since, including conferences in London and Rome, fieldtrips to Jakarta and Geneva, and Visiting Fellowships at the CSIS and Habibie Centre in Jakarta and the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto. I've been lucky to have some of these trips funded by an Endeavour Scholarship, the Ruth Daroesman Study Grant and the VC's Travel Grant; I'm very grateful for the opportunities that ANU offers HDR students and have been busy making the most of them!

You started your time at ANU living at Fenner Hall but now live in a share house. Can you tell us about the on-campus experience as a student and how it helped you settle in to life at ANU?

Well I was very nervous moving into Fenner Hall as a 25-year-old, but quickly found an amazing community of postgrad students. I had never been to Canberra before I moved here and Fenner helped with the transition, everyone was always friendly and had great advice from finding things on campus to the best coffee in Civic. During my second year at Fenner I volunteered as an Academic Program Organiser which really embedded me in a supportive community and enabled me to give back. I now live in a share house with 2 other ex-Fennerites, which keeps us in contact with a lot of other Fenner and ex-Fenner residents. My housemates are definitely my Canberra family and I would be lost without them!

What is your favourite spot on campus and why?

This is a tough one because the ANU has such lovely gardens and landscape, but I think it would be the path along Fellows Oval between Fellows Road and the Chifley Library. It's nice to see the silhouette of Black Mountain and Telstra Tower in the distance, then follow the walked-in path under the cover of that Weeping Willow Tree on the way to Kambri. Either that, or the Campus Bakery because it kind of reminds me of classic country bakeries back home, and I can't seem to find anything like it near me in Canberra!

In a previous life you were teaching English as a foreign language, and you are extremely passionate about helping students who need it. Where did this passion stem from?

This is a good question. I think because I was the first in my family to finish high school and go to university I know what it's like to find yourself in what feels like a different world, feeling completely out of your depth and trying to navigate it all on your own. There is so much help available but it can be difficult to know where to look and who to ask. Also, as someone who has been and always will be trying to learn another language, I have great respect for students who have to communicate difficult concepts in a second, third or fourth or more language. I want to help students reach their potential despite these barriers because they have a lot to offer. For these reasons I really enjoy my job as a Tutor for students on Australian Awards Scholarships.

Tell us about the ANU Migration and Displacement Discussion group and the Women of International Relations group that you started recently. What is the purpose of these groups and can you tell us how they are succeeding?

I have recently started the ANU Migration and Displacement Discussion Group with one of my supervisors, Associate Professor Bina D'Costa, after I presented at a conference in London and met two ANU academics working on similar issues whom I had never met before. So I'm using this monthly newsletter and seminar series to get researchers on migration and displacement issues out of their disciplinary silos and have a discussion that reaches across and between the ANU colleges. We have had four seminars so far and I've already met so many new faces from within ANU who work on relevant and important issues related to migration and displacement, and it's also starting to draw some of the wider Canberra community in!

I also co-founded the Women of International Relations group with another PhD student, Naomi Atkins. This started out only as a network for the women of my department but has since stretched across the Bell School. I started this after facing a situation I wasn't sure how to deal with; I wanted to speak to a more experienced female colleague and realised how few females there were in my department (compared to the percentage of female students I went through uni with) and that I didn't know them very well. Now we have a very supportive community where we have semesterly morning teas for female-identifying students and circulate a newsletter to anyone who is interested every Friday. This has helped female-identifying PhD students learn from experienced colleagues about the best way to navigate issues relevant to women in academia. 

You're hoping to submit your PhD early next year. After then, what next?

The main aim is to get a book contract and publish my thesis! I might be biased but I think my research topic is not only interesting but very important, and given all the support and scholarships that have gone into helping me fund this, I think it's fair that those who are interested get to see the results. Only after taking a good break of course - I would love to ride my postie-bike around the Indonesian archipelago for a few months!