18 December 2006

Three members of The University of Queensland's extended community have been chosen to participate in a unique international exchange program promoting cultural cooperation and understanding.

UQ graduates Ari Gaitanis and Adam Wood, and UQ economics and political science student Scott Buchanan will join 8 other Australians and 250 young people from around the world on the 2007 Ship for World Youth (SWY).

Most of the program is conducted onboard the cruise liner Nippon Maru, with some activities scheduled in Japan where the program starts, and others in seaports visited during the voyage. During January and February, participants will be involved in activities aimed at fostering cultural sensitivity, understanding and friendship.

Mr Gaitanis, who has been chosen as the Australian delegation�s National Leader, said he was proud to be continuing Australia�s involvement in the prestigious program.

�While the Aussies will come away with a much greater understanding of different cultures, it�s also our chance to give the other national delegations onboard an idea of what Australia is all about. We�ll be making the most of the opportunity,� he said.

Mr Gaitanis graduated from UQ in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts and is currently based in New York where he works as a spokesperson for the United Nations (UN). He first took part in the SWY in 1997 as a delegation member.

�If I ever wanted to get some preparation for what it�s like working at the UN given the plethora of languages and cultures and characters here, then the Ship for World was an excellent eye-opener on what to expect,� he said.

�There�s just no way that anyone can take part in this program, live side-by-side with so many young people � ambassadors for their countries and from all walks of life � and not come away with a better grasp of other cultures and ways in which we can relate and understand those cultures.

�Your views and beliefs are challenged and extended on a daily basis.�

As National Leader, Mr Gaitanis will lead a team of 10 Australians including Mr Wood, who graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work in 2003, and Mr Buchanan.

The Government of Japan plans, organises, implements and finances the SWY and each year a number of countries are invited to send a delegation to join the program.

Participants will present research papers, attend lectures by international speakers and participate in seminars and discussions on topics of global significance.

The ship will leave Tokyo in January next year and will spend two months travelling to Australia, Fiji and Tonga.

Media: for more information, contact Chris Saxby (telephone 07 3365 2479 or email c.saxby@uq.edu.au).