Dakota Feirer had never been overseas before his exchange, but after his journey he would recommend the experience to anyone.
My name is Dakota Feirer, I’m a proud Bundjalung man living on Yuin and Dharawal country. I am my fourth year of a Bachelor of Media & Communications Studies, majoring in Global Media and Indigenous Studies. I grew up on the far south coast of NSW, in a small country town surrounded by even smaller ambitions. The decision to leave home and pursue tertiary education was a self-defining one. Since 2016, I’ve juggled full time study, with jobs in mentoring, student recruitment, presenting, events management and communications projects. The next decision to push myself out of my comfort zone, would define my journey as beyond an academic experience, but as one of cultural and personal growth. In August of 2018, I jumped on a plane from Sydney to Vancouver, for a semester of international exchange at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
I had never been overseas before my exchange. This was both nerve-racking and exciting, though I would not foresee how diverse, broad and insightful my next four months would be. Montreal is a bilingual, multicultural and eclectic city. By sharing an apartment with a fellow international student from Paris, I had the opportunity to learn and immerse myself in a culture within a culture. Furthermore, the opportunity to study alongside fellow Indigenous students from the Algonquian, Iroquois, Mohawk, Inuit, and Mi'kmaq tribes, was a reassuring and fulfilling factor of my experience.
As the snow froze us over, and Christmas lights filled the streets, my journey would not end here. Before leaving Australia, I obtained an Endeavour mobility grant, a faculty funded grant which enabled Indigenous students to study at Northern Arizona University. So, I packed up and moved to my new home, in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, on the doorstep of the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai and Apache reservations. Because of its location, NAU boasts a strong Native American presence on campus and within its community. This echoed towards a deepened cultural experience, which was just as valuable and enriching as part of my academic journey. The moments of learning and sharing that took place throughout my journey at NAU are ones that I will cherish forever. The opportunity to gain knowledge and stories from the Dine especially, solidified my inner notions of strength, integrity and pride as a Bundjalung man.
My exchange experience has had a major impact on my perceptions of the world and myself. Exchange gave me lessons in understanding others. But significantly, it gave me lessons in valuing place. It matters where how we engage with place, and as Indigenous people, we can be agents of cultural and knowledge exchange, and should be constantly learning and feeling through place. I urge any fellow Indigenous students to pursue international exchange, as it is a priceless opportunity for a unique kind of growth, one that has both humbled me and enabled me to aspire beyond limits.