Learning down under

Jason Malloy & Ray Burns
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Local residents heading to Australia this summer for work placement

Learning down under

STELLARTON - Matt MacKenzie has never flown before so he's making sure his first flight is a doozy.
When he takes to the skies in Halifax on Sunday he won't be touching down until a couple of days later in Sydney, Australia.
"I have never been on a plane before. It's kind of intense. Now, I'm going as far as you can go," the 20-year-old Salmon River resident said. "The farthest I've ever gone is Maine in my whole life. It's an exhilarating experience. Dad's a little bit jealous. The one place he wants to go is Australia."
MacKenzie's destination is Sydney City Toyota where he's going to a four-week on-the-job-training component for his automotive service and repair class at the community college in Stellarton.
He is going with his girlfriend Julie MacKenzie and they're staying with Julie's aunt and uncle Greg and Pat Reid, who have lived in Australia for several years.
Julie was going for a visit and MacKenzie decided to go after landing the placement with the Toyota dealership. Julie, a third-year student at the NSAC, is doing a fourth-year project at the University of Sydney, studying frog mortality around the city.
"It's a huge project," she said. "I think I am working with parasites that are affecting the frogs."
Julie is majoring in animal science with minors in environmental science and aquaculture. She contacted universities and zoos to see if there was any research work she could do during the summer.
While pleased with the frog project she was a little surprised given her major. But they believe it is a good fit given her minors.
And it may help her future career, as she has interest in endangered animals.
Matt said technology helped in setting up the work placement.
"It was all done through e-mail," he said. "I wrote a general e-mail and got an e-mail back asking what I meant by work term. She (his contact at Sydney City Toyota) said she'd look into it and bingo."
Damian Hall, of the automotive service and repair program, said MacKenzie has plenty of initiative and he showed it by setting up this placement on his own.
"He thought it up and approached me and asked if the college would support it. I thought 'Why not? He's going to a dealership and their apprenticeship is similar to the Canadian and European models.' It's all legit. He gave this a lot of thought and followed up on it."
Hall said MacKenzie is the kind of student that instructors like in their classes.
"I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him for employment. He's a good all-around guy."
The duo plan to do usual tourist things too. After all, they're going to be there until July 16.
"We're going to do some working and travelling. We're going to do the Sydney bridge walk, some jet boating and mountain climbing."
And, of course, he's going to take lots of
pictures.
"Mom's giving me her camera," he said with a grin. "When I ask people what they want me to take pictures of, they all say, 'kangaroos.'"
MacKenzie has done a bit of research it appears on the wildlife in Australia. He said they have 32 of the world's 47 most poisonous snakes and plenty of poisonous spiders too.
"I can handle snakes, but I don't do spiders. They're too weird and ugly looking."
He's not a fan of snakes but MacKenzie said he definitely can handle the warm 'winter' weather. He said the temperature there last week was 20C in the day and 17C at night.
It goes without saying that he'll be leaving the parka, toque and winter boots at home.
"I might bring a hoodie."
Julie isn't worried about the weather, either.
"My aunt told me it's going to be pretty cold and to bring my jacket but it only goes down to 13C at night," she said. "It was 12C here and I was in shorts. I think I'll be OK."

Organizations: Toyota, NSAC, University of Sydney

Geographic location: Australia, STELLARTON, Sydney Halifax Salmon River Maine

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