Kim Burdett is the Student Experience Coordinator for the Faculty of the Professions at The University of Adelaide, enhancing student experiences outside of the textbook and the classroom. This means no two days are the same for Kim, she could be leading a study tour at a leading university in the United States, on a safari in Africa or visiting the Phillipines with the United Nations.
Graduating from The University of Adelaide in 2006, Kim pursed work in the marketing industry with several private businesses. After feeling she wanted to give more, Kim took a position with the international marketing department of the University and flourished. After several years, Kim put together a successful proposal to the University for sponsorship to immerse herself in one of the top universities in the world, The University of Washington, to learn how to create the infamous 'US College Experience'. Returning from the US filled with ideas to boost students’ experiences, and consequently, build rapport, reputation, and enrolments, Kim setup her own position, and now has a team of seven working in the faculty on Student Experience. A lover of travel, Kim has created her very own dream job, take 10 minutes to experience a fascinating and varied day in Kim's life.
Tell us about your role.
In a nutshell, I enhance student experiences outside of the textbook, outside of the classroom and look at ways to put into practice what they learn academically through their degrees. This involves enhancing their leadership, team-building, and communication skills in an interactive manner that equips them with the necessary assets employers are looking for when entering the workplace. Every student is different and as such, every opportunity I offer must be varied and unique ranging from working with charities, volunteering in the community, study trips to the USA to meet with Stanford and google, or community trips with the UN and Humanitarian Affairs to the Philippines.
Where can we find you on the web?
One day I hope to follow through on people’s suggestions and set up a blog… but right now it would be much more time efficient if I could hire a film crew to follow me around on our adventures… so watch this space!
How can the community connect with you on social media?
Share something about yourself that not many people know
My passion for life has been developed by many influencing factors but most deeply by the sheer fact that I know I am lucky to be here today. Exploring new destinations is my life, and what fuels my soul but with such adventure comes hurdles. I was first tested in Egypt when I caught an infection, which nearly saw me lose both my legs from my knees down, and again in China with severe food poisioning which, just last year, put me ‘out of action’ for nine months, with doctors having given up on me. Because of these experiences, I always fill each of the 24 hours of the day, and truly value being able to wake up and walk outside. I try and instill this in the students through my work.
No two days are the same in my life. I travel frequently, for business and pleasure, my day is impacted by the people I meet, ‘routine’ just doesn’t fall into my vocabulary. So here is a snapshot of one day I had last a week ago while in Africa, and as odd as it may seem, if you followed me around, you would discover that these adventures are a frequent occurrence... life is what you make it :)
4:00am answer some work emails to keep up with the time differences abroad.
4:30am roll out of an over-sized king bed in my villa hut in the middle of a gaming park in Africa… having checked in the darkness of midnight, and hence unfamiliar with the room, I go in search of the shower only to be informed by reception that it's out on my ‘viewing platform’ on the balcony. Sounds beautiful… But let me paint the picture… it's 4:30am, six degrees Celsius, and the viewing platform is called that because it's where you view the lions, zebras, giraffes, and any other wildlife the African Jungle may throw your way. Regardless, I need to wake up, so outdoor shower it is, and I am pleased to advise, I was not eaten alive, nor gazed over by meerkats and it was one of the BEST showers under the stars I’ve ever had! You should try it one day!
5:00am Standing outside in the freezing cold, I try and ‘play it cool’ for the young ranger coming to collect me in the buggy and take me to the safari vehicle. Huddled with seven other strangers who I met over a warm cuppa 10 mins earlier, we board the vehicle in search of wildlife.
6:00am Insert Lions, Zebras, Ganu, Buffalo, Elephants, Impalas and all other creatures great and small + 1500 photo snaps, a hot air balloon ride and finally beginning to grasp the sheer beauty of the land that is Africa!
8:45am Rushed back to the lodge, the rest of the group sit down to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, whilst I am hurried to another vehicle, handed a breakfast-on-the-go pack and told that we’re off to visit the local community school that I’ve been supporting. Driving in a vehicle that is ‘road safe’ (pretty sure we were missing a door, though) we eventually arrive at what looks like a few cement blocks of four walls, no doors, no windows, and empty paddock surrounding it.
9:30am I walk into a classroom the size of my office back home, and see 79 tiny faces and bright eyes staring at me in curiosity. The principal introduces me to the class, and informs me that they’re her year one students. She is principal and their teacher because dual-roles standard when you have limited resources. I can hear noises from the back corner and she clears a path in the students, to reveal 29 tiny reception students sitting in the back corner because there are no seats and they don’t have a teacher at the moment.
9:50am The alarm sounds and I’m overcome by a hundred little children running around me towards the tin shed next to the building… it's time to receive their one meal for the day. Some lentils and some mashed potato serve as their nourishment, and is gulped down by each and every one of them. They then wash it down with a ‘glass of water’ which can be described as follows: at the start of every day they fill a red bucket from a dirty well, it sits in the sun outside on the ground and if they get thirsty they can share a communal cup and dunk it in the water for a quick sip. No puratap here!
10:30am After playing with the students, and discussing with the Minister of Education and principal, the types of support they’re in need of, and how my student groups could potentially get involved, it is time to sadly leave. I could write so much more here regards this short visit but I believe this picture says a thousand words, and expresses why it is so so valuable to open our youths’ eyes to the world, and put into practice the skills we’re teaching them at university, in a valued manner outside of the classroom that has real-world impact.
11:15am I return to the lodge a little emotional, but manage to pull myself together, leave with the lodge two bags filled with clothing and toys which I remove from my suitcase, realising how much further they will go if left with the school. I find 10 minutes to touch base with Washington DC, where I’m planning a study tour in four short weeks, arrange meeting times with Qantico and the Capitol building, checkin with my team back home on the days’ activities, then jump on a bus with my iPhone pressed up against the window, trying to tap into the hotel wifi for one final email (I know there’ll be many of you out there that have done that before… just three more seconds please, wifi!)
12:45pm We make the long journey from Pilanesberg back to Joberg, via Sun City. Sitting on the coach with a group of Brazilians who I met just a few days ago, we share ideas, knowledge, and experiences that will build upon what we can each bring back to the office. Each in different industries, varying from journalists, travel photographers, event planners, destination management consultants, and more… yet all with that same passion and desire to show people beyond their own backyards, and to build relevant skills in an interactive manner. We all have different backgrounds and develop robust discussions, and devise projects we can partner with across continents in this expanding borderless world.
After an hour of brainstorming its time for most to nap, so I pull out the laptop and get working on those 577 emails sitting in my inbox that require actioning. Back home I have two wonderful interns who ensure there is always someone at home ‘on the ground running’ as well. They’re brilliant, and as they're French, bring wonderful international flavour to the workplace. Hosting interns can be challenging, in some ways you are acting as their mentor, to offer guidance and support in building our future leaders… all of which requires time.
2:00pm After a long bus ride we arrive at Sun City for a site inspection, and assessment of suitability for our groups should we choose to bring them to Africa for a study tour. Exhausted, hot, and still recovering from the recent food poisioning stint in Hangzhou, China, just seven days prior… a sit down lunch by the pool was a true blessing!
3:00pm After a lunch-meeting discussing what we’ve learnt over the past week, and ways forward the group is suddenly distracted and whispering amongst themselves. I quickly learn that a man who has sat at the table next to us is a Brazilian filmstar. Not wanting to miss my chance of a photo with a star, I join the rest of the group, pretend I’m also a Brazilian fan of his, and make a quick exist as I again, use the last second of hotel wifi to upload this picture to facebook. Thanking the property’s GM, and Marketing Manager, we all board the bus for the final leg back to Joberg.
Trying to not lose all the business cards you get on business trips is a challenege, so I scan them into my phone. I must say I’m in love with the app ScanCard, it has saved my life on numerous occasions, and is a great way to fill a four-hour bus ride.Uploading them straight to your database, ready to share upon arriving back to the office is a huge time-saver… Not a minute to be wasted on a work trip!
6:00pm Finally arriving to the streets of Johannesburg, where we’re greeted with the vastness in culture, modernity, wealth and struggles… we wind through the crammed streets to arrive at a stunning, Westiminster-esque hotel building. Beautiful staff greet us with fresh towels and a shot of ginger to wake us up for another site inspection, and presentation before checking in to our rooms.
7:30pm Given 17 minutes to change for dinner, I manage to find the wifi password, attack those emails again, quickly call the office to action a few items, book a groups’ flights for the USA, and then scurry through my grossly overweight suitcase to find a scrunchable cocktail dress which doesn’t require ironing (thank God for spandex!) for the formal dinner this evening.
10:30pm Exploring the culinary delights Africa has to offer, and topping it off with their specialty liquor, Amarula, the group say their final farewells, discuss last minute business proposals with each other, and then bid “boa noite” (goodnight in Portugese) with the reassurance of a reunion, and that we will be friends for life.
With a 24-hour gym at the hotel, I make a quick dash for some ‘walker’ action… you’d be amazed at what you can achieve with practice on hotel gym machines and balancing an iPad on the handlebars, responding to emails via speech-recognition! I catch up on the weekly news via CNN (the only real station the hotel signal seems to be able to offer), check in to my flight the next day… hope for an aisle-seat on the exit row, only to find I’m row 63 seat smack bang in the middle of four other people, one day airlines will discover that only being able to check-in 24 hours in advance does not work in people with a crazy life's favour!
11:45pm I decide to try and get to bed before midnight… I used to be one of those people who would comment on the bed quality at various hotels however, I’ve learnt that your body learns to really not care about where it sleeps after a while... anywhere is better than a heating vent over the floor in NYC airport (yes, yes… that has happened). Glancing at the ‘Pillow Menu’ on my bed, and giving a soft giggle at the thought of the luxury of choosing the type of pillow my head manages to rest upon… I set the alarm for 4:45am, and look pleasantly surprised as the ‘smart phone’ tells me “Alarm set for 4 hours and 43 minutes”… well, it's more sleep than last night!
As I forewarned… my life is not stock-standard. Of course, I have days in the office, but I have just as many days out of the office as well. I often combine my leave with a conference or symposium opportunity abroad. I believe if you love what you do – your work becomes your life, and you don’t see a need to separate them strictly. Combining a passion with your career forms strength in the product you offer, and strength in your desire to excel. You are constantly learning, eager for knowledge, and keen to explore beyond the office four walls.
What keeps me going is the people I meet along the journey. I have a rule ‘never underestimate the power of the people you meet on that dancefloor’. Many of the people I’ve met at the networking events after a conference, or randomly out whilst exploring a new destination, have proven integral in securing sponsorship, industry contacts, guest speaker appearances, and overall guidance and mentorship. Never judge a book by its cover either… the guy in the casual t-shirt and ripped jeans was the one who offered us a flight in his private jet, and the person in the plain-white singlet and shorts was the one with the private yacht who got our group from Mykonos to Santorini when we missed the scheduled charter. Often you can feel a little ‘crazy’ or like black sheep in your home city, but jumping on a plane to a faraway land or walking into a room of 200 strangers never ceases to amaze me, the people you meet can be life-changing.
I hope that the above tells a brief story of who I am, what I do, why I do it, and what I seek to achieve. Inspiring the future leaders of tomorrow, and finding destinations, opportunities, and activities to build their skills in a real-world setting is hugely rewarding… to have a 21year old come to your office and say “Kim, I didn’t realise I had a dream until today”… is enough to make your heart skip a beat.
Your life is what you make it, I don't believe any opportunities come on a silver platter. When asked how I got my current role, I tell people I created it. They often laugh or look at me puzzled, but it’s the truth, look at the people out there who love their life and who have created their role. In no SEEK job ad is there going to be a job vacancy listed as ‘Your Dream Role with Great Pay’… Create what you can with the skills, experience, and people you build into your life. I welcome you to touch base should you have any queries, comments, or further stories to share.
And remember… when nothing goes right…. GO LEFT!
Whilst working with the University of Washington I was lucky enough to have a brief meeting with one of their STAR Alumni… Bill Gates. He offered one piece of advice which stuck with me and changed my career path. “Kim, you don’t need a crystal ball… the best way to predict your future is to write it yourself”.
What role would you love to create for yourself? Join the conversation and share your answer below.
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