RMIT University students have explored Mexico City in the second stage of the Finding Common Ground study tour.
Fresh from a week-long immersion in Melbourne's CBD, students from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies travelled to Mexico to examine the similarities and differences between the two vibrant cities in the areas of urban design, community and cultural engagement, and environmental management.
The international exchange and study tour brought RMIT students together with architecture students from Universidad La Salle, Mexico City, who came to Melbourne for the first part of the cross-cultural exchange.
In Mexico, alongside lectures on the country's history, architecture and emerging socio-economic issues, the RMIT students immersed themselves within the city in visits to pilgrimage sites, temples, historic museums and the UN World Heritage-listed Lake Xochimilco.
On a trip to the ancient city of Teotihuacan, students even had the chance to climb one of the country's oldest structures - the Pyramid of the Moon.
The tour reaffirmed the shared values embellishing global initiatives to create and sustain successful communities.
Master of International Development student Victoria Cavanagh relished the opportunity to combine theoretical learning with the practical experiences of the tour.
"I thought we would be studying at the university most of the time and focusing in on the set assignments," she said.
"Instead, we were exposed to a variety of activities, officials, parts of the city, people, and experiences to draw from, and the learnings of the course have gone above and beyond all expectations."
Though both environments face similar urban issues, Rebecca Sinclair, a Master of International Urban and Environmental Management student, said in many ways, Mexico City provided a telling counterpoint to her home city.
"It was really interesting to go from researching and critically reviewing a place you're familiar with, to having the same task in a city which is completely foreign in all aspects," Ms Sinclair said.
Alison Wood, of the Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (Honours), emerged from Finding Common Ground with a new take on establishing global connections in her future career.
"In Mexico, face-to-face contact is an important aspect in creating relationships," she said.
"Coming from a background where communicating via technology has a new prevalence it inspired me to think more about engaging on a personal level within my future practice."
For Ms Wood, the tour reaffirmed the shared values embellishing global initiatives to create and sustain successful communities.
"In working alongside the La Salle students we found that there's no one universal solution- thus a collaborative approach works well," she said.
Dr Beau Beza, from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, conceived the study tour as an opportunity to provide students with experience in conducting urban research and proposing solutions to address real urban issues faced by Melbourne and Mexico City.
"I used the city as an urban laboratory where students from Mexico City and Melbourne partnered to identify commonalities in urban development between our two cities," Dr Beza said.
"Those commonalities - and differences - led to real proposals that the City of Melbourne and DF of Mexico City could use to address real urban issues.
"RMIT's global outlook in creating liveable cities has allowed us to establish an international name in urban sustainability.
"This role can be expanded by partnering with other public and private institutions where we can establish and reference a collection of urban outcomes that leads us into the future."
Dr Beza and RMIT students shared their experiences of the study tour with education leaders from Latin America at the Melbourne - Latin America Education Symposium held in early March.
One of the students who spoke at the Melbourne event, was Thomas Albert, also of the Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (Honours).
"I would have laughed if someone had said to me that I would be presenting in front of government delegates a few months ago," Mr Albert said.
"My experience on the study tour gave the confidence to express my ideas and feelings to others."
Urban planners of the future like Mr Albert will now look upon living cities with fresh eyes.
"Coming back from the airport, I was driving along the Bolte Bridge, when I looked out the side window and suddenly saw my city in a completely different light," he said.
"The lessons I learnt from Mexico City were running through my head and I saw ways in which we can develop a sustainable city that meets our future needs."