Published 12 December 2022
"Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’" - Brené Brown
University can be daunting at the best of times. For those new to a country, making friends and finding connections can be extremely challenging.
'My First Day: An Empathy Project' is a collaborative initiative that puts that nerve-racking first day into perspective. The project helps students reflect on how they relate to others, and build the confidence to interact with different social groups to help create a greater sense of inclusion and belonging at UNSW.
Built upon the real experiences of our UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture international alumna, Patience Loh, and her Honours design project from 2020, 'My First Day' is co-produced with the PVCESE Innovation Pillar, the ADA Innovation Hub and a mix of talented academics, students and even NIDA actors.
"It has been such a treat to have this array of collaborators on the project, each bringing their unique skills and ideas which together make the project so much richer and more enjoyable," said Graham Hannah, Manager of Immersive Technologies within the PVCESE.
"We are in a fun phase now where all the pieces are coming together. We are refining the experience and iterating through the development to increase the feeling of empathy and the overall effect. I am really looking forward to seeing people's reactions to the newest version in 2023."
The project is an immersive 360 VR experience that puts the viewer in the shoes of a new international student, navigating a relatable scenario on their very first day at UNSW. The viewer has the ability to read and understand the perspectives of all the people around them, which has been designed to encourage the building of confidence, challenging preconceptions about others, and encouraging greater peer-to-peer social interactions.
Ultimately, the story is controlled by the user. It can lead to a variety of different outcomes, however the overall experience seeks to build empathy between international and domestic students, and highlight the different social challenges that students face in their first year of university. As well as building empathy, the project also provides helpful support resources available to students transitioning into tertiary education.