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Aaron Hines: Tales down under

Aaron Hines, along with his parents Judy and Joe, last December in Australia.

Aaron Hines has lived and studied in Scotland, traveled around England, Ireland and Europe on several different occasions, and for the last three years has lived in Australia.

But to him, none of those places are home.

"Regardless of how much I enjoy life in Melbourne (where he's currently living) or how long I am away or move around," he said, "when I think of home or speak about home, it is and always has been Kinne Street in Ellsworth, WI USA."

Hines, the son of Joe and Judy Hines, is a 1997 graduate of Ellsworth High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in general business administration from UW-Stout in 2003 and his Masters of Arts in Applied Communications from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology last December.

He currently works in the Public Relations Department of the Hales Institute, a technical college in the central business district of Melbourne.

Hines explained what led him to Australia and other interesting tales of his life in an e-mail interview with the Herald.

How did an Ellsworth kid land in Australia?

That is a question I often ask myself!  And the answer can be very long winded... but like many things, it was the culmination of many different decisions throughout my life.   I guess to make a long story short... during my undergraduate studies at UW-Stout, I participated in a study Abroad Program in 2001 called "Wisconsin In Scotland," which was based just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. This program was extremely educational on many levels and a real turning point in my life.   Soon after graduating from UW-Stout, I went into the Hospitality industry, beginning my professional career in Breckenridge, Colo. After spending two seasons in the mountains working for large resorts, I moved back to the Midwest to take a position as the Operations Manager at the Riverwood Inn and Conference Center in Otsego, Minn.  After 18 months, I decided to revamp my profession and completely change direction in my career, thus I began applying across the U.S. for entrance into Graduate Schools.  Right around this same time period, I received a random email from my old roommate in the Wisconsin in Scotland exchange program... it seems he and another mutual friend were living in New Zealand... after telling him of my plans to continue my education, he convinced me to temporarily defer my studies and come to New Zealand for a one year working holiday.  On a whim, I took him up on the offer and, three weeks later, I landed in Napier, New Zealand!  A whirlwind, to say the least! After spending four months in New Zealand, I met my girlfriend and we decided to move to Melbourne, Australia, to be near her family.  We liked the city and the area so much that I applied and was accepted in the Master of Arts - Applied Communications program at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).  I graduated with level of distinction from this program in December 2008.  At this point, I knew I wanted to continue my career in education and we were looking at moving back to the U.S., but out of the blue I was recommended by a college to the Director of Studies at a vocational school called the Hales Institute.  I was subsequently hired to work in the Public Relations Department as the Industry Relations Officer in January 2009.  I am currently in the process of developing the company's work placement program and assisting with the development of the new business program.  I am also getting a certificate IV teaching certification so I can also work as a part time instructor at the institute.

What is the Hales' specialty and describe your job there?

Hales Institute is an RTO (Registered Training Organization), which specializes in Vocational Education Training for international students and short courses for local students (similar to a Technical College).  We currently offer courses in Hospitality Management, Beauty and Hairdressing Management, Information Technology (Multi-Media), General Business, Automotive and Electric (Mechanic), Community Welfare and Beginner-Advanced English Language studies.  My role at Hales is to develop and manage the Industry Relations Department (which is part of both the Public Relations Department and Human Resources Department).  I act as a liaison between students and industry by attempting to place students in host organizations in order to complete their Holistic work based training hours and work placement hours.  I also help to develop and promote charity events and functions which we provide event planning, catering and entertainment and enlist our students as volunteers to assist in their practical assessment. This helps them develop their industry knowledge and skills. I also work to provide skills training and workshops to educate students in jobs/career seeking (Counselor Role) - Resume Writing, Job seeking advice and tips, Interview tips, employment guidance (standard State and National employment laws and procedures).  I am also in the process of receiving my Certificate IV in Vocational Training, so I may also work as a certified instructor and curriculum developer within the business department. 

Did you ever think Australia would be the place?

Since I first traveled as part of the Wisconsin in Scotland exchange program, I have been all over Europe, U.S., in Mexico and now the south pacific... so I don't think I've ever really been 100 percent settled in any one place... but I have really found Melbourne, and all of Australia, to be a wonderful place to live and work.  The people are fantastic and down to earth; the culture is diverse and multi-cultural, and overall I have found that much of Australian (particularly in the rural areas) is similar to that of the Midwest.... Friendly, hardworking, honest and family oriented. I will move back to the U.S. at some point and time, just not sure when.

So, what's the time difference between Ellsworth and Melbourne?

That's a bit tricky... for the next couple of weeks Melbourne is 16 hours ahead of Ellsworth... however, three weeks ago it was 17 hours (before your daylight savings time switched "forward")... next week it will be 17 hours again (because we will change our clocks "back" for daily savings time).  I tell my family and friends that basically I almost a day ahead of them... but that hasn't stopped the accidental 4 a.m. phone calls just to say "Hi."  Even more strange and hard to get use to,  is that while the Midwest is gearing up for spring  and summer at the moment... in Melbourne, our summer is quickly turning to fall and we are preparing for winter.  With that said, winter here is pretty mild (similar to our fall or spring), it rains more and the winds pick-up and blows cold air from Antarctica, north across the Bass Strait to Melbourne.  But the temperature stays in the 50's consistently... however, you do get your days of 40 degree weather, which came as a surprise to me as I thought Australia was going to be a year round tropical climate like I saw on TV.  As a true son of the Midwest, I miss the full spectrum of the seasonal changes, as we do not get snow in Melbourne.  So to experience the joys of winter and to do some snowboarding, I've had to drive to Mt. Buller, which is about 2.5 - 3 hours north of Melbourne. Also, a summer Christmas is a crazy phenomenon to experience after growing up in the Midwest.

The biggest culture shock you've experienced?

Melbourne and other large Australian cities are very similar to America... I guess the biggest culture shock for me was living in such a large metropolitan city (nearly 4.5 million) and the cultural diversity which comes with city living.  Another huge shock was learning to drive on the "other" side of the road... I have also been very intrigued by the government system (parliamentary) and its different idiosyncrasies with our government system.

In next week's Herald, more answers from Aaron, including Australian traditions unfamiliar to Americans and his favorite memories of Ellsworth.