CONNECTING: U3A Toowoomba's Rhonda and David Weston visited U3A Yantai, Shandong Provence Art Class on a study tour after the World Senior Tourism Congress, attended by 400 U3A members.
CONNECTING: U3A Toowoomba's Rhonda and David Weston visited U3A Yantai, Shandong Provence Art Class on a study tour after the World Senior Tourism Congress, attended by 400 U3A members. hanjun

A world of options for growing U3A Toowoomba

THE biggest challenge facing U3A Toowoomba as it prepares for a new year is finding enough tutors to fill the growing demand for programs.

President Rhonda Weston said the group now boasted 2120 members, having grown 10 per cent every year for the past eight years.

It offers 190 different classes for over-50s, a greater choice per capita than anywhere else in Queensland.

"The most popular areas are art and any form of physical exercise," Rhonda said, with Pilates, yoga and tai chi classes all having long waiting lists.

"We are very happy for people interested in being tutors to contact us about existing or new areas.

"Sometimes people have a skill we mightn't have thought of but which people would love to learn."

There are no set qualifications to be a tutor, just a love of and sound knowledge of your subject and the wish to share it, challenge yourself and others and make friends.

In an exciting development this year, U3A Toowoomba is also partnering with the University of Southern Queensland, which will allow members to sit in on lectures for 12 selected subjects from archaeology and anthropology to food science and computer engineering.

"It's a very diverse range and a wonderful opportunity for members," Rhonda said.

Happily, there are no assignments or exams involved, and therefore no qualification at the end, it's simply the chance to learn from experts in their fields.

Members are also invited to become ambassadors at Wellcamp Airport, helping passengers find their way through any confusion or difficulties - a position as much about meeting and learning more about others as a community service.

For Rhonda, it's all about lifelong learning, and despite the group's obvious success, including being the only Australian member of the international association of U3A, she and the local management committee are never content to rest on their laurels.

"We have a really amazing group and we never get bogged down in doing the same thing; we are always looking for wider opportunities," she said.

In the coming year she hopes that will include developing international study tours, giving members the chance to connect with U3A members overseas, thus gaining a different, more locals-focussed perspective in their travels.

With China very keen to support its ageing population, four international tours in which Toowoomba members can take part are planned.

U3A's Japanese class regularly shares lessons via Skype with their Sister City Takatsuki's Seniors' English class, and members visited while travelling in Japan with tutor George Goodsell last term.

Rhonda has recently returned from trips to China and Mauritius, where she spoke on multiculturalism in U3As in Australia.

Next year she will take up a place on the international governing board of U3A, having previously had terms as Queensland president and national president and been on the Asia Pacific board.

It's certainly never boring in the world of U3A.

Open days are planned from 9.30-11.30am at Toowoomba on January 21, Pittsworth on January 22 and Crows Nest on January 23.

To find out more about courses and tutoring, go to www.u3atoowoomba.com.


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