New Colombo Plan Scholarship

Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve realised your life has just changed forever? I had one of those moments as I sat in the National Gallery in Canberra listening to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop tell me and 99 other government scholarship recipients that the future of Australia’s relationships with the Indo Pacific region are in our hands. No pressure right!?

In less than a month I am heading to Hong Kong for a semester of study followed by internships with companies in the Indo Pacific region. This has all been made possible by a scholarship awarded to me by the Australian Government under the New Colombo Plan. (Click here for more information on this program).

It’s not often I feel comfortable advertising achievements like these, but as one of my fellow scholars said in her Facebook announcement, “this is kind of a big deal guys”. Also, it is one of the key aims of this initiative that we will make the investment worthwhile by sharing our experiences with others to lift the knowledge of the Indo Pacific region and encourage other students, present and future, to consider embarking on a similar journey overseas. It is widely accepted that the ‘Asia Century’ is very much a reality and that it is the responsibility of my generation to make the most of the opportunities presented by our neighbouring countries- they have a lot more to offer than amazing cuisine and entertaining dating shows!

As a result of receiving this scholarship, I spent three days in Canberra with the other scholars, attending the awards ceremony (where Ms Bishop put Australia’s future economic success in our hands…) and a pre-departure workshop. Words cannot describe how incredible it was to meet so many passionate and driven young Australians who despite their many successes were all still so incredibly humble and genuine. Looking around the room I could see future senior politicians, human rights activists, ground-breaking researchers and Nobel Prize winners. This is no exaggeration- I had to keep pinching myself that I was lucky enough to sit amongst them…and make sure not draw too much attention to myself in case somebody realised that they’d accidently invited me along! Undoubtedly it was an honour to meet Minister Bishop and Governor General Peter Cosgrove and many other highly respected members of our community, but the true highlight was the company of my peers.

To demonstrate how well rounded we were as individuals, a large group of us set out on the Tuesday night for dinner, drinks and Karaoke. It only seemed right, given Karaoke is a favourite social outing in so many of the countries we will be travelling to! In many cases I was relieved to discover that, no, these people aren’t great at everything, with some shocking dance moves and questionable song melodies on display that night… but once again they all showed how genuinely supportive and unpretentious they are, making sure that every person who got on stage, whether it was to sing Bohemian Rhapsody or Taylor Swift, had everyone in the crowd behind them.

The three days I spent in Canberra were no less than overwhelming, but in an incredibly positive way. The schedule was so packed that I really had no time to myself to process it all; so much that as soon as got home and walked in my front door to greet my mum, I just burst into tears (happy tears!).

It’s finally hitting home that this is actually happening.