Six ANU students from a range of disciplines, from printmaking and drawing to physics and Asian history, have won scholarships to live and study in Asia and the Pacific under the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan (NCP) program for 2016.
The New Colombo Plan was launched by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in December 2013 as a platform for Australia's engagement with Asia. Students can spend up to 12 months at an overseas university, with an optional further six months to do an internship.
The program has been extended from the original four destinations to now take in 38 countries.
College of Asia and the Pacific student Alice Dawkins, who is the NCP scholar for Myanmar, has also been appointed a Fellow for her region as she was the top-ranked scholar for the University of Yangon.
For Alice, an intensive Burmese language course over the ANU winter break provoked a profound interest in Myanmar and its future. She later spent the summer break learning Burmese for several hours a day off a once-imprisoned student activist, which sparked a desire to develop fluency in the language.
Alice will use the funding from her Fellowship to live in Myanmar for a year, taking classes and contributing to research at Yangon University. She is currently a research assistant for two projects at the ANU, including the DFAT-endorsed Myanmar Government Partnership for Development.
“Yangon University has this story like no other - it's a traditional source of student political energy that was right at the heart of several watershed moments for the nation," she says. "Aung San, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's father, organised student independence movements out of what was then known as Rangoon University in the 1930s.
"I'll be joining the first cohort of undergraduates since the university’s recent re-opening. A lot of people have their eyes on Myanmar, particularly in light of [Aung San Suu Kyi's] recent electoral victory, and to experience this new chapter through the lives of its students who have so often made history there is a thrilling prospect”.
Alice joins two other students from the College of Asia and the Pacific, Catherine Yen - who will study at Thammasat University in Thailand, and Alek Sigley, who will attend Sogang University in South Korea. Both Catherine and Alek are students in the prestigious Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB) undergraduate research degree.
“The New Colombo Plan offers superb opportunities for everyone in Asia-Pacific Studies, including our growing cohort of PhB students”, says College of Asia and the Pacific PhB program convenor Dr Nicholas Farrelly.
“For PhB students, a major priority is building their skills and direct experiences in the Asian region. From the bright lights of the Korean Peninsula to the challenges of Thailand’s ongoing turbulence, next year our students will be getting to grips with some of this century’s enduring conundrums”.
The New Colombo Plan program also helps build links between Australia and the region, Dr Farrelly believes.
"This generous funding should help to catalyse a new wave of Australian success in working with our Asian neighbours," he says. "It's exciting to imagine what their collaborations might bring”.For Alice, who is completing her honours thesis in Asian Studies/Law, the possibilities are endless. She hopes to work in the area of forced migration and displacement, and is currently working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, while also drafting an article on regional issues in refugee law for publication in an academic journal.
The 2016 New Colombo Plan Scholars are:
* Linda Ma, from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, who will study at the University of Hong Kong;
* Alek Sigley, from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, who will study at Sogang University in South Korea;
* Catherine Yen, from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, who will study at Thammasat University in Thailand;
* Diane Salim, from the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, who will study at the University of Tokyo or Kyoto University in Japan;
* Grace Blake, from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, who will study at the Chiang Mai University in Thailand.
ANU has had nine successful students go through the New Colombo Plan program across the 2014 and 2015 rounds, securing a total of $540,000 in scholarships. Of the nine students, four were appointed Fellows.