On September 10-11 I had the privilege of travelling to Canberra to attend the inaugural New Colombo Plan (NCP) Alumni forum with 60 other Australian students.
Hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the two-day workshops aimed to develop and build a two-way network portal for students, within the Indo-Pacific region, upon which we can remain connected to each other; new students; our host nations & institutions; and the Australian Government in the years ahead.
Over the two-day forum we discussed many thoughts & ideas on the kinds of things we saw of benefit to Alumni: the opportunities for ongoing personal and professional development; remaining connected to the region and hosts/fellow alumni. Of significant importance to many was the ability to share our NCP stories and contact information and be mentors to the newest recipients as they prepare to embark on their study travels to the region.
The task sounds immense and with 60+ individuals could easily have been like herding cats. It was however, a thoughtful, engaging and intelligent discussion and informative exchange of ideas. The people I met who had been on varied iterations of the NCP Scholarships were impressive to say the least, and my time in Canberra was significantly more than brainstorming in conference rooms.
On the first day, a morning tea was hosted for us by the Foreign Minister, the Hon. Julie Bishop, at Australian Parliament House along with various Ministers and Senators who were invited to welcome us. Being a political tragic it was like being the proverbial kid in a candy shop and I was probably the bounciest guest they’ve seen in some time. I met with Julie Bishop, Bronwyn Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Alan Tudge, and Natasha Griggs and saw many others including Tony Burke. The highlight was when the Victorian delegation was taken to Josh Frydenberg’s office to meet with him between meetings.
That same evening DFAT hosted a reception for us and many foreign dignitaries in the building’s Atrium. There I met the High Commissioner for Singapore, Mr Burhan Gafoor, and his staff; along with Mr Todd Mercer, the High Commissioner to Brunei, who was quite keen to participate with us all and speak with me about economics, despite not having a student from his region there on the night.
Along with the diplomats and other dignitaries there were of course, the exceptional staff from the NCP Secretariat who effortlessly facilitated our introductions and networking during our time in Canberra.
I have left the forum with a renewed sense of purpose, a pride in being included among so many stand-out Alumni and a deeper connection to the program itself.
Coming away from the forum we’ve now been charged with the responsibility within our own universities to establish and renew connections with other NCP Alumni, International students and our hosts overseas. We do this in order to keep the network strong and promote the personally transformative and academically diverse opportunity that is foreign exchange.
It is a responsibility that I am proud to have and I hope, in the coming months, to inspire other #FedUni students to embark on their own exchange adventure, possibly with the New Colombo Plan, but definitely in the Indo-Pacific region.
The region is diverse and culturally dynamic and is waiting for you to have an adventure.
Students who wish to go on exchange or participate in NCP studies should get in touch with the International Office or their Faculty for further information.