First New Colombo Plan Scholars return home

30 August 2014

The first ANU students to take part in the government’s New Colombo Plan have returned from study trips to Japan, full of praise for the experience and how it has helped them better understand a foreign culture.

The 12 first-year undergraduate students spent four weeks at Tokyo’s Waseda University under the New Colombo Plan Mobility Program, which allowed short-term study in the pilot locations of Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“I learnt a lot not just about the Japanese culture and now I have friends all over the globe that I’ll keep in touch with. It’s a trip that has definitely changed my life,” said Ee Faye Chong, who is completing a Bachelor of Philosophy in Science, with a unit in Japanese.

Fellow student Sam Guilfoyle, who is studying languages and development studies at ANU, said the study in Tokyo kick-started his understanding of Japanese language and culture.

“I arrived only being able to say one word of Japanese, Konnichiwa, but not being able to pronounce it properly,” he said.

Outside the classroom, Sam enjoyed eating some of the best sashimi in the world and climbing Mt Fuji.

“It’s a really good opportunity to get out and do your own thing while still being productive and working toward something,’’ Sam said.

This New Colombo Plan project is the first of its kind for ANU, not only because it was a unique opportunity for first year undergraduate students to undertake an overseas study program, but also because it was the first group of ANU students to undertake an English-based study program in Japan.

The students learned about Japanese culture, history, business, or politics, and studied an introductory Japanese language course.

Ee Faye said she encouraged other students to consider New Colombo Plan study opportunities.

“You get so many different senses from being in an environment which isn’t your standard Australian university life,” she said.

“I had great teachers and learned a lot in the classroom. But being in a different environment allowed us to have a cultural experience as well.

“I think it is something everyone should try. Maybe it’s not for you but I definitely want to go on exchange to Japan or somewhere else.’’ she said.

The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

It provides scholarships for overseas study for up to one year, as well as short-term internships and a flexible mobility grants program for both short and longer-term study.

In June, three ANU students were awarded prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarships for more extensive study in Asia, and two of these students were also named New Colombo Plan Scholarship Fellows – the top New Colombo Plan scholarship recipient for each of the four pilot countries in 2014.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced the program will be expanded to more than 35 countries from 2015.

Details of the New Colombo Plan are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Website: http://www.dfat.gov.au/new-colombo-plan/