Seven ANU students land prestigious New Colombo Plan scholar

10 December 2020

Seven ANU students have been awarded the Australian Government's prestigious New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship for 2021. When borders open, these students will be living, studying and interning across the Indo-Pacific region. 

The NCP is a signature initiative of the Australian Government aimed to stimulate student engagement with Australia's Indo-Pacific neighbours. Following a year of limited travel, getting back into the region in 2021 to build people-to-people relations has never been more important.  

Using AFL to connect with peers in the Pacific  

Hui (Jenny) Cheng, a third-year student at the College of Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Asia and the Pacific, will be studying and interning in French Polynesia and Fiji. 

Jenny's academic interest in French and non-traditional security threats inspired her interest in French Polynesia. Jenny explained: 

Hui (Jenny) Cheng will be studying in French Polynesia and Fiji

Hui (Jenny) Cheng, a third-year student at the College of Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Asia and the Pacific, will be studying and interning in French Polynesia and Fiji. 

Jenny’s academic interest in French and non-traditional security threats inspired her interest in French Polynesia. Jenny explained: 

"A major motivation has been my French studies. I have been studying French for about seven years now, through which I learnt about Francophone places like French Polynesia. After doing some research, I discovered that Pacific nations are a focal point for a lot of my academic interests, such as non-traditional security issues. For example, the French Polynesian airport is going to be underwater in a few decades."

"These types of issues, particularly climate issues, are very real, and I think being in country will give me a richer understanding of them than any book could.” 

A key component of Jenny’s program will focus on sports diplomacy. Jenny explained that Australia pioneered the first ever sports diplomacy strategy back in 2015, and that sport should increasingly play a role in how we reach out to and engage with other countries. Jenny is particularly interested in using AFL to connect with peers in French Polynesia. 

“For me, sport is a universal language. When I was nine years old, I moved to Australia and did not speak any English. Sport is what I used to form connections with my classmates. When I was playing sport, no one would judge me for not knowing the right English words. It was one of the first times I felt like an equal to everyone.” 

Exploring agriculture in the Philippines

Niam Foxcroft will be studying in the Phillipines

Niam Foxcroft, a third-year environmental science student, will be using his NCP Scholarship to learn more about agriculture in the Philippines. 

Niam has always had a strong personal interest in agriculture. Growing up in a predominantly farming community around the Snowy Mountains, Niam grew up bearing witness to the importance of agriculture to rural families. Niam reflected: 

“Everyone grew up surrounded by agriculture. During years of drought, and now the increasingly frequent bushfires, I realised how farming was such a consuming and intense part of our community. I want to learn more so I can contribute to building better agricultural systems.” 

Niam was inspired to apply for NCP after completing a short agriculture course in Viet Nam in 2019. He described how the field school, which was his first time going overseas, helped him grapple with the role of agriculture in our society.  

“Agriculture is interesting because it sits at an intersection between science and social and economic considerations. This means there are different tensions to consider. For example, in Viet Nam, we did not just look at the ecological practices used by rice farmers to maintain their crops. We also looked at the important social and cultural dimensions, such as how rice farming defined community livelihood. Engaging in this interconnectivity fascinates me.” 

Niam hopes studying at some of the Philippine’s leading agricultural institutes will guide him towards Honours, Masters or further research focused on the agricultural sector.  

Understanding rule of law in Myanmar 

Rebecca Crisp will be studying in Myanmar

Rebecca Crisp, a third-year Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics student, will dedicate her NCP scholarship to learning about Myanmar’s legal system.  

After completing a short course in Myanmar in 2019, Rebecca is eager to return to deepen her understanding of Myanmar’s democracy. She explained how in-country experiences enabled by the NCP scholarship are an exceptional opportunity for developing cultural capability: 

“When I was in Myanmar researching gender equality and education in 2019, I realised how being in-country allowed me to grasp things at a much deeper level. For example, I was so surprised when much of the secondary research I had done before arriving in Myanmar conflicted with my own interactions and observations on the ground. It proved how valuable the in-country experience can be for understanding local context.”

Rebecca is excited to leverage her academic background in law and social science to interrogate the cross-section of law and political reform. Rebecca explained that Myanmar is expected to be a significant regional player in the future, so understanding its history and its pathways toward democratic consolidation are essential. 

Rebecca was eager to encourage other students to apply for opportunities like NCP: 

“You do not have to be the top of your cohort. You don’t need to have been school captain. I never thought of myself as an NCP Scholar, but if you are passionate about something and have a genuine interest, you should apply. This scholarship values whole people and whole interests.” 

Meet our other scholars  

The other NCP Scholars for 2021 are: 

  • Gemma Campbell, from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, will be studying in Singapore.  

  • Charlotte Fell, from the College of Asia and the Pacific and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, will be studying in Taiwan. 

  • Cherish Tay, from the College of Law and College of Asia and the Pacific, will be studying in Taiwan.  

  • Queenie Ung, from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, will be studying in Singapore. 

Information about the New Colombo Plan Scholarships program, including how to apply for the next round of scholarships, can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's website.