Published on 30 June 2014
When your career goal is to work as a diplomat, it can only help when your efforts are applauded by Australia’s Governor-General, Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.
That’s what 19-year-old University of the Sunshine Coast International Studies student Tess Harwood of Nambour experienced in Canberra last week when she secured one of only 40 prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarships from the Australian Government.
This scholarship scheme is a pilot project of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade aimed at boosting Australia’s relationships with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, particularly Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The government would like more undergraduate students to view studying in the Indo-Pacific region as a “rite of passage” that enables them to become more “Asia-capable”. Each scholarship has a value of up to $67,000.
Tess is now packing her bags for a semester at Satya Wacana Christian University on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java. She will also complete an internship with a non-government organisation that provides education and assistance to remote villages.
The former Nambour Christian College student, who can speak five languages and plans to one day be an ambassador for Australia, received the scholarship from Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop at a gala ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday 25 June.
She said it had been a thrill and an honour to meet Minister Bishop, along with the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Prime Minister Tony Abbot and the Indonesian Ambassador Najib Riphat Kesoema.
“I feel so honoured to have been given this scholarship and I can’t express how excited I am,” she said. “This program is like the doorway for me into my career. It’s so great for my future and it so helps with my degree.”
At USC, Tess has grabbed every opportunity to study abroad including a semester in Japan through USC’s award-winning Global Opportunities program and two study trips to Indonesia, one of which was funded by an Australian Government Asia-Bound Scholarship.
Tess believes her involvement in the New Colombo Plan will pay dividends for Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.
“Recently, Australia and Indonesia have had some difficulties understanding each other, but the relationship between students is very good,” she said. “By being there, networking and boosting relations, it will help open channels for our future growth prospects with Indonesia.”
Tess said each of her majors in Politics, Indonesian and Japanese contributed to her scholarship success and she thanked USC’s Lecturer in Indonesian Dr Phillip Mahnken and Lecturers in Politics Dr John Janzekovic and Bronwyn Stevens for their inspiration.
USC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Birgit Lohmann, who travelled to Canberra for the scholarship presentation ceremony last week, congratulated Tess on her achievement and wished her well for her semester ahead in Indonesia.
Professor Lohmann said Tess was the only student from a regional university in Australia to gain a New Colombo Plan scholarship last week.
When Tess returns to Australia next year, she plans to begin an Honours project at USC that considers the growth prospects for trade between Australia and Indonesia.
— Terry Walsh