Breaking barriers, crossing borders: how a scholarship has allowed two students to take on the world | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Breaking barriers, crossing borders: how a scholarship has allowed two students to take on the world

Two UniSC students have been given the chance to study overseas while pursuing unique opportunities like challenging gender perceptions through toys in Malaysia and promoting sustainability in the Pacific - after being awarded scholarships through the New Colombo Plan.

Moreton Bay student Jessica Whyman has landed an internship in Malaysia with Mattel ­– the makers of Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price products – that will see her work on everything from sustainability projects with the Malaysian government to social campaigns like the ‘Dream Gap Project’ to empower and encourage young girls.

Now two months into her internship, Jess says the chance to work with Mattel’s Southeast Asia marketing team has been rewarding and eye-opening.

“I have worked on some incredible projects like writing scripts and participating in filming online e-commerce shows, a platform not as popular in Australia, and working with Melinda Looi - fashion designer - in a community outreach project with local orphans,” Jess said.

Another Mattel social campaign (through its Barbie brand) is the Dream Gap Project, which aims to support and inspire young girls to stop them “developing self-limiting beliefs, and thinking they’re not as smart and capable as boys” according to the company’s website.

“Particularly as a mother of a young girl, I want every little girl to know she has value, can be who she is, and can accomplish anything,” she said.

“I am incredibly excited and feel privileged to be provided the opportunity to increase awareness of the value of play for children in the early years through the delivery of high-quality and gender-neutral events.”

Jessica is joined in Malaysia by husband Albert and their two young children (who are both excited to see where Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars are made) and said the opportunity to study and work overseas has ‘benefited her family beyond words’.

Jessica will move to Japan in March 2023, studying culture, literacy, literature and writing at International College of Liberal Arts in Yamanishi, before completing three months language immersion at Hikida and moving onto studying a further semester at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

“I’m interested in seeing how Japan and Malaysia approach literacy to get a more well-rounded view of the issues around literacy,” she said.

“There is always a benefit to look outside of yourself and that includes looking outside of our borders to learn.”

Watch the video below on Jess' journey to Mattel.


For third-year Bachelor of Laws & International Studies student Creole Wihongi, the New Colombo Plan scholarship has not only opened up opportunities in work, but to better understand an entire region.

“It is the opportunity of a lifetime, and one I am very grateful for. The NCP scholarship will allow me to study one semester of international business law in Thailand, study one semester of Japanese language and culture in Japan, and further my professional experience interning with a non-government organisation that deals with sustainable community development in the pacific islands,” she said.

Currently in Thailand, Creole plans to broaden her learning not only through study, but through an internship with the United Nations Development Program.

“I wanted to learn more about the Thai legal system and how a developing region works and assists the wider region in reaching UN Sustainable Development Goals. Thailand is also placed in the centre of Southeast Asia which means it is perfectly located for travel. I have really enjoyed exploring neighbouring countries and getting the full cultural-immersion experience.”

Similarly to Jessica, Creole plans to travel to Japan - hoping to gain a better sense of Australia’s place in the region and the opportunities it holds, while interning at the Australian embassy in Tokyo.

“I am hoping to deepen my love and appreciation for cultural nuance. I want to look at how Australia and the Indo-Pacific region can partner with each other in the future and highlight our similarities rather than the ways in which we differ. I want to learn how I can integrate my passion for helping others through community development initiatives into my future career,” she said.

“I already feel as if I have made life-long friendships and learned some unique lessons that I don't think I would have been able to learn on my own whilst living in Australia.”

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