Ryan Cunningham - Hong Kong
Ryan Cunningham – Hong Kong

With the New Colombo Plan (NCP) opening nominations in July for the 2017 Scholarship Program, Asia Options’ Greater China Correspondent, Alice Slevison, sat down with Ryan Cunningham to hear about his experience on the New Colombo Plan in China (Hong Kong). This article looks at the New Colombo Plan, Ryan’s motivations to apply, his experience living in Hong Kong, and his advice for others.

The New Colombo Plan

The New Colombo Plan is a great opportunity for Australian undergraduate students to study in Asia, providing students with the opportunity and funding to study, complete an internship and undertake language training. The NCP scholarships offer recipients up to AUD $67,000 for an overseas semester or full year. Asia Options is a huge supporter of these scholarships and sees them as a great opportunity to lift the knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia.   

How did you hear about the New Colombo Plan and why did you decide to apply?

I first heard about the NCP whilst studying in Beijing in 2014. In its original year, the NCP was only offered to four host locations. In 2016 however, it is open to 38 host locations across the Indo-Pacific.

I was luckily enough nominated by my university for the 2016 round. I had always wanted to be a part of Australia’s growing relationship with China; once nominated, I thought applying for the NCP was the perfect way to do this and that it would be a great next step in my study and professional life. I am also a strong advocate of exchange in Asia, so I thought the NCP would be a great way to show people what Asia has to offer.

What does the New Colombo Plan involve?

The NCP is a comprehensive scholarship program that is tailored to the needs of different scholars. It involves up to one year of study at any university in the Indo-Pacific as well as an internship ranging from one to six months in length. The internship should be related to the scholar’s study area and build on the knowledge they have gained through living in-country.

The Internship and Mentorships Network is able to connect private-sector organisations that wish to host interns with potential scholars. Studying the local language is also highly recommended as part of the program – this can be through language studies as exchange courses or as an intensive course (more than twenty hours per week) before semester commencement.

I thoroughly enjoyed my intensive language course and would say that it is compulsory for early success. Not only does it make getting around that much easier, language use goes a long way in connecting with locals.

Scholars are supported financially throughout all 3 stages of their NCP experience and, where possible, are invited to engage with their local branches of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Other than that, it involves scholars engaging with their host location and university and having an immeasurably good time.

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Ryan hanging out in Hong Kong

Why did you choose to undertake the New Colombo Plan in China and Hong Kong more specifically?

Hong Kong has long played a large part in connecting China with the world. Its economic system and history as well as a plethora of company headquarters make it a unique place to study International trade and business. Its universities are amongst the top in Asia, which means you are able to engage with high-quality professors and students as well.

As a student of languages and culture, Hong Kong has allowed me to maintain my Mandarin whilst also taking up Cantonese, and exploring the cultural dynamics of both locals and international residents of the city. To top it off, Hong Kong has fantastic weather and an international food scene that is to die for! The everyday Dim Sum isn’t too bad, either!

What has been a highlight of the New Colombo Plan in China so far?

The highlight of the NCP experience so far would definitely be attending the Consul-General’s Australia Day Reception at the Grand Hyatt. I thoroughly enjoyed joining high-level business leaders and dignitaries from both Australia and Hong Kong to celebrate the large Australian community here.

Another would be attending the Australia China Emerging Leaders Summit held in Shanghai. The Summit gave me the opportunity to hear from exceptional leaders in the Australia-China space.

The highlight of living in Hong Kong would be living in the HKU residential hall. HKU has a very modern education system but to live with local students and be involved in all aspects of hall life (sport and music competitions, dinners, and cultural events) has been a completely different experience. For me, student exchange is about trying new things, and I have loved every bit of it!

Ryan Cunningham - New Colombo Plan - Hong Kong

What advice would you give to others considering to apply for the New Colombo Plan?

Find your passion and look for a location that you’ll get the most out of. It is important to plan ahead and start your engagement with your proposed location now. Organising exchange is the most enjoyable thing, but also takes a lot of preparation. Find a trusted supervisor from your university who is willing to advise you on your written application and make contact with your exchange office outlining clearly what you want to do (including exchange vs study abroad and organising exchange credit).

The New Colombo Plan Website has great FAQs that can be used to cross check your application. But most importantly, develop your narrative and tell your story, who you are and what you aim to do. Be clear in your plans but also be exciting and differentiate yourself. I would also highly recommend connecting with locals from your proposed destination to gain a deeper insight.

From application to arriving in country, the New Colombo Plan has been a once in a life time experience and I will make the most of the time remaining. Thank you to the Australian Government for their continued support of students to study in Asia.

A short biography of Ryan Cunningham

Ryan is a current student at the University of Adelaide undertaking concurrent degrees in Commerce (International Business) and Languages (Mandarin and Spanish). In 2014, he completed a year of exchange at Tsinghua University on a Confucius Institute Scholarship. He has interned at the Australia China Business Council in Adelaide, as well as the Confucius Institute. He is actively involved in the Australia China Youth Association, running chapters in both Adelaide and Beijing, as well as holding a place on the National Executive.

Follow the link to learn more about the New Colombo Plan

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Alice Slevison

Greater China Country Coordinator
Alice Slevison is a graduate from the Masters of International Relations (Chinese) at the University of Melbourne, and holds a B.A. of International Studies from RMIT University. Alice's passion has led her to undertake long-term study in Hong Kong, Xiamen and Nanjing and professional roles in trade and policy in Beijing and Shanghai. Alice is currently working in Canberra for the Australia Government.

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