Life after the New Colombo Plan Scholarship

Life after the New Colombo Plan Scholarship

When it comes to scholarships for Australian Students, the New Colombo Plan (NCP) is the all-inclusive Indo-Pacific, Asian experience. We’ve heard from many scholars about their transformative study and work stories in the region, but where are they now? Coming back home after a whirlwind exchange or international internship is arguably the hardest part of the journey, but these Alumni are taking it one step further.


Where are they now?

For Zoe Brereton, “after receiving the scholarship, everything snowballed.” She worked and studied in India during NCP, with a focus on Women’s Rights, and is now back in Brisbane training in Refugee and Immigration Legal Service with predominantly Indo-Pacific asylum seekers.

“Having an understanding of the diversity of religions, cultures and ethnicities in India, has certainly helped me to understand the complex dynamic of many of the asylum seekers’ protection claims.”

NCP Scholar Zoe in India

Inspired by the experience, Zoe initiated her own research project in India, on police investigations into complaints of violence against women and presented at several esteemed international and local conferences on the subject of sexual violence as well as human rights.

Other alumni sharing their studies on the international stage; Michael Dyer and Imogen Dean have both had incredible academic success stemming from their NCP experiences. Imogen, a recent first-class honours graduate of Newcastle University, completed her Speech Pathology Degree with Embedded Honours while collaborating with institutes in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. After the NCP, Imogen is preparing to present her world-first report on treatment for childhood stuttering at international conferences in Japan and Greater China. Despite officially returning to Aus early this year, Imogen continues travelling to the region to network at universities, private clinics and with mentors, and will be moving back to Hong Kong next month after landing a position as a Speech and Language Therapist at the Hong Kong Academy for her efforts. Talk about making the most of her “crazy year” on the NCP!

University of South Australia’s Michael Dyer is another proactive alumni. After representing Fiji, and presenting his thesis in invasive botany and tropical plant ecology at an Invasive Island conference hosted by the IUCN in Scotland, Michael made the connections that led to his upcoming role in New Zealand. His work experience in Samoa on the NCP was instrumental in Michael obtaining his role in NZ and was the foundation for his international career.

Imogen Conquering Hong Kong
Extending her reach to Japan








Scott Gigante from the University of Melbourne thought his internship with VMware in Shanghai as a China Scholar was impressive. But that exposure to computational statistics, fueled a new desire for academia, building networks that led him to a PhD at Yale University 2 years later, where he is now advancing diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The incredible flexibility of an NCP scholarship is what led Scott here, “A significant change from what I thought I would do for a living!”

A fellow scientist and alumni, Justin Freeman did a 360 on the NCP, heading to Korea to study Evolutionary Nanoparticles at Yonsei University after an undergraduate degree in botany. He has since returned home to Perth to graduate as valedictorian, commence his honours in optoelectronic devices at Murdoch University, start a business Master Class, jumped back into playing Euphonium in a wind band and was also inspired to pursue a PhD abroad.

The experience as a Hong Kong Scholar led Melbourne’s Katie Brand to add a Diploma of Languages (Chinese) to her degree. As a Law and Commerce student, Katie utilized the prestige of the New Colombo Plan to get in the door with competitive legal and investment banking internships, work with highly respected barristers and landed an upcoming role in the US Senate after her second round of exchange after the NCP.

Canberra born Harrison Hall landed internships with QBE insurance in Singapore and Jakarta after his NCP study at Indonesian university Gadjah Mada. Since returning to Australia, Harrison landed a prestigious graduate role in a management program for a private equity group, using his International Business skills in dynamic secondments all around the country, with “no signs of slowing down!”

Inaugural Korean Fellow presenting at the University of South Australia to open the SA NCP Alumni GroupUniSA


Cate Elliot, an NCP Mobility Grant Recipient from Ballarat, returned from an NCP funded trip to Korea and established the ‘Asia Pacific and NCP Exchange Students Society’ on campus at Federation University. After attending national conferences and presenting at an Engagement Australia Conference roundtable, the most rewarding outcome of her Alumni engagement has been mentoring students heading to Korea and connecting with inbound Korean students. This epitomises the organic growth that the NCP was a catalyst for. Cate, like many NCP alumni, plans to speak at schools in her hometown, inspiring a new wave of Asia literate Australians.

As the inaugural Korean Fellow of the NCP, I have found most of my successes upon return to Australia. Before being sent to Korea on the whim of a kind professor, I had no idea about the country’s food, language, culture or industry. Three years later I am home in Adelaide continuing my Korean studies at a local church alongside Australian-born Koreans, applying that in translating and tutoring at the King Sejong Institute at the University of South Australia, surprising local shopkeepers, restaurant owners, international students and teachers alike with my passion for the language. I soon initiated an exchange student buddy program at my university, inspired by my own exchange experience.

Buddies Welcome with Exchange Students from all over the world


For all international scholarship recipients, the inevitable reverse culture shock is much more manageable with a tight alumni network that can continue giving you outlets for engagement in your country of interest. The NCP Alumni group attend events all over Australia. I have so far attended the Young Australians in International Affairs Future 21 in Canberra, the Australia-Korea Business Council Joint Meeting in Brisbane, Alumni Ambassador training in Sydney and attended various Korean academic technology symposiums in Adelaide. The connections made here, at the follow-up events after the learnings of our in-country training really sink in, are the real value of such programs.

From hosting events in our new languages, joining a Mongolian throat singing band, and coaching the Hong Kong roller derby league, the NCP alumni are continuing to nurture and enjoy the unique skills and hobbies developed abroad.

For any scholarship recipient, you have the chance to build upon those experiences to continue the journey back home. Mentor future applicants, support alumni, promote the program’s success or feedback into the scholarship provider. There are also the indirect results, changing your perspectives, experiencing things you didn’t even know were possible and meeting people that will start the next chapter of your life.


Asia Option resources

Read stories from Asia Options readers who have successfully applied for and experienced the NCP program, including their tips, highlights and study programs.


Application information

To apply for the New Colombo Plan please see the scholarship website.


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Michelle is an engineering student in Adelaide. She was the first Korean Fellow of the New Colombo Plan, studying for 1 year in Daejeon and Seoul. Since returning to Aus she continues her love of Kareoke, Kimchi and Korean!

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