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Students thrilled with success in 2019 New Colombo Plan

High-achievers to experience new cultures, opportunities under government initiatives

Four high-achieving students from the University of Wollongong (UOW) are bound for the Indo-Pacific region as part of the Federal Government’s prestigious New Colombo Plan.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne, presented the UOW recipients – Narayan Khanal, Kristina O’Shea, Si Ding, and Benjamin Dalgarno Fixter - with their awards during a ceremony in Canberra last night (Monday 26 November).

The students will each travel to different locations through the Indo-Pacific as part of the initiative, which supports Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

Kristina O’Shea was announced as a New Colombo Plan Fellow, which acknowledges the top-ranked candidate for each location. Fellows are strong advocates for the New Colombo Plan during their placement, with only one fellow chosen for each nation.

Narayan Khanal, Si Ding, and Benjamin Dalgarno Fixter were each named as New Colombo Plan Scholars.

Narayan, who is in his second year of a Bachelor of Medical and Health Sciences, will spend five months in Japan, where he will be based at Kobe University.

“I chose to go to Japan because life expectancy there is higher than anywhere else in the world,” said Narayan, who is interested in how policy can play a role in public health initiatives. “I want to learn about how people in Japan stay health and the role of public health. I was born in a refugee camp, where poor hygiene and poor health led to many deaths that could have been prevented.

“People died from minor conditions that could have been prevented with better policies and better healthcare.”

Kristina O’Shea (pictured above), who is going to New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, has been named a New Colombo Plan Fellow, in addition to a Scholar.

Currently studying a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws, Kristina is looking forward to practicing her French and learning more about the history and culture of the small island.

“I’m staying at the University of New Caledonia, where I will be studying and also completing an internship at the Tjibaou Culture Centre,” Kristina said. “I grew up hosting French exchange students, and I’ve studied the language for a few years, so I was keen to go to the biggest French-speaking island in the area.

“New Caledonia has an interesting history and there are a lot of fascinating things happening there right now.”

New Colombo Plan 2018 Scholars CollageNew Colombo Plan Scholars Narayan Khanal, Si Ding, Benjamin Dalgarno Fixter.

Si Ding, who is studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science, will spend her time at Lichuan University in Hong Kong. She said she was “thrilled” to receive a New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

“I will be studying at the University for a year, and I will be looking at comparative studies between Eastern and Western philosophy in mind and metaphysics,” Si Ding said.

Benjamin Dalgarno Fixter, who has just finished his third year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), will spend more than a year in Singapore, where he will study and undertake internships.

“I’m interested in the energy sector and looking at how we can rely more on renewables and tackle the problems that we face in that area,” Benjamin said. “Singapore has a great reputation for its work in the energy field so I’m really looking forward to learning as much as I can and then bringing those skills back to Australia.”

Benjamin will study electrical engineering at Nanyang Technology University and said he was “stoked” to be given the opportunity to experience the country’s culture and learn in a new environment.

“It’s going to be an amazing opportunity. A lot of people graduate without getting this sort of experience, so I’m really grateful to be able to expand my horizons, engage with different cultures and different ways of doing things, which will hopefully give me a greater skill set that I can use when I graduate.”

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, said being selected to represent the University in the Australian Government initiative was a huge honour.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to expand their minds and gain a once-in-a-lifetime experience studying and working in a new place, and a new culture,” Professor Wellings said.

“I congratulate all the worthy recipients, who will benefit immensely from this opportunity.”

The UOW students will form part of 125 Scholars from Australian universities who will be supported by the Federal Government in 2019. They will represent the country as part of a greater plan to expand learning opportunities for Australian students in the region and deepen relationships.

Fifteen students from UOW have taken part in the New Colombo Plan Scholarships since its inception in 2014.

New Colombo Plan Vice Chancellor with ScholarsNarayan Khanal, UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings, and Benjamin Dalgarno Fixter. Photo: DFAT