“Kindness brings people together,” says 22-year-old engineering student Thomas Da Jose. “It’s the universal currency.” And for the self-described “humanitarian development advocate”, kindness has brought him to Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.
Da Jose is part of the third cohort of Australian university students undertaking an internship and study in the Indo-Pacific region thanks to the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship. (Three other UTS students – Bronwyn Mercer, Kayla Rain Williams and Guoxi Bill Wang – are also currently studying in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong respectively.)
Da Jose is using his scholarship, which for 2016 recipients is valued at up to $67,000, to help him launch a career in international humanitarian engineering.
“I have a deep connection to improving the lives of others, particularly those who are marginalised and disadvantaged,” explains Da Jose.
“With the effects of climate change, flooding incidences are expected to increase so I want to develop a specialisation in disaster reduction, response and recovery, as it’s a topic I deeply care about. I feel the Indo-Pacific as a whole really needs that.”
The NCP Scholarships are an Australian Government initiative that encourages greater engagement between Australia’s brightest students and their Indo-Pacific neighbours.
Throughout his degree, Da Jose has given his time and skills to numerous volunteer projects including Engineers Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Humanitarian Affairs Asia, the Australian Thai Youth Ambassadors Program, UTS Peer Network and The Big Lift.
He’s also served as President of the Beyond UTS International Leadership Development (BUiLD) Student Society, advocated for women as Team Leader in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, and was on the UTS Academic Board from November 2013 to November 2014.
“Volunteering has always been a part of my life, but my participation really peaked during my time at UTS,” Da Jose explains.
“When I discovered UTS offers a strong support network and so many platforms to help others, one thing just led to another.”
The young activist, who counts Fred Hollows, Aung San Suu Kyi and his family as his greatest sources of inspiration, aspires to live a life in which he can motivate others to dream big.
“I am a big advocate for believing in yourself, even in light of constant shortcomings,” he says.
“My biggest role models are without doubt my family. We’ve been through many hardships, mostly financial, yet my parents never gave up. The unconditional love and care they show for others has moulded my own calling as a humanitarian engineer.”
Da Jose plans to inspire others to study and work in the Indo-Pacific region by documenting his NCP journey on social media – you can follow him on Instagram @hoeslay, Twitter @thophiee or check out his travel vlog on Youtube at goo.gl/7djhtk
"Not only do I enjoy sharing collective memories and video-editing, but as a scholarship recipient, there’s added purpose to what I hope to accomplish,” enthuses Da Jose.
"We know South-East Asia is a beautiful region, but there is a lack of resources to provide genuine insights of student exchange experiences, particularly for less popular countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines.
"Through social media, I’m offering insights into how fun exchange in these countries can be, as well as the value it has for our lifelong learning and professional careers.”