The number of UTS students given the opportunity to work and study in the Indo-Pacific region has more than doubled with the announcement of 2018 mobility grants under the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan (NCP).
In the 2018 round of NCP mobility grants UTS has received $1.3 million, which will fund 424 undergraduate students to participate in programs in 11 countries across the Indo-Pacific. These programs will include semester-based or short-term study, internships, mentorships, practicums and research in the Indo-Pacific region.
The result represents a significant increase in the number of UTS students supported. In the 2017 round UTS received $718,000 for 193 students to travel to the region.
Among the 2018 projects, 30 traditional Chinese medicine students will undertake a six-week internship program at the Chengdu University of Chinese Medicine, while 30 urban design and regional planning students will participate in a series of workshops between Australian and Filipino young leaders to share knowledge on contemporary practices in entrepreneurship, leadership and social innovation.
UTS Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Business student David Grover, who is currently on exchange at Mahidol University in Thailand, received a $7000 NCP mobility grant to fund his global exchange program.
In his blog Travelling Broke; A Poor Student's Guide to Exchange, Grover explains how his dream of going on exchange could not have been made into a reality without the funding.
"As a low SES Student who'd had to live out of home since moving to Sydney, the concept of exchange was really just a pipe dream.
"I know it will sound cheesy, but with some research, and some proper support from UTS and the government, I was able to turn this dream of mine into a reality."
Grover thinks one of the biggest issues with the concept of going on exchange is that it is very Eurocentric. Many students forget that places such as Asia, South America and Africa can also offer amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
"There is the misconception that you'll have to learn and study in the local language, which just isn't the case. The majority, if not every country in Asia, have universities that are not only state-of-the-art, but teach in English, with professors and tutors from all around the world."
In addition to the mobility grants, the Australian Government offers a prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarship for the brightest and best undergraduate Australian students to study and work in the Indo-Pacific region for up to 17 months.
In 2016, UTS Bachelor of Science in Information Technology student Bronwyn Mercer received a $67,000 New Colombo Plan scholarship to study at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore.
During her time there, Mercer studied specialised computer science courses to pursue her passion for cybersecurity. She remains in Singapore and is undertaking an information technology internship with a prominent financial regulator.
For Mercer the Indo-Pacific mobility program was an immersive learning experience.
"I underestimated the holistic impact that it would have on my life. Whether I am undertaking formal study and work, or travelling around the region, there is something to learn in every context.
"Unexpectedly, it has been the social, cultural and emotional journeys that have taught me the most valuable life lessons."
UTS Bachelor of Engineering student Thomas Da Jose received the same $67,000 scholarship. He had the opportunity to study in Thailand and interned at the United Nations regional office for disaster risk reduction in Thailand.
According to Da Jose the NCP program is an international strategy that encourages greater engagement between Australian students and their Indo-Pacific neighbours.
"It's really created this huge presence and increased the knowledge of Australian university students that Asia is a great place. I think that allows university students over time to have more exposure to Asia, and to make Asia part of the university culture."
The New Colombo Plan is an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make study in the Indo-Pacific region a "rite of passage" for every Australian undergraduate student.