Apply for 2016 cultural immersion program: scholarship winner urges

8 Jun 2015

Emily Chen is one University of Queensland student thoroughly backing the benefits of full immersion in an unfamiliar culture.

Recently returned from Hong Kong, she’s now encouraging other UQ students to apply for the 2016 round of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship Program, enabling undergraduate students to live, work and study in the Indo-Pacific region.

The prestigious scholarships – valued at up to $67,000 – support study of up to one academic year and an internship or mentorship in Australia’s neighbouring countries.

Miss Chen, a Bachelor of Biomedical Science student, received one of only 40 scholarships offered nationwide in the 2015 pilot round and recently returned from a semester abroad at The University of Hong Kong.

She now speaks five languages and two dialects and says the experience showed her she could overcome challenges while helping her become more open and understanding through intercultural interactions.

“It is difficult to describe my semester away in a completely new environment with words. There were ups and downs, new adventures as well as challenges,” she said.

“When I first arrived in Hong Kong, the local language was a barrier for me and being unable to understand or be understood was the main obstacle.

She quickly learned Cantonese pronunciation and word variations.

“Being able to interact with locals in their language immediately drew the distance between us closer and they were much more willing to share their life and experiences with me.”

During her time overseas, Miss Chen embraced as many new experiences possible.

“One thing I kept in mind was the key aims of the New Colombo Plan Scholarship – being culturally immersed to bring the best of the host location back to Australia,” Miss Chen said.  

“I gained knowledge and experience in my field of study. I met and became friends with amazing people with whom I may not have had the chance to cross paths with otherwise.

"I gained competencies which will be beneficial for my self-development in the long term, such as increased independence, a new language, a new instrument, tutoring skills and knowledge from challenging elective courses.”

Miss Chen said her research internship with the Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong was a full-time responsibility that opened her eyes to new information and prepared her for a medical career that integrates research with clinical practice.

“My supervisor was an expert in the field of nasopharyngeal carcinoma research and was able to teach me all the key techniques involved in the experiments step-by-step,” she said.

“I think I also gained soft skills in working with people from different cultural backgrounds and am able to communicate more effectively.”

“I feel more ready for the work environment than ever before and, as a current student, I am able to better prepare myself for professional work environment in the next few years of study.”

I would highly recommend this program to those who are interested in Asian cultures, as you will gain the invaluable skills and networks for a society in which we will see more and more influence by our neighbouring countries.”

UQ students are encouraged to submit an online application for the New Colombo Plan Scholarships by 30 June 2015.

Further information and a link to the application form can be found here.

Media: Melanie Martin, UQ Global Engagement,, 3346 0665.