Nine outstanding UNSW students have been awarded prestigious New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarships to undertake study and internships in the Indo-Pacific region in 2018.

Jessica Cong, James Dunn, George Fermanis, Janice Lai, Stanford Lee, Miranda Lu, Michael Murdocca, Michelle Tsang and Victor Zhang will study at a range of leading universities in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and China.

They were among 120 of Australia’s best and brightest undergraduate students to receive the NCP's most prestigious grants, formally announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham at a function in Canberra on Monday night.

The NCP Scholarship Program provides opportunities for Australian undergraduate students to undertake semester-based study and internships or mentorships in participating Indo-Pacific locations. NCP scholars gain valuable new skills and understanding that they will bring to their future workplaces, supporting Australia’s future competitiveness and economic growth.

The scholarships include language training tuition, a travel allowance, an establishment allowance, a monthly stipend, health and travel insurance and a dedicated case manager.

The 2018 scholars are drawn from 33 Australian universities. They will study, work and live across 20 host locations, including for the first time Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia and New Caledonia.

As the top-ranked candidate for Japan, UNSW Law/Arts student Michael Murdocca was named a New Colombo Plan Fellow.

He plans to study law, politics and Japanese literature at Chuo University and to undertake internships with the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, a multilateral development agency in Thailand and with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Kiribati.

“I want to use my New Colombo Plan study experience to broaden my awareness of how law and public policy may be used to influence social change,” Murdocca said.

“I hope that this experience will infuse an international perspective with my conception of the Australian legal system and thus give me a comparative understanding of cross-cultural and geopolitical issues that permeate the Asia-Pacific region.”


New Colombo Plan scholars in Canberra on Monday night. Photo: Supplied

Also heading to Japan is Commerce/Science student Miranda Lu, who will study agriculture, economics and Japanese language at Keio University and plans to undertake an internship with Mitsui Food Co.

"The NCP offers amazing options and provides the chance to do things that I have never dared to think of until now," she said. "I hope to study agriculture, international trade and nutritional sciences, and gain practical experience by interning with trade-orientated companies across Japan and the Indo-Pacific."

Jessica Cong, second-year UNSW Co-op Actuarial Studies Scholar, will study management, commerce and actuarial studies at the Islamic University of Indonesia, and plans to undertake an internship with mobile micro-finance organisation BIMA.

“I’m very passionate about social justice and development causes, which is where my interest in the microfinance and microinsurance sector stems from as it provides access to financial and insurance products that empower people who would traditionally not have access to these opportunities,” Cong said. 

The NCP scholarship would provide a breadth of hands-on experience and unique insights that would be unparalleled to any experience she would have in Australia.

Bachelor of Commerce (International) student Stanford Lee, who will study business and finance at Korea University, said the scholarship was a gateway to expand his academic and professional horizons into Asia.

“It is a chance to help contribute towards the prosperity of Australia while realising my personal aspirations,” he said. “I plan to study Korean and immerse myself in the culture through homestay, attend Korea University to experience life as a local student, and work in the management consulting and venture capital scene in Seoul to become a globally minded professional.”

Law/Commerce student James Dunn received one of three scholarships sponsored by PwC. He plans to study management subjects at the University of Hong Kong and undertake internships at PwC and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.

“The NCP is the catalyst for cultural, commercial and ambassadorial endeavours that will broaden and refine my perspective of the Asian environment,” Dunn said.

“I hope to use this scholarship to learn about cross-border disputes and their resolution, Asian legal systems and processes including institutional arbitration, and Hong Kong's administrative laws, and use this knowledge in Australian policy-making, law and commerce.”

Another Commerce student, Michelle Tsang, is bound for Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

“I also plan to undertake a part time internship and develop my Chinese Mandarin business proficiency. With a passion for finance and investment ideas in the Asia-Pacific region, I am excited to see first-hand how business leaders and capital raisings in China  can influence and shape technological innovations in the region and ultimately the world,” Tsang said.

“The NCP Program provides an amazing opportunity for me to be a voice of Australia on the global stage, leading me along the path of personal and professional development.”

Also China bound is Commerce (Information Systems) student Victor Zhang, who will spend a semester at Tsinghua University. He will also work at a venture capital or startup firm, or create one, and undertake language training.

"I am passionate about leveraging technology innovation and social entrepreneurship to impact millions of people across Australia and the Indo Pacific region," he said. "The NCP scholarship provides an opportunity to study and work in China and South-East Asia, building my foundations to eventually launch an impactful company in one of the world’s fastest developing regions."

Janice Lai, studying a Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), plans to study mechanical engineering at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and undertake an engineering internship with a global firm in Korea.

"The New Colombo Plan provides me with the opportunity to gain a well-rounded exchange experience, including personal, cultural and professional experiences. I hope to learn more about Korean culture as well as secure an internship in the Indo-Pacific region to further develop my field of study," she said.

Commerce/Law student George Fermanis is bound for the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Law, where he will study international law and Chinese law and undertake an internship in statistics and automation or a legal internship.

"In Singapore, as a technology and finance hub, I hope to develop my statistical and programming skills and better understand emerging Indo-Pacific economic trends, while also learning from Singapore's world-class law schools," he said.

The New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program was launched by the Australian Government in 2014. Candidates are chosen based on academic excellence and community leadership skills.


From left, Ichiro Takahashi, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan, with UNSW students James Dunn, George Fermanis and Michael Murdocca. Photo: Supplied