The New Colombo Plan (NCP) enabled me to live in China for almost one and a half years, studying in Beijing, then working in Suzhou. It has truly enriched my life with a wealth of experiences, exposing me to contrasting perspectives and ideas.
Beijing is such a global city, a hub of activity in the tech, cultural and political spheres, attracting many international expats and students. As the New Colombo Plan Fellow, the Australian Embassy in Beijing invites you to high-level events, and if these aren’t enough, social gatherings are plentiful so you are bound to find something that aligns with your interests. University exchange as always is a load of fun, however, it is always easy to fall into the trap of befriending English speakers instead of practising the local language. Beijing airport/train stations have great connections and it is easy to travel domestically or internationally, so I managed to visit a few different cities around China, Bungee jump, explore some of South Korea, ski in Seoul, and break my leg skiing just north of Beijing.
In Suzhou, I was able to truly experience how a typical educated Chinese worker lives, living with a Chinese family for 3 months and then flat sharing with graduates for the remainder of my time. Here, placed in the Project team at the BlueScope Metal Coating Plant, I was able to develop my communication, language and management skills, working with a local Chinese team, while also reporting to an Australian project manager, observing the dynamic this creates with great interest. The electrical engineer I was initially assisting unexpectedly resigned and with the help of the project and maintenance team I took on his responsibilities. This was a definite challenge as I had to quickly develop technical knowledge and Chinese technical language, to work with suppliers, contractors and expats. And to make my Suzhou experience even better it SNOWED, making the Suzhou Bluescope Factory definitely the best looking factory I’ve ever seen.
The NCP is such a multifaceted experience which allows you to develop culturally, professionally, academically and leaves you quite well travelled. I would recommend anyone who is keen to challenge themselves to apply for this adventure of a lifetime.
More details on the New Colombo Plan can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website