Griffith’s Asian Century Futures Initiative gave 12 Griffith University students and 10 Peking University students the opportunity to enrich their academic studies, professional skills and personal selves over these June-July holidays, in the first instalment of the 2016 Asia Future Fellows program for undergraduates. The program will run throughout Semester 2, with students collaborating across universities to write papers that will be presented in late November.
Brisbane accommodated a week long compilation of practical and social activities. Students participated in lectures, meeting and workshops from distinguished individuals involved, in one way or another, in developing the Australia-China relationship. Rio Tinto’s Chief Advisor on Australia-China Relations, Tim Lane, was the group’s first guest lecturer and consequently set a high standard for the rest of the week with his insights into cross-cultural business practices and the interconnectedness of the global economy. Students were also given the incredible opportunity to visit Norton Rose Fulbright, where Greg Vickery AO gave students a comprehensive introduction on the work of the Red Cross / Red Crescent and the importance of independent non-government organisations; and the Department of Foreign Affairs, where students had the chance to ask Director Alison Carrington about the recent China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, and the dynamic political relationship between these two countries.
It wasn’t all seminars and speakers, however, the students also spent the week getting to know one another in excursions to Lone Pine Sanctuary and Parliament House, interactive workshops, shopping trips through the city and at dinner each night. I believe that sharing cultures and interacting as a group is equally as important as the scholarly activities as it develops soft skills such as teamwork and problem solving. The intensity of the program and diversity of study disciplines in the group allowed students to learn from and relate with each other quickly and easily, and the students have now established strong interpersonal foundations that will help them to work together during the semester.
Personally, I’m surprised at how much I was able to learn and grow in just a week. The selection of lectures and workshops was broad enough to be pertinent to each student and their discipline, while also being in-depth enough that they gave insight into areas of the Australia-China relationship that might not have been accessible without the support of the program. Particularly the meeting with DFAT and Norton Rose Fulbright, both of which not only taught me more about Australia and China but also inspired me to make the most of this (and every) opportunity so that I might have the privilege of working in one of those organisations after graduation. I also especially enjoyed meeting the Peking University students and being able to get to know each other candidly and in a friendly atmosphere. I hope that I have laid the foundations for really prosperous friendships in the future, and really look forward to seeing everyone again in November.
Article by Natasha Hoppner, Griffith President – 2016 Asia Future Fellows.