2016 Asia Future Fellows travel to Beijing

Original Article

Griffith University students exchanged sweltering heat for snow as they traveled to Beijing, China in the second installment of the 2016 Asia Future Fellows (AFF) program for undergraduates.

The Griffith Asian Century Future’s Initiative brought 12 Griffith University students and 10 Peking University students together in Brisbane during the June-July university break; beginning a journey of challenge, triumph and – above all – collaboration as students worked with their international counterparts to write papers for Griffith Asia Institute’s working paper series Regional Outlook.

Students investigated the complex and multifaceted relationship between Australia and China. Papers explored subjects that pertain directly to the Australian-China relationship, as well as independent issues that comparably inflict both Australia and China, including: Australia-China economic interdependence; university students’ perceptions of financial security; quality of and access to healthcare; disparities between rural and urban education accessibility; and the presence and influence of state media. Students presented their papers in the first two days of the November program, to an audience comprised of their peers and several distinguished guests from Peking University. The success of these presentations represented the culmination of the personal and professional development each student achieved over Semester 2. All the students who participated in the program, Australian and Chinese, should be immensely proud of the quality of work produced and of the individual and collective growth we all achieved.

In addition to presenting and discussing their findings and that of their peers, the students also participated in academic and cultural workshops. Professor Liu Shusen, Director of Australian Studies Centre at Peking University and long-time partner of the AFF program, delivered a thought provoking welcoming address on the challenges and opportunities of the Australia-China relationship. His enlightening analysis of the shifting regional and international dynamics set the tone for the compelling dialogue that would be exchanged among the students throughout the week. Professor Ding Dou from the Peking University School of International Studies also presented an exceptional lecture on China and Australia’s predicted economic trajectory domestically, regionally, and internationally – with an emphasis on the economic interdependence between the two countries. To conclude the formal component of the week, Endeavour Scholar and PhD student Bradley McConachie provided the Asia Future Fellows with the opportunity to contribute their personal insights to a greater research project which seeks to improve relations between Australia and China through people-to-people links in the area of research and education.

Concurrent to the formal lectures and presentations, the visiting Griffith University students had the privilege of taking part in a number of Chinese cultural activities and sightseeing ventures to Beijing’s most significant sights – the Red Gate Gallery, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China to name a few. The Australian Embassy graciously hosted the Asia Future Fellows for a Q&A session, which gave students the opportunity to gain unique insight into potential opportunities and career paths open to us, inspired by the vibrant Australia-China relationship. The Mandarin lesson was undoubtedly the most practically useful workshop of the week however, particularly considering that most students continued to travel around China after they’d finished in Beijing. Developing even an elementary understanding of key Mandarin words and phrases proved to be insurmountably valuable in our day-to-day interactions with shop vendors, taxi drivers and wait staff. If this experience has proven anything, it is that soft-skills such as communication are fundamental to creating the people-to-people links that enrich us as individuals, improve our teams and strengthen the greater community.

The most profound and reflective experience of our time in Beijing, which we will all hold fondly in our memories for years to come, was visiting Bethel. Bethel provides family care and education for visually impaired orphans in four homes in China, and supports orphanages and families with visually impaired children across the country. The majesty of the Forbidden City paled in comparison to the bright and resilient spirits of Bethel’s children. The staff at Bethel exude an unavoidably contagious passion, drive and optimism for the children and the organisation. The Asia Future Fellows team raised funds for Bethel throughout Semester 2, which resulted in a fantastic contribution of $2,000 that we were able to hand over to the orphanage during our visit. This money will go toward purchasing the next year’s supply of walking sticks for the children. We also gave some hands-on help during our visit, individually cleaning each of the balls in the orphanage’s ball pit – so as to maintain a healthy environment for the very hands-on kids. It is safe to say that the residents, staff and work of Bethel utterly inspired us all.

Our time in Beijing left a passionate yearning to explore even further the robust relationship that exists between Australia and China. It was validating and enriching to see our hard work come to completion in our presentations, and to observe first-hand the vast similarities and differences between our two countries – which we had all already heard and read so much about. There is no better way to solidify learning than to put that learning into practice, which can sometimes be hard to achieve as an Asian Studies student living in Australia. Working with my Chinese peers throughout the semester gave me an invaluable opportunity to put into practice the intercultural communication skills and validate the Asian literacy I have acquired during my degree. Seeing them again after presenting our findings, and spending time witnessing and being immersed in their culture, added another even deeper dimension to our (hopefully) long enduring, prosperous personal and professional relationship. There is no doubt that China has become intrinsically linked to my personal and professional self, and I cannot wait to go back at the next available opportunity.

Photos from the Asia Future Fellows program can be found on our facebook page – Brisbane program / Beijing program.

Article by Natasha Hoppner, Bachelor of Asian Studies student and 2016 Griffith President, Asia Future Fellows program for Undergraduates.

Cross cultural insights – 2016 Asia Future Fellows

Original Article

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.

Australian university students flourish in inaugural Vietnam immersion program

Ten Australian university students recently participated in an intensive three-week study tour to Vietnam as part of the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) Scholars in Asia project.

The inaugural 2016 IRU tour was funded by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP) initiative.

It gave students from Griffith University, Murdoch University and Flinders University, who had little or no previous experience of Vietnam, the opportunity to explore important existing and potential business, political and cultural linkages between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Australia.

“I have always been especially interested in Asia, and the opportunity to study in Vietnam and immerse myself in Vietnamese culture was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, particularly as a mature-age student,” said Griffith Business School Asian Studies student, Lauren Harvey

“I also had the chance to further my understandings in Australian policy in Southeast Asia, in particular furthering my understanding of the contemporary and historical issues facing Australian foreign policy and foreign relations in Vietnam,” she said.

The tour involved a series of cultural experiences, field trips and lectures designed to increase student’s understanding and appreciation of the intercultural and business issues associated with establishing a cooperative start-up venture within an Australasian context.

Additionally, the tour acted as a social springboard through which the students could academically and professionally network with fellow Australian and Vietnamese students, international scholars, prominent industry representatives and eminent government officials.

Especially valuable to the students’ education and network development were the various lectures on economic theory and practice from Vietnam’s Foreign Trade University and Ministry of Planning and Investment, a Q and A session with executives from Microsoft Vietnam and the Young Businesspeople Association, and a meeting with the Head of a Commune People’s Committee.

Other tour activities included rural engagement excursions with Tay, Red Dao, Xafo and Khmer ethnic minority groups; a homestay with a rural community leader and his family, a day’s trek from Sapa; and visits to various significant cultural and historical sites in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – including the Vietnamese Women’s Museum and War Remnants Museum.

All of the students believe that the IRU Scholars in Asia and NCP initiatives have significantly improved their employment prospects both at home and in international contexts, particularly by increasing their personal and professional networks.

“The dynamism, ambition and exuberance of the Vietnamese people has convinced me that strong relationships can and should be formed between Australia and Vietnam. I am personally excited to explore the abundance of opportunities now open to me because of the connections I’ve made on this tour,” said Cassandra Day who is also studying an Asian Studies degree at Griffith.

The academic studies and scholarly development of each student has also been enriched far beyond what is available in a classroom. Having the ability to solidify theoretical learning in real world situations greatly enhances a student’s ability to remember information and think critically.

“I am so humbled to have been given the opportunity to broaden my existing knowledge of Vietnamese history, politics, and culture, especially in an academic environment,” said Government and International Relations student, Claire Fitzpatrick.

“The ability to immerse myself and engage with the Vietnamese people, and their culture, has given me real-world experiences that have bettered me not just as a writer and academic, but also a person.”

Overall, the IRU Scholars in Asia initiative aims to increase the number of Australians proactively engaging with Asia, and generally facilitate the greater NCP goal of creating sustainable, productive and amiable relationships throughout the Asia region.

“This tour offered us more than just academic credit and an authentic international experience, it gave us the opportunity to engage deeply and directly with our regional neighbour Vietnam – with whom we have such a strong history and a bright future with,” said Communications student, Natasha Hoppner.

“Our academic, practical and professional abilities have been strengthened and our imaginations inspired with thoughts of Asia and the opportunities that international business holds for our future.”

Engineering and Science student Samuel Bolland highlighted the learning and discovery experience that a firsthand exposure to Vietnam brought, with the thoughtful guidance of Dr Catherine Burns, a lecturer at the Department of International Business and Asian Studies.

“With the chance to question local professionals this study tour has given us a deeper understanding of the country and its economic landscape than we ever could have gained from home,” he said.

Tour Duration: 11 January 2016 – 28 January 2016


  • Hanoi
  • Hoa Binh province
  • Lao Cai
  • Ban Ho Valley (Sapa)
  • Thanh Phu Village
  • Sin Chai Village
  • My Son Village
  • Nam Toong Village
  • Halong Bay
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Mekong Delta
  • Khmer Village

Local Tour Guides: Buffalo Tours: Nguyen Dang Tinh (Hanoi); Dom Tak (Ho Chi Minh City)

Griffith University’s Muslim World Study Tour 2014

In 2014, I embarked on a journey of a lifetime with a group of people who have enriched my life insurmountably. I cannot begin to express how grateful I was to be accepted onto the Muslim World Study Tour program, the  knowledge and skills I gained from the experience will stay with me for my lifetime. I was improved not only as a student and scholar, but also as citizen of this global community we live in.

The Muslim World Study Tour is a short-term mobility program run by Griffith University that gives students a unique international experience as part of their degree. It spans four countries – Malaysia, Turkey, Spain and Morocco – over 30 days, and encompasses the major aspects of Muslim and Islamic culture and life in these countries.

As part of the program’s assessment, students are made to create a blog about their experiences and observations in these countries upon returning home from the tour. I began my blog before leaving and updated it throughout the adventure (or at least tried to), which enhanced the learning process greatly.

This was also the first piece of work / assessment that I’ve been really proud of; which consequently inspired me to create this blog where I hope to record important events or insights in my life and showcase any work of mine (or others) that I find particularly interesting!