Only a few months have passed since New Colombo Plan scholar Ryan Cunningham returned from Hong Kong and already he is helping guide the South Australian Government on China relations.
He has taken up a role as a graduate officer with the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet, working on China Strategy in its international relations division.
The University of Adelaide student spent most of 2016 in Hong Kong, where he studied at the University of Hong Kong and undertook internships at the Global Institute for Tomorrow and CSR Asia.
The focus of his study and internships was on Environmental, Social and Governance and Sustainability issues in Asia.
“The New Colombo Plan was an incredible opportunity,” Ryan said.
“It helped me to understand the people and the business environment, and enabled me to take part in unique internships that might not have ordinarily been available.”
The quality of the educational experience in Hong Kong impressed him too.
“It is a great place to study. Hong Kong attracts the top professors from Asia and across the globe – you get the choice of the best teachers in the world,” he said.
Ryan was particularly pleased with the doors opened through his engagement with the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong.
“It gave me a chance to speak to a lot of Australian businesses there whom I may not have otherwise have met.”
I don’t expect I would have been able to meet the high profile people I did without the NCP and the opportunities it provided.”
Apart from the academic and professional advantages provided by the overseas learning experience, Ryan embraced the cultural opportunities of living in Hong Kong.
At the start of his scholarship, he learnt Cantonese, which helped his interaction with locals and, he believes, improved his enjoyment of living in Hong Kong.
In Australia, he had been involved in the Australia-China Youth Association but was surprised that there was not similar organisation in Hong Kong.
He helped start up the Hong Kong chapter and worked to ensure there was a team in place to continue the engagement.
Ryan has already reached out to the 2017 New Colombo Plan scholars to share his experience and provide support.
He strongly recommends any students thinking about putting themselves forward for the New Colombo Plan to “go for it”.
“Engage, learn and volunteer: make the most of the experience,” he said.