Catherine Yen says her New Colombo Plan scholarship will allow her to access a career that she never thought possible. Coming from a migrant background, where money was often tight, Catherine always dreamed of immersing herself in the Indo-Pacific region, but felt that such an experience was simply unaffordable.
“To do things like build up a language, to conduct field research in a foreign country, you need a lot of funds,” she says.
So, as a Bachelor of Philosophy in Asian Studies student at the Australian National University, when she heard about the New Colombo Plan scholarship she immediately applied. Winning the scholarship, in 2016 she moved to Thailand for one year.
Catherine is currently living in Bangkok, studying at Thammasat University and interning at the national newspaper, Prachatai. Coming to the country that she had only previously read about, Catherine was initially struck by the “chaos” of Bangkok, which she soon “fell in love with”.
“At any time of the day or night there is something to see or do,” she says.
As an intern at Prachatai, Catherine translates stories from Thai to English. After only eight months in the country, recently she also began hitting the streets to conduct interviews in Thai.
“Learning Thai is really important to me because there are certain experiences that can only be shared in your mother tongue,” she says. “I think as a journalist, or as a researcher, if you can't speak the local language that cuts off so much communication.”
Apart from the incredible learning opportunity, her time in Thailand has also allowed Catherine to made life-long friends and “I will now always be between Australia and Thailand”.
She eventually aims to become a researcher, specializing in Thailand. Having had the opportunity to develop her language skills as well as networks in the country will help her do that to a high standard.
“The New Colombo plan has given me access to a career that I think most people from a background like mine can't access,” she says.