By Bachelor of Asian Studies/Communications student Natasha Hoppner

Four Griffith Universitystudents recently participated in an intensive three-week study tour to Vietnam as part as part of the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) Scholars in Asia project.

Funded by the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan initiative (NCP), the tour gave Cassandra Day, Claire Fitzpatrick, Lauren Harvey and Natasha Hoppner the opportunity to explore important existing and potential business, political and cultural linkages between the Vietnam and Australia.

“I have always been 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 Asian Studies student Lauren.

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.

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

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

All 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 convinced me that strong relationships can and should be formed between Australia and Vietnam. I am excited to explore the abundance of opportunities now open to me because of the connections I’ve made on this tour,”said Cassandra, also an Asian Studies student.

“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 Claire, a Government and International Relations student.

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

Natasha said the tour offered more than academic credit and an authentic international experience.

“It gave us the opportunity to engage deeply and directly with our regional neighbour Vietnam — with which we have such a strong history and a bright future.

“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.”