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Jacob Cookson (Bachelor of Biomedical Science/Bachelor of Laws) shares his experience studying in Hong Kong and his advice for applying for the Australian Government’s prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

The New Colombo Plan Scholarship has been one of the most amazing, eye-opening and challenging experiences I’ve had in my almost five years of studying at Bond (I know – I’m ancient!) Between studying international law in Hong Kong, to interning with an NGO in Nepal, it’s safe to say I’ve made memories that will last me a lifetime. While the application process was admittedly long and quite daunting – don’t be put off! The opportunities the Scholarship provides are unparalleled, and if you meet the criteria, there truly is no reason why you shouldn’t apply.

After travelling to Hong Kong in 2018 to represent Bond at an international mooting competition, I became extremely passionate about international legal practice, particularly in east-Asia. The New Colombo Plan Scholarship serves as a means of supporting Australian undergraduate students in their studies, while undertaking internships in their chosen field and language training. Whether you’re interested in engineering in Seoul, gender studies in Jakarta, conservation in Sumatra or international relations in Taipei, NCP can open doors that you didn’t know existed.

In late-August 2019, I jumped on my flight with my one-way ticket to begin my study component at the University of Hong Kong. Nothing could have prepared me for what was the come in the succeeding four months. The HKU campus itself was extremely impressive. Nestled into the mountains of Hong Kong Island, the modern campus had beautiful city views of the city and bay. HKU also had three high quality gyms, and sporting facilities for all sports under the sun, from netball to dragon boating. The short walk from my accommodation to campus often meant I got to watch the sunset over the bay each day.

Something that initially struck me in Hong Kong was how much of a hub for internationalism it truly was. I lived, studied and travelled with students from all walks of life – India, South Korea, Spain, Germany, North America, and of course, a fair few Australians. Given Hong Kong truly is such a melting pot for a range of different cultures, it meant the food was also a massive highlight. Bubble tea, dumplings, phở, and rice with pork belly were my go-tos, but I couldn’t help but try the weirder menu items, like chicken feet, pig oviducts and durian.

My class timetable was #blessed. I had back-to-back classes Monday and Tuesday, of which focused on public & private international law, and legal history. I learned from some absolutely amazing lecturers, one of which was a barrister, the others had studied at Yale, Oxford, Columbia and Georgetown. It was humbling learning from some of the best academics in the world, who provided powerful anecdotal lessons from their own experiences.

When I wasn’t in class, I had five consecutive days to do as I pleased. If I wasn’t exploring the city or beautiful national parks around Hong Kong, I was jet setting to one of many neighbouring countries. I rendezvoused with fellow Bondies in Taiwan, Malaysia, China, Philippines and Thailand and had the best time. Activities included night jungle safaris, swimming with turtles, going to music festivals and seeing historical sites like the Terracotta Warriors.

Admittedly, this experience was challenging at times. The 2019 riots were occurring during my time in Hong Kong, and coronavirus inevitably effected my plans this year, but the support and flexibility given to NCP scholars is like no other. I can assure you as soon as borders open, I’ll be on the first flight out to continue my NCP adventure!

Good luck to the 2021 applicants – I hope to connect with you all in the Indo-Pacific soon.

New Colombo Plan Scholarship

Learn more about the prestigious scholarship.

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