The Asia Future Fellows program is a unique and invaluable experience that brings together students from both Griffith University and Peking University to engage in cultural exchange and understanding, develop lifelong friendships and to write an intercultural, interdisciplinary research paper exploring the Australia-China relationship. This program has been by far the most fulfilling experience throughout my academic career and if I had the opportunity, I would be thrilled to do it again. I feel that this program would be immensely valuable to any student, from any discipline.
I was excited to apply for the program as I’d heard such amazing feedback about it from previous future fellows. It was the perfect opportunity to widen my engagement with China, not only on a cultural exchange basis but to further explore the Australia-China relationship from a more research based perspective. I also learned a great deal about Chinese culture just by getting to know the Peking students, particularly asking questions about their daily lives and the Chinese education system. It was also an absolute pleasure to be able to introduce the Peking students to Australian culture (particularly Tim Tams and Vegemite!) and the beauty of Griffith University’s campuses, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
When brainstorming research topic ideas with the other fellows, I really wanted to take the opportunity to explore an area that is outside of my normal studies. As I study International Business and International Relations, I wanted to explore the Australia-China relationship from a more sociological perspective. I found some likeminded students and we set to work exploring the concept of social stratification and how higher education is a force of mobility allowing individuals to scale the social ladder. By working with the Peking student in our group, I learnt a great deal about Chinese culture, particularly the influence of Confucianism and collectivism on how social classes are perceived.
The program has truly reignited my passion to further my involvement in the Australia-China space. The speakers, ranging from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, taught me so much about opportunities that lay ahead and gave me great confidence in moving forward in my career. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with various people within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, both in their Brisbane office and at the Australian Embassy in Beijing. It has been my dream for several years to someday work for the department but I felt that I was unable to compete with my fellow students for graduate roles. However, the speakers provided some valuable guidance that has filled me with a great deal of confidence.
I also particularly enjoyed meeting some of the Beijing based ACYA members and executives. Despite being the Griffith Chapter President and the Australia-Manager Secretary for the National Committee, I don’t often have the opportunity to interact and develop friendships with those based in China. After getting to know them and listening to their stories, I was inspired to return to Beijing in the future to pursue a Masters degree.
Through this program, I have developed lifelong friendships with the Griffith students and Peking students, as well as the amazing members of Peking University, Griffith University and the Griffith Asia Institute that helped to bring to program together. My experiences within the program also peaked my interest in writing further research papers and pursuing my honours at Griffith. This opportunity has been the biggest highlight of my year and although I’m sad to see it come to an end, I’m excited to become even more involved within the Australia-China space and beyond.
D’Arcy Smith is a 2019 Asia Future Fellow and current Griffith University student studying a Bachelor of International Business, Bachelor of Government and International Relations and a Diploma of Languages (Mandarin)