Immersive experience enriches connections

Ten students have returned from Timor-Leste, where they participated in an inaugural New Colombo Plan (NCP) study program over 12 insightful days.

The students were from a wide range of programs including science, media, engineering and creative arts, accompanied on the trip by NCP program leader Associate Professor Udoy Saikia.

A highlight was visiting the new Youth Centre Knua in Dili, which was established following recommendations from the Timor-Leste Human Development Report 2018 that was authored by Associate Professor Saikia.

The outcome of a two-year collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme, the Government of Timor-Leste and Flinders University, the report informed public discussion and policy making on investing in youth, and has been a significant resource to address the country’s developmental challenges in the context of a high youth population.

The youth centre focuses on business training and guidance for seasonal workers returning from destinations including Australia, and entrepreneurial, capacity building and job-hunting support. Flinders students met several young people during their visit who shared their inspiring stories and dreams, underpinned by the guidance offered by the centre.

“Our meaningful experience could not have occurred without Udoy’s extensive connections in Timor-Leste facilitated by his lengthy involvement, and collaborative research leading,” says Nicky Henderson, who participated in the NCP program.

Ms Henderson is studying a Bachelor of Arts with majors in human geography and international relations.

As a mature-age student looking to transition from a career in international tourism to international development, the NCP program was a valuable opportunity.

“I saw the NCP experience as vital to giving me an edge in securing employment, hopefully in Timor-Leste, and networking in the region,” she explains.

Students also met with the Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste Peter Roberts, who stressed the value of the Human Development Report in understanding the development challenges faced by the nation.

“Participation in the NCP has significantly impacted our deeper learning and practical understanding of the development conundrum that is Timor-Leste,” says Ms Henderson.

“The structure of the program, and access to applied knowledge garnered from meetings, has contributed to a more meaningful engagement with Timor-Leste.”

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