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Edwin’s NCP experience in Singapore drove his passion for transport planning

While growing up, Edwin was fascinated with infrastructure designs and the built environment.

“Since a young age, I was captivated by all kinds of infrastructure as I wondered how people were able to devise and build such unique designs. I would cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge to go to high school every day, where I would admire the beauty of the Sydney Opera House and the feats of civil engineering that made it possible.”

Edwin learning about the latest sustainable transport technology
Edwin learning about the latest sustainable transport technology

This deep interest in the built environment led Edwin to study a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and Bachelor of Commerce at the University of New South Wales. While he was studying, Edwin intended to go on exchange. He found out about the New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship through a friend and was drawn to apply.

“Compared to other scholarships, I found the NCP Scholarship to be unique since it combines language training, study, mentoring and work experience into one program. To genuinely experience a different culture, I believe you need to fully immerse yourself into all aspects of a country and the NCP Scholarship provided exactly that opportunity.”

With his 2017 NCP Scholarship, Edwin chose to go on exchange to the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Japan, which were well-suited to his career ambitions in engineering. Korea and Singapore each provided valuable experience with the latest engineering innovations and technologies, while Japan offered insights into the nature of global trade and economic relations. His NCP program proved instrumental in influencing his career path.

“My internship in Singapore helped me to discover the field of transport planning, which I otherwise would not have heard of before. This experience clarified my future career plans and led me to my current role as a Graduate Transport Engineer at Jacobs.”

Participating in the NCP was also an opportunity for personal and professional growth by gaining exposure to new experiences. “I knew that being immersed in an entirely foreign environment like Korea would force me out of my comfort zone. Not only did living in Korea strengthen my problem-solving skills, but it also made me more resilient and flexible for any future challenges.”

Edwin Lai visits a temple
Edwin visiting a local temple

Edwin also considers his NCP Scholarship to have been a fun way of travelling the world and learning about different cultures.

“My NCP journey has no doubt been one of the best experiences of my life so far. Spending 12 months living in Korea, Singapore and Japan has enabled me to gain invaluable experiences that otherwise would not have been possible. I was also fortunate to travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. By immersing in local customs, I developed a deeper appreciation of diverse cultures and learnt the importance of open-mindedness in foreign environments.”

In addition to the studying, mentoring and language-training opportunities, Edwin was also able to forge a global professional network while on exchange. This network has helped Edwin to become involved in projects and events related to international affairs and diplomacy following his completion of the NCP.

“As an NCP alumni, I have volunteered with the Australia-Korea Business Council (AKBC) in professional events including the 2019 Korea-Australia New Energy Industry Forum and the 40th AKBC-KABC joint meeting. These were flagship events where I had the opportunity to meet senior government and business leaders, including the Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea.

“My NCP experience sparked my passion in international affairs, so I became an Events Director at the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership (AASYP), which was established by NCP alumni. At AASYP, I have been fortunate to collaborate with government and business leaders to promote greater youth engagement in the region. As an outgoing NCP Scholar I also attended the “ASEAN Young Leaders” event hosted by Asialink Business, where I had the opportunity to discuss with ASEAN leaders and learn how the NCP can contribute to the ASEAN-Australia relations.”

With the skills and knowledge gained from his participation in the NCP, Edwin hopes to pursue work in transport planning and engineering internationally to improve the liveability and connectivity of communities, especially in the Indo-Pacific.

“I’m passionate about providing innovative transport solutions through sustainable infrastructure and emerging technologies such as Electric Vehicles, Mobility as a Service and Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. Over the long-term, I would like to establish a social enterprise in the Indo-Pacific, where I can contribute towards the development of sustainable and resilient communities.”

Edwin’s tips for students applying for an NCP Scholarship are to demonstrate a genuine interest in the goals of the NCP, to reach out to NCP alumni for advice, and to be your authentic self.

“The best tip I can give is to know “why” you are applying for the NCP Scholarship. Tell your unique story and let that be the guiding light throughout the application process. Make sure your personal goals align with the NCP goals as the selection panel is also looking for students who are equally as passionate about giving back to the NCP as an alumnus. Don’t be afraid to reach out to NCP scholars or alumni through your university’s network or on LinkedIn as they are more than happy to help you out.”

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