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New Colombo Plan Mobility Program has lasting impact on Olivia Leung

As Olivia Leung reflects on her time as a 2018 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Mobility Student, she now fully appreciates how this has influenced both her personal and professional life.

“I loved the flexibility and challenges that the NCP Mobility Program presented. There is the more formal learning in class paired with the opportunity to actually learn and apply your business knowledge in an international setting.”

Olivia studied a double degree in Bachelor of Finance and Economics at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), minoring in International Business.

“When I started university, I knew I wanted to be independent and explore the world experiencing first-hand what is it really like out there. With my interest in international business, Shanghai was always the city that would come to mind. It's a financial and economic hub and I wanted to experience it.”

As luck would have it, in her first year of university, an NCP Mobility Program offering caught Oliva's attention. The project would make experiencing Shanghai a reality while also learning more about international business and Chinese culture.

Being of Korean and Chinese descent, Olivia also had a personal motivation to engage with and learn more about the Indo-Pacific region.

“The project that I applied for was only available to first year students, offering an opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai. I thought it was perfect for me. I applied to meet other students who were also fascinated by Shanghai and to get experience in a real life setting that aligned with my career interests.”

Olivia at university in Shanghai.

Olivia was accepted into the project and embarked on her mobility journey with nine other students from UNSW.

“I found the experience interesting; one moment I am meeting my cohort online, and then we are being introduced face to face for our pre-departure training. So, you are in a room with strangers one day and the next day you are all hopping on a plane together to Shanghai about to create some amazing memories together.”

The bustling streets of Shanghai in the evening

During her month in Shanghai, Olivia studied at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Mornings were dedicated to a course on business and culture in China, followed by Mandarin language classes during the day. In the evening Olivia and her newfound friends would explore the city.

“What I liked about the project was that it was structured but also allowed us to have free time to explore the city and learn about the culture. I met some wonderful people in my own cohort and other students from around the world including friends from England, Bulgaria and Italy who were also enrolled in the same course.”

“One of my favourite memories was jumping on a local train with my NCP cohort and travelling to Qibao province, which was about half an hour away. Being in a foreign city means you must plan ahead and confront the language barrier head on. It gave me an opportunity to practice what I had learnt in class with the locals.”

This early introduction to the Indo-Pacific region through the NCP went on to influence Olivia's studies at UNSW and her career after graduating.

In her fourth year of university Olivia joined the UNSW ASEAN Society, which aims to promote Southeast Asian culture to the wider community while cultivating awareness of the current economic, socio-cultural and political-security issues of the region.

“I attribute my experience on the NCP Mobility Program as the roots of my interest in the Indo-Pacific region. These interests have now blossomed into my current role at PwC and shaped the way I approach life.”

In her current role at PwC Olivia is a Consultant in the Infrastructure Advisory team.

“After graduating, I wanted to learn more about infrastructure as it was a new industry to me and wanted to learn more about the large scale projects this team undertakes. I also consciously sought opportunities to stay connected and learn about different cultures so I joined PwC's Cultural Connections group, which has over 2,500 members.”

Now as a committee member of the group, Olivia helps organise different events within PwC that celebrate and highlight the diversity within the organisation.

“I volunteered to help organise the Mid-Autumn Festival at PwC. Having experienced living in Shanghai I felt like I was in a better position to help educate people about this traditional festival celebrated in Chinese culture.”

The positive impact of the NCP Mobility Program has been long lasting for Olivia.

“The NCP community has a lot of strong support and opportunities for alumni. There are always plenty of ways to stay connected and events to expand on your network. You never know where you will be in ten years and what doors the NCP may open for you.”

Olivia with her fellow students on program.
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