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Ballarat student Chris Hams says more rural students should take on a New Colombo Plan experience

Group photo of people gathered around a dining table, ready to eat.
Chris Hams and friends, 'Eat-To-Gather' HKU cultural exchange. Credit: Amy Law.

Christopher Hams was the first student from Ballarat's Federation University to be awarded a New Colombo Plan scholarship. He believes that having exposure to different Indo-Pacific cultures "is essential" in any modern Australian workplace, rural or urban, and that the NCP offers this opportunity to Australian students, no matter where they come from.

Chris arrived in Hong Kong in early 2018, and undertook a semester of study at the prestigious University of Hong Kong. He then moved to the Chinese countryside for intensive language training and an internship as an English teacher at the Omeida school in Yangshou.

"The level of cultural knowledge, new ideas and perspectives that I got are invaluable," he says. Christopher has made life-long friends and now considers China his "second home".

He plans to use his new language skills, deeper cultural understanding and connections to help his university build stronger ties with Chinese institutions, ultimately encouraging students from both countries to go on exchange.

Throughout his NCP experience, Christopher was "blown away" by Chinese student hospitality and would like to return the favour. "I would love to be the one organising activities for international students and to use my language skills to be a bridge between China and Australia at my university."

Christopher's NCP scholarship also broadened his career aspirations. Seeing the role that business can play in making a powerful social impact while studying in Hong Kong, he is now keen to launch his own social enterprise.

"Living, working and studying in the Indo-Pacific has definitely changed my life," he says. "This experience has opened my eyes to how many options there are in our region."

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