New Colombo Plan Celebrates 2021 International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Jade Bujeya
Victorian Jade Bujeya combined her passions for science, community service and travel to complete her New Colombo Plan Scholarship.
A 2019 NCP scholar from La Trobe University, Bendigo, Jade took the opportunity to study and intern in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Jade explains that her interest in science started early. “I loved science as a young girl; the ability to look at the world around you and not just theorise about where it all came from and how it works, but to actually know.”
Jade's second love of contributing to and bettering her community, within the Mount Alexander Shire, came to light at high school. Jade began volunteering for the Council's Youth Advisory Group, coordinating events and went on to establish the Youth Makers' Market, which organises youth street markets throughout the year. Having equally passionate female mentors and role-models within the Council sparked the idea for Jade that she wanted to pursue similar work that would open global opportunities. Jade says, “having had such amazing role models within the Council, I developed confidence in my ability to build a career in public service, even if at the time I had no idea how to go about it.”
At the time, Jade had far fewer role models working in STEM and did not immediately see this as a career option for her. “It seems bizarre to think about it now, but based on popular media, I'd developed the impression that STEM was not really an area for women. Also, that the women who work in STEM were most likely wearing a sweater-vest over a faded tartan collar shirt, which, as a teenage girl, I found highly unpleasant.”
Upon completing high school Jade enrolled in a Law/Science double degree at La Trobe University. Law was not the right fit for her, but Jade continued with a Bachelor of Science, describing continuing study in the sciences as her “guilty pleasure”.
A friend of Jade's recommended she apply for NCP. “It seemed perfect,” Jade recalls. “Here was an opportunity to travel, study in STEM, and give back to the wider Australian community by building stronger international relationships. I eagerly applied.”
Jade completed her NCP program in Seoul with a semester of study at Sogang University and an internship at their Korean Centre for Artificial Photosynthesis. “I chose Sogang University because of the diverse range of science subjects available and I'm so glad I did,” she said.
Jade looks back fondly at her time in Seoul and, in particular the people and connections she made there. From the locals who went out of their way to help Jade when she arrived and got immediately lost, to her colleagues at the Korean Centre for Artificial Photosynthesis. “On day one the people from my lab independently came over to say ‘hello', told me when our breaks were, warned me about what annoyed the head of our lab, and pointed out the free snacks. I was invited to all of the team's social events despite only being in the lab part-time,” Jade says.
“I came back from my NCP program feeling more confident in myself based on personal experience. I enjoyed introducing myself to people at events, forming new connections and approaching organisations without worrying that I was wasting people's time.”
That confidence saw Jade take on leadership roles after returning from South Korea; continuing her involvement with the Young Makers' Market and as a member of the Council's Youth Advisory Group. She also participated in the Indo-Pacific Student Mobility Youth Dialogue along with other NCP alumni and scholars.
Last month, Jade was recognised for her contributions to her community by receiving the Mount Alexander Shire Australia Day Award as Young Citizen of the Year. “My Australia Day Award came as a complete shock, I didn't know anything about it until I got the phone call saying I'd won,” says Jade. “It was particularly touching, as I'm planning to move away from my hometown to Melbourne. I want to be closer to potential employers and my university, and I know I'm going to miss my mentors, as well as all the members of Youth Advisory Group and Young Makers' Market Committee.”
Jade is now studying an Advanced Graduate Diploma in Science (majoring in applied mathematics) at Melbourne University. “I'm still working on finding that ideal balance between my love of public service and pursuing STEM. Unfortunately, my female STEM roll-models are still few and far between, although I have certainly found a few amazing women during my first degree.”
Jade sees a need for more positive representations of women in STEM in popular media to help encourage young women to pursue STEM subjects at high school, and strongly encourages those interested in science to consider a STEM career. “Not only can it take you to virtually any corner of the globe, it is also an incredibly wide and varied area, stretching from behavioural science to carbon dating to astrophysics to machine learning. Thankfully, despite the naive perceptions of my adolescence, I have always felt valued, welcome, and wanted, and have yet to encounter a sweater-vest!”
Reflecting on her NCP journey Jade says, “it was an amazing experience, I was able to explore a new culture and way of life, which I found to be incredibly welcoming and supportive. I also made new connections in other fields of science and developed a basis in a new language.”
“I would strongly encourage anyone considering applying for an NCP Scholarship to do so, even if you feel like you will never be selected. I honestly did not think I would receive the scholarship, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”