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Seana’s love of K-pop inspired a deeper interest in Korean history and politics

Rich in history and with a vibrant pop culture, South Korea has fascinated New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholar Seana McPhie since she was a teenager. As she matured and progressed with her studies the NCP presented an opportunity to immerse herself in Korean culture firsthand.

Seana has been studying a double degree in law and international relations, minoring in history, at the University of Southern Queensland. She chose this course based on her intrinsic interest in politics and social issues, both domestic and international.

“I am curious and love to explore why the world we live in today is the way it is.”

Her studies, coupled with her interest in K-pop, made Seana turn her eyes towards the Republic of Korea as a possible location for her NCP program. She was fascinated by how the country’s international profile has expanded exponentially over the past few years.

“I wanted to experience South Korea for myself, and Seoul in particular, which I always thought seemed vibrant, with a mix of the past, present and future.”

“I began my NCP journey in Busan and then moved to Seoul. Coming from a smaller town in Australia - Toowoomba, Queensland - my first impressions were that South Korea was very busy and it seemed like there was always something happening, no matter what time of the day or night."

The NCP has given Seana the chance to experience things that she would not have otherwise been able to experience, including valuable internships.

“The various internships I have completed in my fields of study have given me practical insight into future career options, and my study focus on Korean history and politics at Yonsei University was something I would not have been able to do at my home university.”

During her time, she has interned with the Herbert Smith Freehills Seoul Office, a prestigious international law firm operating in South Korea. It boasts deep resources in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and the United States.

“This so far has been my favourite experience. I really enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and getting involved in numerous matters at the firm. Most importantly, I felt a sense of belonging and purpose, both at the firm and in Korea.”

Photo of the city of Seoul taken from a high angle.
A stunning view of Seoul from Namsan mountain. Credit: Seana McPhie

As for her experience with Korean culture, Seana gives an honest account of what it feels like to be a foreigner there.

“I would say that it was hard at first adjusting to the fact that I was very visibly not Korean. Back home I was used to blending in, but this wasn’t something I could do in Korea. Thankfully, nearly everyone I met was helpful and friendly even though my Korean language skills were lacking, and I really appreciate the patience and care I was treated with.”

For students contemplating applying for an NCP scholarship, Seana has highlighted its value if you have a desire to work in the Indo-Pacific region in the future.

“It’s a great way to network and get involved with the Australian business and diplomatic community in whichever location you are interested in. Getting real advice and making contacts like that may serve you well in the future. For me, the Australian Chamber of Commerce in the Republic of Korea have been great, and I’ve really enjoyed attending and helping at their various networking events.”

The next chapter for Seana once she returns to Australia is completing her Practical Legal Training so that she can pursue her career as a lawyer.

The NCP is an initiative of the Australian Government. The program aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

Landscape photo of shoreline out to sea.
Blue seas at Jeju Island. Credit: Seana McPhie.
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