Article by Madeleine Crothers – AIYA National Blog Editor

Indonesian translation by Gabriella Pasya – AIYA National Translation Team

Click here for Bahasa Indonesia version.

The New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship is a signature initiative of the Australian Government that aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region for up to 19 months. In 2023, 150 scholars were selected as recipients of the NCP Scholarship, with only 8 being awarded the scholarship for Indonesia. Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours, has the world’s fourth-largest population, and is expected to be the largest economy in the world by 2045. It is vital that Australian students have in-depth knowledge of the region’s culture, language and working environment to foster the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Obtaining a scholarship is highly competitive, this article provides advice and feedback from previous alumni on how to submit a successful application. 

Charlie Barnes – 2022 Fellow

My advice for the NCP application is to strongly demonstrate a narrative and stick closely to it, with every element of your application fitting into one story. For example, connect what you want to do in-country with what you have done before the scholarship and how this links to your future ambitions. Even though the three time periods (pre-, during and post-scholarship) come up in different questions in different ways they should be closely linked. All elements should then be relevant to the NCP strategic objectives and outcomes. Your linked narrative should demonstrate that you have, and will continue to, invest in Indonesia or/and a specific area/issue.

Samara Welbourne – 2023 Fellow

If you are considering applying for an NCP Scholarship, start preparing now. The application process is long, so give yourself lots of time to prepare. Research your chosen host location, the university you want to attend and what you want to study. Also, do some research and decide which organisations you are interested in undertaking an internship with. Importantly, be able to articulate why you specifically chose to study at your host location, how what you will study positively corresponds with your current degree, and how any internships you undertake will benefit your future career.

Leah Bourne – 2022 Scholar

One thing I regret is not cutting back on commitments so I could focus on being as prepared as possible for this application. Reach out early to internship organisations, speak with other scholars and alumni about how to do this and you will learn so much! Set a few goals of what you want to achieve but don’t overload yourself; studying overseas is hard work and full-time language training at 15 hours a week is quite a lot to take on, so set specific and actionable goals that can be clearly explained in your application. Remember to have fun and that it is okay to change your plan once you receive the scholarship.

Georgia Henderson – 2022 Scholar

One of the things that helped me during the application process was seeking feedback from a range of sources. Feedback is helpful at all stages of the application process – from ideating your program, to writing your application, to preparing for an interview. It is important to find people who can be brutally honest, but also those who can help to build you up and be your cheerleader! A good place to start is asking your university careers team for some feedback, and reaching out to previous NCP scholars. One of the most useful practices I found when writing my application/brainstorming mock interview questions was to constantly ask myself the question “so what?” – for every sentence you write/example you provide, ask yourself why the selection panel would care about what you are saying, and ultimately whether it actually demonstrates that you align with the selection criteria. 

Nick Basan – 2022 Scholar

My biggest advice would be to use the NCP mobility grants before you apply for the scholarship. Utilising the mobility grants will allow you to experience the region before planning your NCP program. This experience will be invaluable for when you apply as you can prove to interviewers that you are committed and capable of serving out your proposed scholarship program.

Hammad Shahin – 2021 Scholar

A strong Indonesia NCP Scholarship program proposal involves researching study programs and internship opportunities relevant to your interests. You should then precisely articulate how undertaking these opportunities serve the NCP strategic objective and outcomes. For example, interning with organisations like HRWG (Human Rights Working Group) enables you to build people-to-people connections with Indonesians who are the backbone defence for civil society. This may provide opportunities for you to initiate bilateral projects in a graduate role and strengthen Australia’s regional standing in a human rights protection field. Studying the Indonesian language will almost certainly better deepen your knowledge, capability and connections in Indonesia.

Claudia Wijaya – 2023 Scholar

NCP applications require a very thorough and purposeful program that is feasible. Having two fully fleshed examples for each category is better than 3 weaker ones. During the application process, speak to past scholars, if possible, ask them to read your application and provide feedback. 

Volunteering at Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (‘AIYA’) is extremely helpful as it helps to build your networks, provide experience working with other Indonesian focused organisations, and expands your knowledge of the region. AIYA has both Chapter (state-based) and National (internationally-based) positions that allow you to be part of events, grow stronger relations to the Consulates, and communicate with scholars in the Indonesia-Australia field. You can use these specific experiences in your NCP application. 

Madeleine Crothers –  2022 Scholar 

One of my tips for receiving the New Colombo Plan Scholarship is to choose your internship organisation/s carefully. The NCP Secretariat encourages applicants to look further than Australian organisations when selecting internships (like the Australian Embassy – although I did this in my application and many successful scholars have). However, selecting grass root organisations can help set you apart from other applicants. Choosing only international companies is counterintuitive to one of the key NCP objectives of making people-to-people connections between Australia and the Indo-pacific. Therefore, I recommend considering selecting an organisation that will not be dominated by international workers, to demonstrate your ability and desire to work in a foreign environment and make connections with people in Indonesia. 

2022 New Colombo Plan Summit

Alumni are always more than happy to answer questions and provide advice as we know how intense and rigorous the application process is. On behalf of the contributors of this article, we all wish the best of luck for the readers who will be applying for the NCP scholarship!