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ASEAN scholar’s advice: How to make the most of your time in Australia

Posted: 20 June 2024

Scholar experience,

Australia Awards scholar Kaw Mai is currently completing a Master of Educational Leadership at Monash University in Victoria. Kaw Mai has been involved in the education sector in Myanmar for more than a decade as an English teacher and developing curricula. She worked as Academic Dean at a non-profit community school prior to being awarded. She hopes to apply the skills and knowledge she is developing through her Australia Awards Scholarship to educational leadership, innovation, and policymaking. In addition to being an Australia Awards scholar, she has also earned a professional and personal development opportunity through the ASEAN Scholars Leadership Program (ASLP).

Kaw Mai is one of 11 scholars from Myanmar selected to participate in the program which is delivered by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The program offers a platform for engagement to over 100 emerging leaders from across the region. The program enables participants to connect and delve into the diverse perspectives and challenges of the ASEAN community and aims to foster deeper understanding of regional dynamics.

Kaw’s realization about the potential for increased engagement between Myanmar and other ASEAN countries motivates her to connect with others. Throughout the program, she has considered her contribution to ASEAN while reflecting on her personality and leadership style. Rather than focusing solely on Myanmar, she now thinks at a broader level, studying how other ASEAN countries improve their education systems and what lessons she can apply to her community. This reflection has helped her identify areas for improvement and adjust her engagement strategies effectively. Kaw firmly believes that education fosters critical thinking and opens doors to new possibilities. She appreciates how opportunities, like the ones she has experienced, shape her thinking and encourage her to embrace diverse perspectives.

The ASLP experience led her to pursue other opportunities to explore and expand her leadership skills. Subsequently she was accepted to both the Women’s Developmental Leadership Program (WDLP) delivered by DT Global, and the Southeast Asia Emerging Leadership Course (SAELC) co-delivered by University of Melbourne, the Asia Education Foundation, and the Strategic Development Group.

Her participation in the WDLP has been transformative with its personalised coaching support to enhance her professional development skills. Kaw arrived in Australia as a mature-aged scholar and a leader in her community. Whilst this would usually be considered an advantage, it also presented challenges, particularly in terms of socialising and participating in group discussions. She reflected that,

“We had group activities every week. Since most of my classmates were recent graduates and younger than me, it was stressful for me to interact with them and participate in group activities”.

However, the dedicated WDLP coaching sharpened her communication and collaboration skills and also taught her the value of adaptability and continuous learning. As a result, her student life has significantly improved, with regular robust discussions taking place with her peers. The lessons and skills learnt through this program will carry through not only to her professional life, but also her personal and academic life, where she has fostered stronger networks.

Kaw’s key takeaway from these opportunities is that they are invaluable as they offer scholars the opportunity to socialise and develop skills outside the academic curriculum. She would like to remind Myanmar scholars that,

“It is important to focus on study, but it is also beneficial seeking other opportunities and participating in extra-curricular activities to make new friends and advance personal growth and professional competencies”.

To find out more information about this scholarship, please follow this link: Australia for ASEAN scholarships.