2021 Westpac Asian Exchange Scholar Hannah Chen had her study abroad dreams put on hold when pandemic related lockdowns continued last year. Fast forward 12 months and she's studying computer science at Singapore Management University. She also recently attended the Westpac Asian Exchange Leadership Residential. Here's what she had to say about the experience.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending Westpac Scholars Trust weeklong Leadership Residential, bringing together over 40 Asian exchange scholars to Singapore, where I am currently undertaking my exchange semester.
My journey with Westpac Scholars Trust started at the beginning of 2021, eager to travel and dreaming of the chance to study in Asia. In the wake of the pandemic, for myself and many of my scholar peers, exchange seemed like a distant and unattainable dream.
The Leadership Residential was an event we looked forward to, excited to make connections with others who would also be undertaking a journey into the unknown. So it was with nervous excitement that I checked into our hotel, right in the heart of Singapore's bustling city.
Almost two months into my semester of computer science classes at Singapore Management University, the week’s topics were a refreshing change of pace, each leaving me with more questions and hungry for discussion. From business and diplomacy in Asia to Singapore's response to Covid-19, we had the incredible opportunity to engage directly with key leaders in Asia, across academia, industry, government and civil-society. It was special to have the chance to listen and ask questions about their experiences living and working in Asia.
One particular piece of advice that resonated with me was the idea of constantly “reinventing yourself”. As young scholars aspiring to develop into future leaders in our careers and communities, these were encouraging words to take away. They inspired us to be fearless in the unpredictable world that we live in, to be unafraid to change our minds and seek new opportunities, to nurture our hunger for learning.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway was the many friendships and connections that I was able to build over what was an intense, often challenging (in the best way) and bonding experience. Each day, I was able to digest the vast learnings and questions that I had accumulated over meals featuring Singapore’s famously delicious food.
It was during The Amazing Race challenge, when scholars were immersed around Singapore’s attractions, that I realised how much of Singapore I had already seen and was yet to see, and how proud I was of my new home as I introduced my friends to the city. I feel immensely fortunate to be included in this cohort of vibrant, ambitious and curious scholars. As I take on the rest of my exchange experience, it is a blessing knowing that I have an amazing collective of friends embarking on a journey with shared challenges.
For many of us, this program was an opportunity to discover how to grow into leaders in both Asia and Australia. The diverse range of stories that I listened to over the week made apparent how leadership is born out of completely unique and varied experiences. There is no right way to become a leader, nor one path to leadership. I am incredibly grateful for the experience that I had and cannot wait to see what we will all achieve in the future.
Published 6 October 2022