Finding a family away from home

 Westpac Scholars

Returning from the 2022 Westpac Asian Exchange Leadership Residential held in Singapore last month, Jiah Pang reflects on his once in a lifetime experience, sharing program highlights and new learnings. Jiah is currently studying engineering at the University of Sydney but is undertaking a semester abroad at Nagoya University in Japan. 


The Westpac Asian Exchange Leadership Residential was the perfect intersection between the best aspects about life in Australia and my new home in Asia. For me, the program bridged the gap between independent discovery of a new world, with the comfort of having friends from all different backgrounds that I could rely on and ask questions of.


My fellow scholars felt like a family away from home, a group of people I could connect with and who understood what I was going through, as they were also taking a similar step into the unknown. It’s been less than a year since I joined the W100 network, but I’m certain I’ve already made friends for life.


An incredible aspect of the program absolutely had to be interactions I had with both my fellow scholars and the varied speakers across the five-day program. Westpac Scholars Trust made a fantastic effort to give us scholars access to some of the most amazing people to help us better understand Australia’s role in Asia relations and where we fit into the picture as well. We were lucky to have candid and real discussions with commissioners, economists, scientists, CEOs and world-renowned academics.


If I had to choose a single highlight from the week in Singapore, it would have to be our hawker centre dinner after our Amazing Race around the city. Everyone was hot, sweaty, and tired, and it would’ve been easy to have a low-key night, rest and recover for the next big day of learning. Instead, as a group we had an exciting authentic night of food and drinks, but we also formed real people to people connections discussing everything from basketball to fried stingray.


As an engineering student myself, I was amazed throughout the week how easy it was to connect with topics such as economics and politics, whether it be foreign policy or welfare, business or the science behind pandemics. These areas are by no means within my comfort zone, but it was invaluable hearing and learning from the best about the opportunity for growth in all of these areas. We’re on the doorstep of what will be one of the most exciting times ahead for Asia-focussed leaders, and the speakers made it clear that with skills to make connections and a great support network, there’s a future waiting.


My number one takeaway from the program is this: people to people connections are everything. Every memory and lesson I took from the program boils down to the incredible new friends I made, and the new network I know is accessible for whatever the future holds for me. I’ve already started connecting with scholars in my new home, and I can’t wait to see how they go on to change the world for the better.


Published 11 November 2022

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