By ELLEN TIAMU
WHEN you first meet Gina, she has an outgoing and exuberant character that makes you feel like you’ve known her before. She was just finishing off her lunch at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby when Angela Gizoria and Ruma Sioni from the Education program at the Australian High Commission and I arrived to have a short chat with her on a Friday.
Gina Zheng is an Australian student who departed Papua New Guinea after three and a half months of study at Divine Word University in Madang. Gina is the first Australian scholar to study in PNG as part of the prestigious Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan scholarship program.
A student at the Australian National University, Gina arrived in PNG in mid-July to undertake study towards her double degree in Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts (Development Studies) at Divine Word University. Gina also undertook an internship with the World Wide Fund and supported non-government organization Equal Playing Field, assisting with implementation of their first gender equality tertiary program, two of the things she said she most enjoyed during her time here, a press release from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) in Port Moresby said.
While in Madang, she immersed herself in all aspects of student life joining her Divine Word University classmates in both curricular and extracurricular activities. She said she is leaving with a renewed understanding of Australia’s closest neighbour and lifelong memories. She very much enjoyed taking part in the university’s cultural day where she joined the Central province group and even had tattoos painted on her.
She described her stay in PNG as an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience for her as Australia’s first student of the New Colombo Plan to visit PNG.
“The immense learning support I received from World Wide Fund and the opportunity to work collaboratively alongside students with Equal Playing Field, have made my time in Papua New Guinea highly formative and meaningful. I am very grateful for the support provided to me by all my colleagues, peers and friends,” she added.
She loves to cook and one of the things she also most enjoyed about Madang was its location which meant that she could get fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. Her weekends were mostly full as she spent weekends with local people at Kranget Island as well as in Bogia and even travelled up to Goroka.
In the DFAT statement, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Bronte Moules congratulated Gina on the successful completion of her studies and for being an outstanding ambassador for Australia.
“The New Colombo Plan scholarship is a prestigious award and we are delighted that Gina chose Papua New Guinea as her study destination,”Moules said.
“Gina has contributed to the Papua New Guinea-Australia partnership, building strong life-long connections with her peers and teachers and enhancing her understanding of Papua New Guinea.”
The New Colombo Plan is helping the next generation of Australian leaders learn more about the region by supporting students to study and undertake work placements in the Indo-Pacific. In 2018, more than 13,000 Australian students will take part in New Colombo Plan mobility projects in 35 locations across the Indo-Pacific.
Gina flew to Fiji from Port Moresby where she spent four days before returning to Australia.
By ELLEN TIAMU