Nothing says “jumping into the deep end” quite like committing to a year living in India without language skills.
But Wodonga’s Sidney Mason couldn’t think of a better way to further her studies at La Trobe University.
The 20-year-old Bachelor of Arts student was one of two undergraduates across all seven La Trobe campuses awarded the New Colombo Plan scholarship on Monday evening.
Every year, the government invests up to $67,000 in the individual studies of about 100 students to further increase knowledge of the Indo-Pacific region.
Ms Mason will begin her journey in July – after a crash-course in the Indian language.
“The scholarship allows you to study and become immersed in a completely different culture,” she said.
“I’m planning on living at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women.
“After a semester’s study in Delhi, I plan to go to Bangalore and do an internship for a not-for-profit organisation.
“India will be of the most populated countries by 2030 and is facing critical development challenges.
“I want to be a part of the movement to lift people out of adjunct poverty.”
Ms Mason’s studies in India will be centred around the sociology of religion.
“It’s the way religion influences daily life, including marriage and gender in India,” she said.
“Its all about deepening Australia’s understanding of the Indo-Pacific.
“It’s so close to home, and yet so many people are quite culturally ignorant.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar congratulated Ms Mason and Melbourne recipient Rebecca Thorburn at Monday’s presentation.
“The scholarships provide an invaluable opportunity for the students to continue studying ... while living and learning in different culture-rich countries,” Professor Dewar said.
“We are thrilled that Sidney and Rebecca will be able to … bring back their experiences and insights.”
While some aspects of her upcoming year in India are stirring nerves – public transport and ‘Delhi belly’ for example – Ms Mason is excited.
“I chatted to a girl yesterday who went to India as a scholar last year,” she said.
“She was telling me the culture shock is incredible, but it’s also exciting and you’re kept on your toes.
“You have to jump in the deep end.”