Southeast Asia

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Destination Southeast Asia

The countries of Southeast Asia are amongst some of our nearest neighbours, but this is not reflected in the numbers of FASS students who choose to undertake some part of their study in the region. This pattern may be changing though as funding opportunities through the government and support from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) have created innovative pathways for FASS students to learn and study in this exciting, diverse and complex part of the world.

In 2014, five students studying political economy were selected to participate in the first program funded by the New Colombo Plan (NCP) at the University of Sydney. The New Colombo Plan is a government initiative designed to encourage Australian undergraduates to travel into the Indo-Pacific region. Through the NCP mobility program, students receive grants ranging from $1500-$7000 to spend anywhere between two weeks and a semester in an Asian or Pacific country. SSEAC received funding for a program as part of the NCP pilot round to take five students each from four different disciplines – architecture, business, geography and political economy – to Singapore for two weeks to study the Singaporean housing policy. They travelled there in June 2014, accompanied by staff from SSEAC, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning and the Sydney Business School. During the first week, the students visited the Housing Development Board, heard talks by Singaporean experts on housing and housing policy and were given a tour by an NGO that gave them insight into the housing challenges faced by Singaporean migrant workers. In the second week, the students worked in interdisciplinary groups made up of one student from each discipline. Each group was allocated a particular region in Singapore, which was the subject of a group research project.

This interdisciplinary model of engagement with Southeast Asia was received well by all the students. For the political economy students, it was a unique opportunity to challenge, and be challenged by, the students from the other disciplines. In each group, the debates between the business and political economy students were particularly lively.

A similar model of interdisciplinary engagement in Southeast Asia is being replicated in Cambodia. SSEAC received funding from the government’s AsiaBound scheme, to send 12 students to Siem Reap to learn about urbanism. The field school will be run by Professor Roland Fletcher, and the students will meet with members of a number of the researchers involved in the Greater Angkor Project. Students from Archaeology and Asian Studies will join students studying architecture and geosciences for a two week program in January 2014.

Opportunities for FASS students to engage with Southeast Asia in this way are expected to increase over the coming years as the Australian government makes more funding available for programs such as the Singapore and Cambodia Field Schools. These types of structured, staff led programs make Southeast Asia a more accessible destination for students who may not typically consider undertaking a study experience in these locations.