Exchange in Thailand spurs interest in ASEAN

Joshua Dale Santos from Macquarie University was awarded a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant and an Asia Society Scholarship to undertake an exchange program at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. The experience allowed him to deepen his understanding of the region and form lifelong relationships, an experience he describes as “eye-opening, awesome and insightful’.

We asked him about his time abroad and the opportunities he has had to deepen his understanding of ASEAN affairs so far. 

Joshua Santos Dale at the Rotary Peace Conference on “Peace Beyond Borders – ASEAN in the context of the SDGs.”

What have been some of the highlights of your experience in the region?

A key highlight for me has been gaining a better appreciation for strengthening the ASEAN regional initiative. My curiosity in ASEAN was driven by the emphasis that Thailand places on it, a kind of recurring theme of my time in Thailand. 

I have had many opportunities to engage with ASEAN affairs including attending an insightful Rotary Peace Centre conference on ‘Peace Beyond Borders – ASEAN in the Context of the SDGs’. I also volunteered for the Malaysia Prime Minister’s visit to Chulalongkorn University  were he presented a Keynote Speech on “Thailand-Malaysia bilateral relations in the context of ASEAN” and attended the ASEAN Youth Summit held at De La Salle University in the Philippines.

What has been your takeaway from these experiences? 

Despite the recent Australian-ASEAN Summit, Australia’s presence in this region is yet to be known outside of the political sphere. As an Australian partaking in these opportunities, people often look at Australia as not being a priority given that it is not a member state.

This has made me heavily passionate about supporting Australia’s engagement with ASEAN and contributions to achieving the goals set in the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together vision under the Political-Security, Sociocultural and Economic Pillars.

What advice would you give to ASEAN and Australian youth looking to take up regional opportunities?

Take up as many opportunities to be involved with something greater beyond yourself, be proactive and go out of your way to understand others. People will appreciate that and it will be a reflection of Australia.

Make the most out of your youth to get involved because we will be the future leaders of tomorrow who will sustain progress towards strengthening ASEAN-Australia.

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