My name is Esther Sainsbury and I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) (Honours) / Master of Strategic Affairs at the Coral Bell School.
I knew that the ANU was a premier University as my brother was enrolled there and my family was based in Canberra. It seemed a natural step to continue on to undertake a BA following an Extension Program I enrolled in while still in year 12. When considering what to study I thought a lot about Law and International Relations. When I attended an ANU open day and was able to speak to a range of lecturers and class conveners I learnt more about the Asian Studies program. I was drawn to the Year in Asia specialist component of the degree, which involves learning an Asian language for a few years and then undertaking one year of immersion studies overseas. That combination of offering a student the opportunity to learn an Asian language and undertake an in-country experience was very unique and made me think the BA Asian Studies was the right choice for me.
As an undergraduate, learning an Asian language as part of my program opened a lot of doors for me. I enjoyed the speaking element immensely, and I loved getting to know the other Australian students striving to learn an Asian Language and the international students as a result of attempting to practice my Indonesian. From my Master’s degree, I most enjoyed the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) classes on Asia military affairs. It was fascinating to learn about the rise of China and India, global strategic challenges, Australia’s security choices, and contemporary international relations from the likes of Professors Hugh White and Des Ball.
I did my Masters in the evening while working full time at the Department of Defence. It was manageable because the Centre’s programs are designed to accommodate the needs of full-time professionals looking to advance their careers. What I learned in my evening classes I applied in my professional life, which was a great way to mix theory and practice in my early career.
Living and studying in Indonesia for a year as part of the ANU Year in Asia Program was wonderful. I learnt a lot while studying at Universitas Gajda Mada Yogjakarta and Muhammadyiah Malang. I had been to Asia before, but that year really gave me a much deeper knowledge and understanding of the histories, geographies, arts and literature of the diverse countries of Asia. It quickly extended my Indonesian language skills and was the start of my interest in promoting Asia literacy back in Australia. Undertaking the ANU Year in Asia Program lead me to become an Asia Literacy Ambassador for the Asia Education Foundation (AEF).
I am now a diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade serving at the Australian Embassy Yangon, Myanmar. My ANU degrees have supported my career outcomes immensely. In the Asian Century, Asia literacy matters to employers. It’s not hard to guess why – for Australia, the countries of the Asian region are of critical importance. They are our closest neighbors and major trading partners. They play a central role in international security and insecurity. They are home to some of the world’s most dynamic economies. Australian employers, public and private, are examining ways that Australia can best engage with and benefit from the economic growth of Asia. My ANU degrees have enabled me to respond to that focus.