Sophie’s most precious experience at the ANU is learning how to question the status quo and present alternatives. Embracing the unexpected is her key to a unique university experience.
“If you ended up where you planned to, you probably didn’t do it right,” says Sophie.
Along with hundreds of other students on 12 December 2019, Sophie graduated with Bachelor of Laws (First class Honours) and Asia Pacific Studies (Year in Asia) and officially joined the ANU Alumni family.
“Over the last six years, the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific has given me experiences, which have helped me to set new goals and mature. The diverse long-term opportunities I’ve been part of, such as Year in Asia, have motivated me to constantly re-evaluate my place in the world,” shared Sophie.
Born and bred in Canberra, Sophie always wanted to study Law at the ANU because of its reputation for academic excellence. The combination of Law and Asia Pacific studies, however, was not her first choice.
“I am a problem-solver and believe law can be a powerful tool. With an interest in law in the international context, it seemed logical to pursue law and international relations.”
“However, this changed when an ANU law student encouraged me to consider the combination of Law and Asia Pacific studies. And I have never looked back,” says Sophie.
In addition to academic excellence, the Year in Asia program, which is delivered through the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, advanced her language learning and cultural experiences in Indonesia.
Awarded one of the prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarships, Sophie developed a deeper engagement with Indonesian people and culture, and gained a renewed passion for law.
“My time in Indonesia gave me the impetus to reconsider how to engage with law and its impact on society. I came across diverse people who are passionate about human rights and improving governance structures, and I was able to take into account varied perspectives as I approached different legal issues,” shared Sophie.
One of Sophie’s key highlights in Indonesia was meeting people. Through developing these friendships, she took us on a journey to Kudus, a small village in central Java, and shared with us exquisite regional dishes, as she is a firm believer of food diplomacy.
“Meeting people builds empathy and compassion. It also helps us better understand and connect with the region,” she said.
While some of her overseas experience were not all pleasant, Sophie believes they improved processes for future students travelling to the region.
Besides being home sick and suffering food poisoning at times, Sophie also experienced sexual harassment in Indonesia. At first, she accepted it as a cultural norm. After speaking to Indonesian and Australian friends of different gender and ethnic backgrounds, she realised sexual harassment is a global issue transcending cultural boundaries.
When Sophie returned to Australia, she worked alongside the University and the New Colombo Plan Secretariat to investigate training and support mechanisms, and improve information New Colombo Plan scholars receive as part of the pre-departure briefing to help others studying abroad.
To increase awareness and support on sexual harassment across Australia, Sophie and Jennah Robichaud, CAP Education Services Manager, presented on behalf of the ANU at the Australian International Education Conference in Perth, October 2019.
“The combination of Law and Asia Pacific studies has seemed to culminate in this project. I hope to encourage students who have experienced sexual harassment while studying abroad to call things out when they’re wrong and look for help. It is great to have CAP’s support in lobbying for better care for our students,” says Sophie.
Sophie Hewitt now works as a Judge’s Associate at the ACT Supreme Court. She remains a key interlocutor for the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association, which she had served in various roles, including ACT Chapter President, Indonesian Operations Officer and now Company Secretary. Her recent co-authored paper ‘The Commercial Courts’ was published in The Politics of Court Reform: Judicial Change and Legal Culture in Indonesia, edited by Melissa Crouch (University of New South Wales, 2019).