Amanda Thompson is studying the Master of Asian and Pacific Studies (MAPS) at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Asia and the Pacific. She is currently on exchange at Nanjing University in China where she is putting her language skills to the test. We asked her to share her thoughts on the program so far.
There is a real flexibility within this program which I value a lot. I've done a fair bit of study already - a double undergraduate degree and a postgraduate certificate in government, and I also work full time. I love my job, so I didn't want to be locked into studying something that I wasn’t sure I would love. MAPS is a multidisciplinary degree offering such a wide breadth of learning and travel opportunities that I thought it would be suitably flexible and interesting for me to do alongside work.
Additionally, the MAPS staff are very experienced and approachable - it makes managing your degree so much easier and this was appealing to me when choosing a program.
“The Chinese Economy” with Jane Golley is my favourite course. Jane is a great teacher and she challenged me to take an alternate perspective on changes within China, which differed to the cultural, political and security lenses through which I have studied China in the past.
I also think the class enabled me to build a firm basis for understanding how China's unique economy works today and how it might change in the future. I'm not an economist but I learnt a lot in the class.
The highlight for me as been studying with students from around the world and especially from Asia. I've learnt a lot from my classmates and how their cultural, economic and political considerations differ from mine in Australia. Every class provides a diverse range of perspectives and we tease out issues together. The program is very collegiate and the full-time MAPS students have become very good friends. The academic staff are also incredibly knowledgeable and experienced.
At a very practical level, I'm able to apply my Chinese language learning skills every day. It’s a brilliant feeling learning more and building my understanding of the language while in-country.
Every day I also have the opportunity to observe and deepen my understanding of the key economic, social, cultural and political trends and perspectives in China - the country is huge and the interests and issues faced in different parts vary greatly. At Nanjing University there are Chinese students and teachers from every corner of the country and students from around the world. It's a fascinating place. As a Masters student who's lived overseas before, I came with some well-defined goals about what I wanted to get out of this trip and I'm really happy with the whole experience so far.
Experiencing a different, challenging environment and immersing myself in a culture motivates and inspires me. I'm really interested in politics, particularly Australian domestic politics, but you need an understanding of global relationships and cultures to understand the impact of international events and decisions back home. I'm also starting to better understand how China perceives Australia and I think that is a really important perspective to understand.
I'm also a transport nerd and interested in public policy decisions around transport, mobility and infrastructure planning and delivery. There is no other place in the world where development, infrastructure and transport projects are delivered like in China. The huge Belt and Road Initiative is a flagship Chinese international relations policy involving infrastructure and it will be around for a long time.
Foreign languages are extremely useful. Even just in the challenging process of learning a new language you improve your observation and improvisation skills. It also improves your memory and helps you understand a culture in a more meaningful way. I'm using a different part of my brain than I would be back in the office at work. It’s keeping me challenged and opening new opportunities.