ANU College of Asia and the Pacific is celebrating 10 years of the Southeast Asian Frontiers (SEAF) study tour. In this article, SEAF Alumnus Leon Braun reflects on the personal and professional benefits he gained from undertaking the program.
The level of access I experienced on the SEAF course was unlike anything I have seen outside of a three-year diplomatic posting. Ajarn Chintana and Nich (the course convenors of the program) have an incredible network of contacts, and they bring all their resources to bear to make the course as interesting, challenging and fun as it possibly can be. The networks I developed through SEAF (and throughout my ANU studies generally) really formed the basis of the networks I have drawn on in my subsequent public service and diplomatic career.
The SEAF course was a perfect training ground for my work as an Australian diplomat. It got me used to talking to people at all levels of society, from primary school students and refugees to senior military and government figures. It taught me to look beyond appearances: not everyone in a uniform is a heartless bureaucrat and not every long-haired activist is out to save the world. It gave me the confidence to operate in a multilingual environment and conduct serious business in a language other than English. Most of all it confirmed my desire to do meaningful work in an international environment, which is what I'm lucky enough to be doing today.
There are so many! I guess what has stuck with me most is the lasting friendships I made through this course. We still keep in touch on Facebook and get together for regular reunions – I caught up with the gang from SEAF 2013 just a few weeks ago. The course is an intense 4-week bonding experience, and the friends you come out with at the other end are friends for life.