Not even the thought of undercover cops in Beijing, or a lack of Mandarin could keep Rohana Prince from plunging head first into Chinese life while completing the final year of her undergraduate degree at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
As part of her Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) degree, she fitted in a month long program at Peking University, thanks to an arrangement ANU shares with a cooperative network of 10 research-intensive universities around the world known as IARU (International Alliance of Research Universities).
“I’d never been to China before,” she said.
“I don’t speak Mandarin. So that was a very new experience.”
Amid rumours of plain clothes officers of the People’s Liberation Army riding on buses and subway trains, she intended on discovering the ‘real’ China, but came away with more questions than answers.
“I can’t say what will happen with China in the next few years,” she concedes.
“I can’t predict what kind of power China will be in the Asian Century, based on my Beijing experience.
“But I can tell you one thing – I’m excited to watch it happen.”
Prince chose to do a PhB degree over a regular Bachelor’s degree, because the program allows students to negotiate a research project under the guidance of a mentor.
In her honours (fourth) year, she chose to write a thesis on China’s role in driving Australian strategic policy from 1972 to 2013.
She spoke directly with decision makers as part of her research, resulting in meetings with former Australian prime ministers Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, and Kevin Rudd.
Others who gave their thoughts included former defence minister Kim Beasley and former foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans.
“Though it was daunting, I really enjoyed meeting the people behind the documents,” she said.
In this video Prince discusses other ways she benefitted from the PhB, which was offered for the first time to ANU College of Asia and the Pacific students in 2014.