As the first member of his family to travel to Canberra, let alone study at ANU, Cairns-native Simon Fenske braved the capital’s cool climate to join a community of the world’s leaders in Pacific Studies.
The Bachelor of Pacific Studies student began his studies unsure about what he intended to focus on, but he was attracted to the flexibility of the Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB) program and the beautiful natural scenery of the ANU campus.
Before starting at ANU, Simon spent time volunteering in Vanuatu, which influenced his decision to learn more about the Pacific region. Initially he enrolled in Environmental Studies and Pacific Studies courses, which opened up a variety of unique study opportunities. In his first year, Simon travelled to Hawai’i on the Pacific Islands Field School program.
“It was our first chance to apply what we’d learnt in the classroom in a practical setting. The course reminded me that an awareness of Indigenous cultures should be a priority in addressing issues in the Pacific.”
This experience studying in Hawai’i would not be his last.
Simon went on to become the first ANU student to study abroad at the University of Hawai’i, where he spent an additional six months learning about taro cultivation, Hawaiian traditional medicine and culture, and even took classes in the Hawaiian language.
“My experience in Hawai’i showed me the importance of being flexible in what you’re learning in order to apply it to different cultures.”
Still eager to travel more in the region, the independent research component of Simon’s PhB program allowed him to travel to Samoa to observe elections alongside a group of the world’s experts in Pacific politics. This time spent in Samoa influenced Simon’s decision to switch to the Bachelor of Pacific Studies program.
In his final semester of the program, Simon is making plans to put what he has learnt into practice once again, and looking to contribute to solutions to environmental and social issues in the Pacific after he graduates.