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Activity grants and internships help scholars reach their professional development goals

Posted: 21 May 2021

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Scholars Platform, Sri Lanka, Experience, Grants, Impact, In Australia, Scholar,

Australia Awards scholars from South Asia recently had the opportunity to apply for an Australia Awards Professional Development Grant to enhance their Scholarship journey. Candidates were able to design their own unique experience by either proposing a professional development activity of their choice or applying for an internship.

Scholars were required to demonstrate in their application how their choice aligned with their course of study or extracurricular interests, helped create personal and professional connections, and enhanced their Development Impact Plan. Scholars were also asked to consider what knowledge, skills and experience might best support them in adapting to a post-COVID-19 world.

Following a highly competitive application process, 17 scholars were selected to receive Professional Development Grants: 10 in the shape of a small grant to facilitate their proposed activity, and seven by way of an internship with an Australian organisation and a small stipend.

Here, four of the recipient scholars share what they learnt through their grant and internship experiences.


Buna Bhandari Bhattarai from NepalBuna Bhandari Bhattarai from Nepal is currently undertaking a PhD in Public Health at the University of New South Wales. Buna was awarded a small grant and used it to complete a series of activities that she had designed.

Using the grant, Buna presented the findings from her PhD degree research paper at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual conference, held virtually from San Francisco in October 2020. This large and influential yearly gathering brings together the global public health community. As part of this conference, Buna had access to educational workshops and a virtual expo with hundreds of booths representing leading public health organisations.

“As an early-career female researcher, I am continually looking for opportunities to build my leadership, communication, networking and public speaking skills,” says Buna. She believes that this opportunity was crucial for boosting her presentation and communication skills at a large international professional gathering.

Buna says that the grant was invaluable in supporting her professional and personal development. “Through this grant,” she says, “I got an opportunity to share my PhD study findings with a broader and diverse audience, including subject experts at APHA.”

Buna’s presentation shared research conducted in her home country of Nepal, which she believes helped enhance the country’s international profile among conference attendees. “It provided an excellent platform to network and connect with global researchers,” she adds. She believes that the opportunity has opened the door for future collaboration and will improve her research and academic capacity.

Through presenting at the conference and participating in Continuing Medical Education courses from APHA, Buna gained knowledge and skills that she hopes to implement in her PhD research and as part of her Development Impact Plan after she returns home. “The conference offered ample opportunities to initiate long-term collaborations, which can be utilised to plan and establish research projects with my local university in Nepal,” she concludes.


Dechen Dema from BhutanDechen Dema from Bhutan received an internship opportunity with Generation Green in Perth. Having recently completed her internship, she is excited about the professional network she has been able to build.

According to Dechen, a significant positive outcome of the internship was “meeting new people who work in the field of energy and clean energy” in Australia. She believes that these new connections will benefit her both personally and professionally.

Dechen wants to be a leader in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency when she returns home. “I am passionate about the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that Bhutan has recently embarked on,” she says.

Because of the internship, Dechen now has “better knowledge of how to look for grants and funds for clean energy projects”. She has also improved her understanding of how government policy is used to drive change and expedite clean energy technology.

Dechen is currently pursuing a Master of Renewable and Sustainable Energy at Murdoch University. Hear her talk about her internship experience.


Jyoti Jibon Khisha from Bangladesh

Jyoti Jibon Khisha from Bangladesh completed an internship with Taste Studios in Adelaide. Jyoti is currently pursuing a Master of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Adelaide.

“This internship helped boost my self-confidence,” says Jyoti, adding that the grant was “a great opportunity” for him. Jyoti values the non-verbal lessons that he gleaned from working in an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation.

In the internship, Jyoti was mentored and supported as part of the team and was given access to trainings and online personal development resources. “I established a good network and relationships with aspiring entrepreneurs, business incubators and mentors,” Jyoti says.

He appreciated being able to practice academic knowledge and business operation tools in an Australian organisation. “I am confident that I can establish these practices when I get back to my country,” he says.

In addition, the internship created opportunities for Jyoti to have one-on-one discussions with Richard Turner—an entrepreneurship mentor, one of Australia’s most successful business innovators and the 2010 Australian Entrepreneur of the Year. Jyoti hopes to continue this discussion and mentorship in the future.

“This Professional Development Grant, in the form of an internship, enhanced my knowledge beyond the classroom, preparing me for the world I am about to enter,” says Jyoti. “I would recommend it to others.”

He is thankful for the support he received from the Australia Awards team. He also shares that an initial induction and regular follow-up from the internship provider helped him “settle early and manage the internship smoothly”.

Listen to Jyoti talk about his experience.

Mohamed Rishan from the Maldives
Mohamed Rishan from the Maldives
was awarded a small grant to complete a professional development activity of his choice. Through the grant, Rishan participated in a personalised Negotiation Skills Training Course provided by a Melbourne-based training provider.

Rishan is completing a Master of Science (Aviation) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He believes that having good negotiation skills will be crucial for him to flourish in the commercial aviation industry. On this basis, he sought out the training course, through which he learnt about the different tools, techniques and processes used for advanced-level negotiations.

“My Development Impact Plan involves convincing different parties, especially government-related authorities and commercial businesses,” says Rishan. He believes that this training will help him present himself in a more confident way to these stakeholders.

Rishan would “definitely recommend” the grant program to other scholars. “The grant is generous. Make sure you find an activity that will make a positive impact for the rest of your life,” he says.


All scholars who received a grant undertook their grant activity in conjunction with their Scholarship course requirements.

If you are an Australia Awards scholar from South Asia and are interested in enhancing your Scholarship experience with a Professional Development Grant, we invite you to learn more about the application process.

Applications for 2021 are now open. You can find more information and apply for a grant here.