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Master of Asia Pacific Studies (MAPS) student Anna Kirk talked to us about her interest in and passion for the Pacific, what led her to enrol in the MAPS program and her hopes to build camaraderie amongst the student community during this challenging time.
How did your interest in the Pacific come about?
My interest in the Pacific began in Vanuatu, where I spent much of my childhood because my family owns a small business in Port Vila. Although we moved to Brisbane when I was three years old, my family regularly returned to Port Vila throughout my school years. Vanuatu always felt like our second home. Those experiences instilled an enduring interest in the Pacific, a love of exploring new places and learning about other cultures.
Tell us about your travel, work and cultural experiences which led to you to pursue a postgraduate degree with ANU.
An exchange in Barcelona, Spain was a highlight of my undergraduate degree and reinforced the benefits of immersing yourself in a new place to learn the language and gain a deeper understanding of the people and culture. After finishing my Bachelor’s, I spent a year in South America; travelling and teaching English at a high school in Santiago, Chile.
When I returned to Australia, I interned and later worked with the Lowy Institute, Australia’s leading foreign policy think tank, on the Melanesia Program (now called the Pacific Program). I was responsible for the Aus-PNG Network, an innovative DFAT-funded project to foster stronger people-to-people links between Australia and Papua New Guinea through events and online networks.
I moved back to Vanuatu in 2019 to undertake an Australian Volunteers assignment with a locally owned and operated tourism business. After these hands-on experiences, I decided to return to university to further enhance my research skills and my knowledge of the Pacific and key issues for the region, such as climate change.
Why did you choose our Masters of Asia and Pacific Studies and which classes do you enjoy the most?
The Australian National University was the natural choice because of the wealth of Pacific expertise here. Although the first year of my Masters of Asian and Pacific Studies program hasn’t been quite what I expected with COVID-19, the disruptions haven’t prevented me from enjoying my classes and learning a huge amount.
I really enjoyed PASI8002 Pacific Foundations, which goes all the way back to the prehistory of the Pacific. I loved learning about the Polynesian settlement of remote islands from Hawai’i out to Easter Island and down to New Zealand. It gave me a new appreciation of canoes and early navigational techniques that I think my friends and family are a bit sick of hearing about now. I’m currently taking ASIA8048 Disasters and Epidemics in Asia and the Pacific, which has helped me understand what we are all living through now in the pandemic.
As the MAPS student representative, what do you hope to achieve amongst your peers?
Making new friends and expanding your network is a big part of the postgraduate experience, however this has been difficult with the COVID-19 restrictions. I hope that as the Student Representative I can find some ways of bringing us together, to help us get to know each other better and build a sense of being a part of a cohort. This prompted me to start the CHL Postgraduate Student Facebook Group, a place for students to share useful information and connect. CHL alumni and current students are welcome to join the group.
For program administration and Academic advice please contact the CHL Education Support team on email@example.com.