Sabina Nowak, studying a Bachelor of International Relations/Bachelor of Arts specialising in Spanish, development studies and sociology, spent three months in first semester working with the Timorese ambassador on the project, which aims to diversify its country’s economy.
“The embassy was a smaller mission [than others in ANIP] but that was really great for me as it meant that I saw more of what they did,” Sabina recalls.
She was involved in “everything from secretarial work to being sent off to meetings where I’d take minutes, I attended a few talks and also community events.
“I feel really fortunate that they included me in that way. It was very special [and] the ambassador made me feel at home.
“I found my placement catered to all of my areas of study and also provided to my personal interests, too.”
Sabrina’s report explored the potential of heritage tourism which develops Timor Leste’s historic sites, based on the island’s and Australia’s shared World War II history.
“It was refreshing that I could do something a little bit left of field, and because it was left open and a little broad, I could incorporate things that I’ve learned over the last couple of years at university,” Sabina says.
“I looked at the reasons for why the trail should exist, how it would be important for the Timorese economy by diversifying the economy; also the historical significance of the situation and how it established the relationship between the two countries.
“The ambassador is hoping to get more publicity around the concept and would really like to further develop it.”
Although a Timorese company offers war history tours, these runs only once a year, whereas the ambassador wants to expand that, Sabina explains.
Her policy brief, which compared the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea with Timor Leste, will be used by the embassy as the foundation for further research.
“It was really enlightening and refreshing that during my time at university I could be placed in a professional environment and apply the skills I’ve already learned to the real world,” Sabina says.
“And in a way that was almost a trial run, rather than being thrown straight into employment after university.”
Sabina plans to graduate in mid-2016 and is considering working in the development sector, such as in education or for a non-governmental organisation.
“I really loved the community spirit among all the interns and there wasn’t a feeling of competitiveness that you find in some classes. Everyone wanted to help everybody else.”