Where are they now? Chloe Luzar (2020)
When I was a student at Pymble, if you were to ask my friends and family what I was like, they would have probably told you that I was busy – very busy – and that I spent more time at Pymble than I did at home. Between co-curricular dance, bands and orchestras, leadership opportunities and snow sports, I always strived to be actively engaged in the Pymble community. When I look back on my school time, I remember the great teachers I had, the countless opportunities I explored, and the amazing friends I met (and still talk to today).
The sense of family was paramount at Pymble. From when I first stepped onto the beautiful college grounds in 2012 in Year 4, to graduation in 2020, Pymble was my second home. It still is, as I share my love of dance there as a dance instructor.
As a student, I had a love of learning about the environment. Environmental topics in class were my favourite to study and discuss, and I often took those topics home and researched them myself. I was so excited to discover the subject of Earth and Environmental Sciences in Year 11, and it became my favourite, and one of my highest performing, HSC subjects.
My love of natural sciences has followed me beyond Pymble, and currently, I am in my 3rd year of a double degree at Macquarie University; a Bachelor of Science (Specialisation in Earth and Environmental Sciences) and a Bachelor of Laws. My university experience has, for the most part, been a normal university experience, working between two jobs and a full-time university degree.
In February 2022 I was invited to an information session on the New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship Program. The NCP is an Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) initiative aiming to lift knowledge on the Indo-Pacific Region by supporting students to study and undertake internships on an exchange program within the region. NCP Scholarships are awarded to Australian undergraduate students each year to support them to study and undertake internships in 40 countries across the Indo-Pacific Region for anywhere between 6-18 months.
At the time, it sounded daunting, it sounded like a lot of hard work, and I was not too sure this was something I wanted to do, nor confident that I was who they were looking for. I initially decided to leave the program be, but after much thought and soul searching, changed my mind.
With two days to go before university applications closed, I started an application for the NCP program. I had no clue what I was doing, and I was a bit unsure about what I was applying for. I think the tipping point in choosing to apply, was asking myself, what could go wrong? I mean, I could apply, and get the scholarship, and have the best experience of my life. Or I could not get it and continue as is. From that perspective, deciding about whether to apply or not seemed a lot easier.
To my surprise and shock, I successfully passed the university’s internal round. Before I knew it, I was commencing an 8-month application process for the NCP scholarship. After numerous application drafts, submission phases, interview rehearsals, and interviews, in November 2022, I found out that I was one of the prized 150 NCP Scholars for 2023.
In December 2022, I travelled to Canberra to meet all the 150 2023 NCP Scholars at the NCP Training and Induction week. I got the privilege of listening to NCP Alumni share their stories and meet key members of DFAT. I also met so many amazing, outspoken, and outgoing NCP scholars with the most incredible NCP programs planned ahead. I was told that the loudest group in a room are a group of NCP Scholars, and that was most certainly proven true. I wish them all the best on their NCP journeys this year, many of whom have already started.
What does my NCP program look like? I will embark to Tonga in early December 2023, where I will study at the University of the South Pacific, undertake Tongan language training, and hopefully intern with the Pacific Community in Tonga for their Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division under the Disaster and Community Resilience Programme. After 6-8 or so months in Tonga, I plan to travel within the Pacific Islands and undertake some more work with regional organisations, including the Secretariat of the Pacific Region for the Environment Programme (SPREP). I will be overseas for around 12 months, and I am so excited to commence my journey.
This process has made me more comfortable with applying for and experiencing new opportunities. Since late December, I have been volunteering as a mentor for the Earth Prize Foundation as part of their annual global Earth Prize Competition, a $200,000 environmental sustainability competition for school-aged students who can receive monetary support and sponsorship for a sustainability project.
I have also reached out to the Sydney Tongan Language School in preparation for my NCP journey. I am currently undertaking Tongan language classes with fellow Tongan Australians every weekend. Through the school, I am learning so much about Tongan culture, language, and society and am making many new friends along the way.
Up until now, I never considered myself a risk-taker, or someone who took on new and unique opportunities readily. Applying for the NCP Scholarship has given me new confidence in myself and my abilities. I am so excited to start my NCP program, and I look forward to what opportunities it could bring once I return to Australia. Pymble is still a large part of me, and my friends and experiences have greatly influenced where I am today. 3 years on and Pymble is still my home, and I am forever grateful for its contribution to who I am now.