Cannon Hill Anglican College (CHAC) Year 10 student Victoria Seng recently returned from Europe where she completed a month-long study tour as part of a highly sought-after international scholarship she was awarded late last year.
Victoria was one of only 180 students from around the world to secure the AFS Global STEM Academies Scholarship from more than 6,000 applications.
AFS Intercultural Programs was created in 1915 as the American Ambulance Field Service, and has since transformed from a wartime humanitarian aid organisation into an international secondary school exchange, volunteer and intercultural learning organisation.
The AFS Global STEM program saw Victoria complete a tertiary qualification in sustainability for social impact through an American Ivy League university and combined 12-week online course, followed by a sustainability tour of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
For Victoria, her journey towards embarking on this prestigious opportunity started with a family friend who introduced her to the AFS Academy.
“I first heard about the scholarship from a family friend who is very big on STEM and women in STEM, and having been to the One Young World Summit, she is very invested in being an active global citizen,” Victoria said.
“She brought the AFS Global STEM Academies to my attention and inspired me to apply; without her this incredible opportunity would have never happened.”
Given the many thousands of applicants to the program, Victoria wasn’t expecting to be selected for the competitive program and was thrilled when she heard the news she had been selected.
“Words cannot express my utter disbelief that I actually did get in,” she said.
“Prior to the program, I was invested in social matters, such as female empowerment, food insecurity, and the climate crisis.
“I want to utilise the skills and knowledge I have acquired during this program to become more of an active global citizen within my community.”
The program combines online and hands-on learning for students world-wide to enhance their sustainability knowledge, STEM skills, and global competencies.
Despite the diverse backgrounds of the student participants, everyone Victoria encountered shared a sense of unity around the organisation’s mission and values.
“What I really found interesting was how easily it was for everyone to get along and become friends so quickly; while we all live in different countries and have different life experiences, we really aren’t that different from one another,” Victoria said.
“We all shared a similar goal on this trip, to make new friends, learn more about sustainability and understand how we could become active global citizens.
“I loved how we all got along so well and shared common interests. It was also so interesting discussing political topics with each other and seeing everyone’s personal perspectives.”
Two particular highlights of the experience came when Victoria visited Europe and was able to experience the continent’s natural beauty and conduct sustainability experiments at the prestigious University of Bielefeld.
“One highlight was when we went on a hike in Belgium – there was a natural waterslide, which a couple of us slid down and there were these beautiful water pools,” Victoria recalled.
“We all sang together on the bus ride down and all leaned on each other’s shoulders on the ride back because we were so tired.
“Another highlight was when we went to the University of Bielefeld and got to do all sorts of scientific experiments related to sustainability in their labs.
“It was so interesting to see how STEM and sustainability interact and the possible careers out there.”
While committing to the program in Europe meant additional studies and time away from school back in Australia, CHAC was supportive of Victoria’s journey with AFS and accommodated her additional studies into her pre-existing high school studies.
“I was able to drop a subject during the second term while I was completing the online course,” she explained.
“CHAC were really supportive of this external experience and the school worked with me to understand what I can catch up on and how to catch up.”