Tony Xu has been beekeeping since he was 14 years old.
“My high school teacher kept bees and I was looking for a school project,” Tony explains. “I tagged along with him and the rest is history.”
These days, he's employed by the Australian National University as one of its two beekeepers and conducts research at the ANU on those bees. He's also doing a Diploma of Languages in French, and is in the fourth year of his Bachelor of Law/Medical Science.
Recently, Tony was announced as one of the seven ANU recipients of the Australian Government's 2020 New Colombo Plan Scholarships. Six of the recipients are part of the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.
The highly competitive scholarships are worth up to $70,000 each and they support students to study in the Indo-Pacific.
For his scholarship, Tony is combining his facility with French with his growing expertise in medical research. His interest in bees also figures prominently: he'll be going to New Caledonia to learn biosecurity techniques to protect honeybees in Australia through an internship with the Directorate of Food, Animal and Rural Affairs. He'll also be completing biology research at Papua New Guinea's University of Goroka.
“New Caledonia has some of the best biosecurity in the whole of the Pacific,” Tony says. “They also don't have too many links with research in Australia, especially in beekeeping, despite us sharing a lot of the same biosecurity and bee parasite interests. I want to hopefully strengthen that research connection.”
The language gap is one reason for the few research connections, according to Tony. So knowing French was vital to him working there.
“They speak exclusively French in New Caledonia,” he says. “French knowledge is essential if you want to operate there.”
Another of the ANU recipients is Yasmin Poole, who is studying law and international relations. Earlier this year, Yasmin was named one of the Australian Financial Review's 100 women of influence and one of the 40 under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians at the inaugural Asian-Australian Leadership Summit.
Yasmin will spend 12 months at the National University of Singapore, and intern with an international development organisation in the Pacific. She says receiving the scholarship was something she had dreamed about since her first year of university.
“I'm particularly excited to study in Singapore,” she says. “Not only does it provide tremendous work opportunities, but also the ability to explore my Malay-Singaporean ancestry.”
“As we head into the Asian Century, understanding the Asia-Pacific is more crucial than ever and I'm excited for the ability to immerse myself.”
Tony is set to depart for the Indo-Pacific in 2020. Meanwhile, he has one year left of his Diploma of Languages. So far, he's been loving it.
“I hang out with Dr Leslie Barnes and Dr Ash Collins a lot in my spare time,” Tony says. “You don't really get that sort of student-teacher relationship in other subjects where it's more lecture-based and tutorials are once a week. Whereas with French, you see your tutor very often and have the same cohort and class, so you get to know everyone.”
On the question of what he and his French lecturers talk about, he says they mostly try to work on his French. “But we talk about lots of life stuff too.”
He adds: “I would like to think we're friends. You'd have to ask them though.”