Dare to dream and apply for a Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship

By Brandon Maki, Westpac Scholar, 2019 Asian Exchange

I never really thought it would lead to much when I applied for the Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship. I thought ‘big opportunities don’t really come to people like me; people with no money, people with disabilities, people without a good education'. However, I’m a master procrastinator and instead of doing my university work I would often daydream of what would come next. I dreamt of how I would claw myself away from the fate my background had set for me and become an important and influential person in my field; how I would change the problems I faced in the world, at least a little.

I liked dreaming, and so I applied for the Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship. I don’t think my application was perfect; I didn’t agonise over every little detail and wait with bated breath. I just put myself out there and dreamt about the possibilities. If you’re applying for programs, that’s what I’d recommend; don’t see it as a chore but as a chance to dream of something greater for a little while.

Since then, I’ve learned that programs like Westpac Scholars are enriched by people with diverse backgrounds: people with lived experience of the issues that everyone wants to change in the world, but often don’t know how because they’ve never been there. People who know what it means to struggle in life, learn from those struggles, and can bring these skills and passion to the table. I revealed my authentic self in my application and communicated why this program mattered to me and that I had something unique to offer.

When I was given the chance to do a video interview for the program that’s when the anxiety set in. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go overseas and leave my family for so long. Still, I couldn’t bear thinking about what could have been if I didn’t apply, so I mimicked the confidence I needed to get through the interview but most importantly, I was myself.

What happened next was the best few months of my life: a chance to live my daydreams, to engage in Asia in a real way, to grow in my understanding of the world, to make lasting and deep friendships and the scholarship afforded me opportunities and chances that I had never thought I would get. I visited 10 countries that year, spent time in Sydney and Shanghai at the Scholars Summit and Leadership Development residential, and I grew to know and love South-East Asia.

While it was scary to be away from home at first, it was the best experience I’ve ever had. While putting yourself out there is always hard, I want you to know it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Every single Westpac Scholar has experienced imposter syndrome, no matter how skilled they were or what their background was. Everyone worries they can’t do it, but there’s always the chance. Take that chance, take a couple of hours, mimic confidence, and put in your application, because the Westpac Asian Exchange program needs you, and all you just have to do is dream.


2022 Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship applications are now open. Apply or nominate someone today.