Two international students studying at Waikato University were among 30 representatives at the ASEAN Student Voice Conference in Wellington last week.
Doctoral students Lien Pham and Sherrie Lee were selected from 100 nominations from 18 international tertiary institutions.
"The conference was a great opportunity to meet ASEAN students from all over the world," says Lien.
The annual event celebrated 40 years of the New Zealand – ASEAN relationship. Over two days, students took part in a series of interactive workshops, heard inspirational speakers, and participated in a Q and A session with the ASEAN Heads of Mission ambassadors, to learn how to build on the skills and experiences they gain while living and studying in New Zealand.
"The workshops were really interesting and got us all to share our personal experiences. We learned from each other how these experiences can influence our and others' lives in the future," says Lien.
Originally from Vietnam, Lien started her PhD at the University of Waikato in 2014, focusing on geographical systems.
"I'm looking at developing ways of mapping native tree species so mangers can count them and monitor environmental impacts," she says. "This will help managers and policy makers better manage coastal vegetation in New Zealand."
Lien has also been awarded a $7500 grant to do research in Germany from 7 – 18 September as part of a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment International Research Training Group application, submitted by Integrated Coastal Zone and Shelf-Sea Research (INTERCOAST)*.
"I'll present my research at the 2015 INTERCOAST workshop held at Bremen University. I'll also go on a field trip to Fehmarn Island in the Baltic Sea to view the progress on the new tunnel link under the Fehmarnbelt, the world's longest road tunnel," she says.
While she spends a lot of time travelling, Lien loves life in the Waikato and says Kiwis are really friendly.
"The University of Waikato offers a really supportive environment with a strong focus on independent research. This is different to the way we do research in Vietnam where a lot of it is influenced by teaching staff," she says.
In her spare time, Lien works with the Moehau Environmental Group monitoring the activity and sounds of kiwi in the Coromandel region.
"We camped out for a night listening and recording the kiwi sounds. It was a really special experience," she says.
*INTERCOAST is a collaboration between the University of Bremen and the University of Waikato that aims to educate young, highly motivated, interdisciplinary and internationally visible scientists in the fields of marine geosciences, marine biology, social sciences and law.