The biggest lesson “NextGen” postgraduate student Sarah Pereira took away from her first real-life Track II event in Vietnam was that young as she is, she still has something valuable to contribute.
Sarah was an observer with the New Zealand delegation at the June 2018 Track II talks with the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and other Vietnamese thinktanks and government organisations.
“I tend to be introverted and I was out of my comfort zone meeting so many impressive and intimidating stakeholders,” she says. “But then I realised the questions being asked around the table were the same as the ones in my head.”
Sarah had written her thesis on the rise of China, China-U.S. relations and regional disputes over the South China Sea, so she was particularly interested in the views expressed in Vietnam on America’s Indo-Pacific concept designed to help contain China.
She was excited to see informal diplomacy in action. “I could appreciate first-hand how Track II provides the scope for testing ideas…and discussing areas for potential cooperation.”
This was Sarah’s first visit to Southeast Asia and she was surprised by how many similarities there are between Vietnam and New Zealand.
“Both countries have an independent foreign policy, try to be friends to all rather than pick sides, support ASEAN centrality and a rules-based order, and support international law as well as regional economic integration,” she says.
Her Vietnam experience not only built Sarah’s confidence, it also helped her realise what sort of career path she would like to take. She is now happily working as a strategic analyst with the Ministry for Primary Industries but has her eye on the diplomatic service in years to come.
Sarah joined the Foundation’s Leadership Network in 2019. “It’s great to meet other young Kiwis with similar interests to me,” she says. “The opportunities on offer are amazing.“