Leadership Network hui inspires
postgraduate study in Singapore

Opting to complete his master's studies in Singapore, Leadership Network member Ajay Ravindran quickly discovered swapping Auckland for the Asian hub meant his learning environment was far broader than the halls of academia.

Ajay is studying international relations at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

It’s part of Nanyang Technological University, one of Singapore's main universities, going toe-to-toe with the more well-known National University of Singapore.

Ajay Ravindran

He says his studies largely centre around foreign policy analysis and non-traditional security issues such as religious radicalisation and cybersecurity.

Real-world case studies, are close to (his adopted) home.

“One of the things I spent the last few months studying was India and Pakistan's nuclear relationship…Of course, in recent weeks, these tensions have bubbled up to the surface again.

“I didn't think the things I was learning would be reflected in the real world so readily.

“I find it hugely exciting because we often see such international issues through the lens of media, politicians, and of course through the armchair experts in our families.

“So, it's great to be able to get a deeper and more nuanced understanding from academic perspectives, while at the same time taking into account the important roles that media, politicians, and opinionated members of the public play.”

RSIS operates as a research institute, focusing in particular on security in the Asia-Pacific region, which was a big drawcard for Ajay.

“I really wanted to be in Asia and look at the international affairs of Asian states, through their eyes as much as possible.”

He has classmates from Indonesia, China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and lecturers include ambassadors of countries like Australia, Kazakhstan, and India, as well as world-class visiting researchers.

“Also, there are probably very few places in the world where you could learn about things like religious politics, and rising powers like China and India, in open and diverse environments, from academics who have deep and often lived experiences of their fields of study.”

It was the experience of a Leadership Network gathering that was the final impetus Ajay needed to further his studies.

“The offshore hui in South Korea in 2014 stamped my decision to seriously consider postgraduate study, after having the opportunity to hear from and meet with academics, researchers, diplomats, and various professionals working on some truly interesting issues.”

In general, the network has introduced him to people working on “big and interesting problems”, whether they be in their own community, the country or more global, he says.

“By now, perhaps, I shouldn't be so surprised at the calibre of people the network attracts, but I continue to be constantly and pleasantly excited at the kind of amazing people I get to meet through being part of it.

“I feel like the network really demonstrates both the shared and diverse range of experiences that we have as Kiwis, whether we're in Aotearoa or not.”

As for Ajay – he’s approximately three months out from finishing his studies. After that, job-hunting.

As a teen in Puketāpapa/Mt Roskill, one of Aotearoa’s most diverse suburbs, he reckons he considered careers as a private investigator, doctor, hip hop artist, or wizard (in no particular order).

But, after graduating with a science degree in biology and physiology from the University of Auckland, and the realisation his short attention span wasn’t suited to the rigours of scientific research, he “stumbled” into the tech world, working for some of the country’s fastest growing startups, including Vend, for four years.

“I’m keeping my eyes open for opportunities particularly in policy, security, technology, non-profit, and social enterprise sectors, anywhere in the world.

“Fingers crossed I'll have some time after my studies to travel a bit more in the region as well. So, if anyone has some suggestions, I'd love to hear them.”