International and Global Studies grad Rohan Pankhania-MacDonald Rohan provides interpretation in French for an Australian military attaché as a local journalist conducts an interview. The photo was taken last year at the annual commemorative ceremony in Fromelles in northern France, where thousands of Australian and allied troops lost their lives during the First World War.

Arts grad at work: Living in Paris, working at the Australian Embassy

16 October 2020
Meet graduate Rohan Pankhania-Macdonald
After an exchange to Belgium in high school, Rohan chose to study International and Global Studies at uni. Immersing himself in French language and culture, he got to study in Paris in third year. He’s “basically been living abroad ever since.”

Why did you choose to study International and Global Studies (INGS) at Sydney?

Growing up in the Blue Mountains means that Sydney feels big, exciting and full of promise. It also feels very far away.

My friend Davina was studying political economy at USYD while I was still in high school. I remember how I would go into the city to hang out with her on campus, meeting her friends, seeing her local hang-outs in Newtown.

USYD has a buzz. You can feel a sense of opportunity in the air. Interesting people think up interesting things. There is a reason that it has a strong reputation for the humanities and social sciences.
Rohan Pankhania-Macdonald, International and Global Studies graduate

What were your tutors like?

USYD attracts great talent in its teaching staff. My French tutors were constantly excellent and engaging. USYD attracts academics who are leaders in their field, come from a range of backgrounds, and contribute to the rich history of the institution and its continued relevance today.

INGS at USYD can offer you access to language training and study-abroad opportunities unrivalled among Australian universities.
Rohan Pankhania-Macdonald, International and Global Studies graduate

I had the privilege of being supervised by Dr Anika Gauja during my honours year, and the experience of having the support of a single academic in the production of a research thesis was very gratifying.

What was it like to study a language at uni and study abroad?

French is one of the bigger languages at Sydney, and I was able to take classes which corresponded to my level; classes which focused not only on language and grammar, but on francophone literature and cultures, too. This prepared me well for a semester studying abroad.

Studying abroad in a foreign university was an amazing experience, and I was so lucky that an INGS degree brings the opportunity to study overseas at any number of USYD’s leading partner institutions.
Rohan Pankhania-Macdonald, International and Global Studies graduate

In my 3rd year of uni, I came to Paris to study at SciencesPo, France’s leading university for the social sciences. I loved it, and I knew it was somewhere that I wanted to return. So I came back to USYD, did Honours, completed an internship with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Suva, Fiji, and then returned to Paris to take up a scholarship-supported position at SciencesPo to do a Master’s degree. I’ve basically been based in France ever since! 

How do your INGS studies shape your work at DFAT?

INGS, like any degree, evolves and changes to adapt to the context of the day.

10 years ago, it gave me a well-grounded if somewhat theoretical understanding of political science, governance and globalisation. It also gave me transferable skills.

I find myself using the same critical-thinking skills I developed during my degree at USYD in my work today. Skills which help me to get a grasp of complex problems as well the skills needed for processing of lots of information at the same time, extracting that which is relevant and important and leaving the rest.

What does a day in the life of a Policy Officer at Australian Embassy in Paris look like?

Defence and security ties between France and Australia are an increasingly important part of our broader bilateral relationship. It’s an exciting time to be here, even with enormous disruption and uncertainty owing to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

My job is about painting a clearer picture of the issues facing French and European defence, so that the Australian Government can be aware of – and shape – the strategic and policy contexts it finds itself in, here on the other side of the world.
Rohan Pankhania-Macdonald, International and Global Studies graduate

There is something inherently gratifying and rewarding about the nature of the work and the role that you play as a public servant working alongside great people in a team. No two days are the same. Sometimes, I’ll find myself translating a report published by the French military. Sometimes, I’ll be assisting with the visit of a visiting Australian government or military official.

What would you say to prospective students thinking of studying INGS?

If you want to study an internationally-oriented undergraduate degree which adapts to its context, helping you to better understand some of the big issues of our time, then INGS is for you.

So many jobs are affected by international trends, even if we’re not aware of them, so it pays to better understand some of the forces which shape our lives.

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