A year spent living overseas studying can be an eye-opener, but for newly graduated PhD student Kirrilee Hughes it changed her life.
A high school year in Indonesia not only allowed her to develop her knowledge of the language but sparked a strong interest in the relationship between her two homes.
Despite the close proximity, Dr Hughes worried that Asian-Australian relations had become too politicised, creating divisions in the region.
She is one of more than 2100 Australian National University students at this week's midyear graduation ceremonies, and her thesis focused on the struggle for Asia literacy in Australian schools and universities.
''The issue is that Asia literacy [requires] a much longer time cycle than the political cycle, so we do need both sides of government to sign up for this, regardless of who's in power,'' Dr Hughes said.
She worried the lack of focus on the Asian population of Australia would isolate the large community.
''For many Australian students, they speak or use Asian languages at home but they don't often have the opportunity to extend their knowledge and proficiency of those languages at school or study about the other elements of their countries.''
Dr Hughes said her PhD had helped her get her present position as deputy director of Indonesian affairs at the University of New South Wales and, as student speaker at Thursday afternoon's ceremony, she hoped her fellow students would achieve similar recognition in return for the effort of their studies.
''It's a huge achievement but you have to work really hard. When you're a PhD student, there are a lot of other life things you have to deal with as well and you're always juggling work and financial commitments as well as studies,'' she said.
ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young said the university's retention and employment rates were exceptionally high, and he encouraged potential students to thoroughly consider tertiary education to advance a career.
''Unemployment generally across the community tends to edge up in recent years, which is still very strong evidence that a quality university degree is your best insurance policy to ensure you get a good career,'' Professor Young said.
This week's ceremonies involved the largest cohort the university had seen at a midyear graduation.