10 Dec 2020
A USC student working towards a career as an ethical hacker has gained a prestigious $68,000 Australian Government scholarship to travel to South Korea and Singapore in 2021 to learn more about cybersecurity.
While COVID-19 border restrictions may delay her travels to a later date, 22-year-old Zion Wihongi of Valdora is delighted to receive a place in the New Colombo Plan program.
The New Colombo Plan supports Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen knowledge of the region.
Zion, who is in her second year of a USC Bachelor of Information Communications Technology, wants to contribute to both the field of IT and the security of the community.
“I feel blessed to be awarded the scholarship,” said the 2015 Coolum State High School graduate who started an online jewellery boutique when she was 16, selling products globally.
“Through the NCP initiative, I hope to spread awareness of women in the IT field and strengthen communications between Australia and the Indo-Pacific region.
“I have a real passion for technology, and I love problem-solving. I hope to help and protect others with my skillset developed at USC through a career in cybersecurity.”
Ethical hackers are security experts who test the computer systems of organisations to find and fix faults.
Zion is the second Wihongi sibling to be awarded an NCP scholarship. Her elder sister Creole, who is studying Laws and International Studies at USC, has had to postpone her travel to Japan because of this year’s border restrictions.
Zion said she hoped to spend two semesters studying at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
“This will equip me with experience and understanding and connect me with professionals in the field, ultimately allowing me to pursue a closer engagement with Korea,” she said.
“I also intend to do an internship in cybersecurity in Singapore, which is renowned for its safe and secure cyber-environment.”
Zion, who works as an adviser on technological problems in the IT industry, said she loved learning about different cultures. She previously lived and volunteered in Japan for 18 months.
“In Japan, I was involved in community events, taught English classes, worked alongside locals to rebuild schools, assisted at orphanages and organised fundraisers,” she said.
However, she was pleased to be able to stay living on the Sunshine Coast while studying at USC.
“I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to friends, family and hobbies in order to pursue higher education,” she said.
“I have also made many new friends and have had so many new opportunities open up to me. I am having an amazing time at USC.”