Class of 2017 - Ellis Cowan

15 Jun 2017

Congratulations Class of 2017

Name: Ellis Cowan

Degree: Bachelor of International Studies

Full-time/part-time: Full-time

Class of 2017_Ellis Cowan1

Tell us a little bit about yourself - e.g. your family background, interests and career aspirations...

I grew up on the quiet Mid North Coast of NSW, and I think it is this for this reason that I became so interested in the hustle and bustle of Australia's Asian neighbourhood. Whether it it be my interest in language, culture, food or photography, all my interests tend to revolve around this region, and I aspire to pursue a career where I can support Australia's engagement with Asia in a professional capacity.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

My early aspirations were to live and work overseas as a foreign correspondent.

Did that change as you got older?

Slightly. As the traditional media and journalism industry continued to shrink and move online I decided to focus on work in the international relations industry (namely government, NGO and development related) where I could continue my aspiration to develop a career focused on international engagement and politics.

How did you decide what degree to do and what initially attracted you to your degree?

My initial choice was a Bachelor of Arts, as I wanted to pursue media-focused studies while testing the waters of other disciplines such as International Relations and Asian Studies. As it was my interest in Asia and the Middle East that initially motivated this decision, a transfer to a Bachelor of International Studies was an easy choice as I could continue to pursue my international relations major with the addition of a language component and a one year overseas exchange.

What were the highlights/best aspects of your degree and why?

The highlights of my degree were definitely my exchanges to Japan and Israel. The opportunity to pursue study in locations of such topical importance for my field really allowed my understanding of the discipline to flourish. 

In addition to this, a Middle East Political Simulation assignment I had the opportunity of undertaking as the major assessment for a third year International Law course was such a memorable and enjoyable experience. This really showed that there was more to university than just reading and writing.

Outside of this, the ability for daily lunch experimentation in the culinary depths of Kingsford's Anzac Parade was a highlight of studying at UNSW.

Ellis Cowan

Did you take part in any mentorship or scholarship programs, internships or exchanges during your time at UNSW?


  • UNSW Arts & Social Sciences Career Ready Mentoring Program - Semester 2, 2016


  • Asia Society Australia, Sydney - Oct 16 until present
  • Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Tokyo - Nov 2015 until July 2016


  • 1 year overseas exchange program at the University of Tokyo, Japan - S2 2015 & S1 2016
  • Short Summer Course on the History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Were you a part of any clubs and societies on campus?

The Language Exchange Program at UNSW and the Twopers Football Club and Todai Global Ineraction Friends (TGIF) at University of Tokyo.

What knowledge, skills and experiences have you found most useful for your personal/professional development?

Maturing my interpersonal communication skills has been fundamental to my development both personally and professionally. The social and academic engagement I experienced through classes, internships and my overseas exchanges via my studies was paramount in enabling this.

What are your plans now that you’ve finished uni? Are you currently working? And if so, as what?

I am currently working in Digital Operations for a tech-media start-up called One Big Switch, and spending one day a week working for a not-for-profit Asia Society Australia. My role at One Big Switch came about as a result of the UNSW Careers Ready Mentoring Program, where I was partnered as a mentee with the CEO of the business.

Outside of my current roles, my plans looking forward include continuing the graduate program application process and applying for scholarships to pursue further study in Japan.

Do you have any advice for students?

Study a language, go on exchange and never, ever read the comments.