Human Economics

By Seth Robinson

Diya John was selected as a Global Voices Scholar for 2020, set to visit the OECD and learn from some of the world’s greatest minds. With the onset of COVID-19, her plans changed, but that didn’t stop Diya from taking advantage of an incredible opportunity.

Diya was born in India, and grew up exploring the Middle East, with time spent in Abu Dhabi. Her family settled in Melbourne 5 years ago, in time for Diya to finish her secondary studies, and to enrol in the Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) at the University of Melbourne.

‘School in Australia was very different to anything I had experienced in Abu Dhabi. I had the opportunity to take classes like legal studies, international law, politics and economics. I think it was those courses that grabbed my attention and really triggered my interest in understanding the wider world. They also got me interested in economics more generally, which is why I decided to pursue the BCom at Melbourne.’

Initially, it was this love of economics that drew Diya to the BCom, but her class work soon opened her eyes to the wonders of finance as well.

Diya John
Global Voices Scholar, Diya John

‘A friend asked me the other day, “why economics?”, and I realised that for me it was about understanding human behaviour, at the micro and macro level. When I started studying here, I was introduced to finance as well, which is more about the market, about valuations. It highlighted the intersection between the numbers and modelling, and forecasting, taking all of these assumptions into consideration. I found it intellectually stimulating, and with that economic approach it created a really nice balance, so that’s why I’ve gone for the double major.’

Diya’s interest in both people and the markets have leant themselves perfectly to her most recent endeavour as a Global Voices Scholar.

‘The Global Voices program was something that I’d had my eyes on for a while. It was the perfect opportunity to learn about international politics and economics, and how intergovernmental organisations facilitate discussions around topics like international trade, finance, and the like,’ she says. ‘The common theme of this year’s OECD was focused on immigration and people movement, which was something that appealed to me particularly as a new Aussie. And of course, there was discussion of COVID-19.’

Unfortunately, the implications of COVID-19 meant the Global Voices program had to adapt, and Diya’s planned trip to Paris was off the table, but she was still able to learn from the digital version of the program.

‘Normally, the program briefing would be held in Canberra before our departure. This year, it was held online, which had a silver lining in that we still had all the speakers they would normally get for Global Voices, but then the scope opened up as well, and there was an entire range of other speakers who were able to log on. We were also able to attend the IMF/World Bank annual meeting virtually, which was an incredible opportunity as well. And of course, I could enjoy the whole thing from the comfort of my bedroom. I’m hoping that I might be able to make the trip and do the overseas component in 2021.’

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The other element of the Global Voices program, which Diya is still able to participant in, is the production of a 2500-word policy paper on a topic of her choice.

‘For my paper I’m focusing on the untapped potential that can be extracted by breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. It’s been a great project to invest my time in while we’ve been in lockdown. At the moment, I’m looking at mapping the entrepreneur’s journey, from that point they first set foot in Australia to the time they make that decision to set up a business, and then later on, to think  about how can we really leverage the networks that we’ve created for refugee/asylum seeker enterprises to ensure that future entrepreneurs find it an easier , more accessible, process. It’s a project I’m really passionate about, and honestly, I think that’s the most important thing for us as students, to become invested in and pursue the things that we’re passionate about.’

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash