Applications are now open for the 2014 Michael and Deborah Thawley Scholarship in international security at the Lowy Institute. The closing date is Wednesday 4 December at 5pm.

The Scholarship is an exceptional opportunity for an emerging Australian strategic thinker — such as a junior official or postgraduate student — to take part in the work of two leading think tanks dedicated to generating original and policy oriented ideas and research on world affairs.

For a first-hand sense of what is involved, here are some observations from 2013 Thawley Scholar Jack Georgieff:

The opportunity to work at two of the world's top think tanks was a life-changing experience. After five years of academic study, I relished the chance to work in a professional policy environment.

My initial placement at the Lowy Institute allowed me to get to know what its experts were working on and reacting to (such as when North Korea tested another nuclear bomb). In particular I valued the opportunity to talk and seek guidance from senior research staff on what I should do with my time at CSIS. Such mentoring was an integral part of my initial placement at Lowy.

After a month at Lowy, I departed for Washington DC, arriving to a very chilly spring. My placement to work on alliance issues under Japan Chair Dr Michael Green allowed me to pursue a program of individual and collaborative research, participation in roundtables and CSIS conferences, and attending events at a number of think tanks around Washington DC. To be in the midst of some of the world's best strategic and political minds was enthralling. Not only that, but the ability to get face time with them in a way few young graduates do was intellectually and professionally the most satisfying part of my research placement.

The issue I focused on was alliances in the Indo-Pacific, particularly those the US has with Australia, Korea and Japan. It was striking how valued the Australian perspective on strategic issues was — many at CSIS (both senior and junior) were keen to hear my thoughts on how America was perceived in the framework of its 'rebalance'. My views on these alliances made me realise that they are more integral than ever for the success or failure of the rebalance strategy coming from Washington.

I also participated on a panel giving thoughts from an Australian perspective on China's ever increasing defence budget. The chance to share these views and interact with some of the top thinkers on this issue allowed me to see how complicated analysis of it really was. I came away from Washington with a much better understanding of the intellectual debates that take place. In an age of 24-hour news it is surprisingly difficult to understand the rich diversity of the world's most powerful country. My short time there helped.

Additionally, I was privileged to take part in the US-NZ Pacific Partnership Forum as a 'Future Leader', which gave me exposure to how Washington is engaging with New Zealand as a smaller partner in the Indo-Pacific. The conference included hearing six former US Trade Representatives on a single panel discuss the prospect of a Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, as well as a high-level panel discussing security issues, including Randy Shriver and the New Zealand Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones. Alongside my own work on alliances, participation at this conference made me realise how valuable a strong partnership with the US is for small countries.

By living and working in Washington DC, I got to know so much about the US and its people. I hope to one day to return to work there and further deepen the relationships and friendships the Thawley Scholarship allowed me to develop. It really is an experience I will value for the rest of my life.