Ebony Watts almost passed up the opportunity to study abroad in 2021 before she lodged a last minute New Colombo Plan scholarship application.
The federal government scholarship supports Australian undergraduate students to live, work, study and immerse themselves in the Indo-Pacific region.
Ms Watts is one of five La Trobe University students selected to enrich their studies overseas for up to a year thanks to the scholarship.
"When La Trobe sent out an email asking for expression of interest, I read it and thought I would never stand a chance," Ms Watts said.
"It was only a few weeks later when the deadline approached that I decided to give it a shot."
"I imagined scholarships of a global scale would be more suited to students studying commerce or law."
Having completed the second year of a Bachelor of Secondary Education, Ms Watts intends to spend a semester at Japan's Kyushu University.
"Finding out I was successful has changed my perspective on the importance of educators in an international scale," Ms Watts said.
The aspiring history teacher said a desire to immerse herself in Japanese culture and history drew her to the country.
"The chance to study and live in a major city and experience a different culture to what I am used to in Bendigo really appealed to me," Ms Watts said.
Eager to ensure her future classrooms are inclusive learning environments, Ms Watts said the opportunity to learn about the Japanese culture and custom was important.
"I believe it's important to understand a range of cultures to ensure my future classrooms are inclusive places," she said.
Educated in Bendigo, Ms Watts said her learning experiences have not always been smooth.
"Having autism has been like going on a long journey," she said.
"If you look at me when I was a lot younger, I was affected by it and had to overcome a lot of obstacles to be a successful student.
"Autism just makes things a tiny bit harder."
Undeterred by her diagnosis, Ms Watts said she is passionate about improving the outcomes of students with autism.
"As someone who has had to struggle, I feel like I've got a lot of empathy and understanding towards people who are struggling to pick things up," she said.
La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) Professor Richard Speed congratulated the five La Trobe students from the university's campuses on navigating a challenging and competitive application and selection process.
"These talented, articulate and ambitious La Trobe students are about to embark on a life-changing adventure that will both broaden and deepen their knowledge of their chosen fields," Professor Speed said.
"It will also give them the chance to experience life and learn a language among the diverse cultures of our region."