Introduced in 2014, the New Colombo Plan (NCP) represents the Australian government's signature initiative of student mobility and public diplomacy. The programme aims to expose Australian undergraduate students to the Indo-Pacific. This article focuses on analysing Australian students’ experiences in Asia via the NCP. The article draws on a research project that includes policy discourse analysis and 52 interviews with government representatives, academics, mobility officers and Australian students learning abroad via the NCP. The research found that if well designed, NCP student mobility programmes have the potential to enable students to move beyond their initial instrumental goal of using learning abroad predominantly as a means to pursue their personal interest in travel and/or enhance their own employability towards engagement for the collective. The article proposes the notions of mobility as becoming and mobility as connecting as the conceptual frame to understand Australian students’ experiences and engagement with Asia in the current context characterised by the government's strategy to use student mobility as a vehicle of public diplomacy. It highlights the need to focus more on developing students’ in-country participatory capitals and build a coherent mechanism to sustain NCP alumni's post-return engagement with individuals and communities in the region and promote the region back in Australia. The article concludes with suggestions for related stakeholders to facilitate students’ roles in making meaningful, productive and sustainable connections between Australia and Asia.