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Farhana Afrin Mouni had heard about Darwin –– the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory. It was often called “Australia’s best-kept secret.” When she arrived at Charles Darwin University  (CDU) in 2020 to pursue a master’s degree, she understood why. Farhana felt at home the second she arrived. The city’s fresh air and tropical climate reminded her of her hometown in Bangladesh. She found the local community diverse and warm. A university representative greeted her with a sign of her name in hand. He drove her straight to her student accommodation, International House Darwin, and introduced her to everyone she needed to know.

Welcomes like these are common for international students who choose CDU. They make everyone feel as if they have found a “second home” –– a feeling Farhana has chased for years.

Her Australian adventure began in Melbourne. Three of her cousins had pursued an international education in this country –– all of whom built rewarding lives in the process. When the time came for her to choose where to study, she knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Charles Darwin University

Farhana enjoys every minute spent in classrooms, particularly when lessons revolve around education policy. Source: Charles Darwin University

Farhana’s undergraduate studies in Melbourne were followed by two years of professional experience. Each role was rewarding. She made full use of her international development degree, adding value at the likes of UNICEF Australia, the Victorian Government, and the National Australia Bank.

While she did find success in Melbourne, she always knew it wasn’t the city for her. The busy lifestyle was overwhelming at times.

Her work as a student services officer at Holmes Institute Australia had started to ignite a desire in her to leave a bigger professional impact.  As part of her professional responsibilities in the institution, she was in constant contact with Year 11 and Year 12 students in need of guidance and eager to play a bigger role in their lives.

Farhana remembered teaching was in her DNA. Both her parents were teachers by profession and equally passionate about positively impacting the lives of learners. Determined to pursue a path with purpose, she began exploring her options to become a teacher.

“I got my degree in international development to help uplift communities with social development or social change,” she says. “Eventually, I realised that education is the best way to kickstart the process –– specifically secondary education.”

Farhana knew she needed a qualification from a well-known, well ranked university, CDU –– a top 100 university in the Asia Pacific (THE – Asia-Pacific University Ranking 2019), the number one Australian university for postgraduate full-time employment outcomes and number 2 Australian university for undergraduate full-time employment outcomes (Good Universities Guide 2022).

She chose CDU’s Master of Teaching, which qualifies its graduates to teach at early childhood, primary or secondary levels. Farhana’s decision proved to be fruitful. She enjoys every minute spent in classrooms, particularly when lessons revolve around education policy. These sessions taught her the importance of teaching students in the most effective ways possible. Throughout, her lecturers led by example.

“It’s a two-way education,” she says. “Educators here listen to us as much as we listen to them, so classroom experiences are amazing. I’ve also made a lot of friends through our regular group assignments or projects.”

Through CDU’s frequent cultural programmes, Farhana was able to connect with students of various backgrounds. Just recently, she attended the Nepalese festival. Not too long ago, the university hosted a grand Bangladeshi soiree.

Charles Darwin University

Giving back helped Farhana get through some of her toughest times in lockdown. She joined the Australian Red Cross Emergency Services Team and eventually the CDU-supported Kindness Shake initiative. Source: Charles Darwin University

Farhana and her new friends love Darwin, exploring its waterfront, wave pools, restaurants, the Ferris wheel, and free events. Drive through one of the city’s pristine streets and you might find them handing out juicy mangoes to civilians.

Although Darwin had remained relatively COVID-19 free, there were a couple of short lockdowns over the past two years. Giving back helped Farhana get through some of her toughest times in lockdown. She joined the Australian Red Cross Emergency Services Team and eventually the CDU-supported Kindness Shake initiative, where students would spend their free time giving out meals to international students experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Farhana learned of the Destination Australia Scholarship, which is an Australian Government award, through the CDU scholarship portal. Of course, she got it. Shortly after, her voluntary efforts paid off with the International House Darwin Community Scholarship — an award reserved for students who have demonstrated academic and community excellence. For Farhana, earning these prestigious scholarships eased the financial responsibility of her higher education in regional Australia and unlocked many networking opportunities down the road.

While most students would struggle to balance the two, Farhana does it with ease. In fact, she’s just as much of a professional as she is a student or humanitarian. Thankfully, Darwin’s economy is healthy enough to accommodate. It wasn’t long until Farhana landed her job as an Administrative Officer at the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Health. She’s a proud member of its child and adolescent mental health team.

“I’m learning a lot,” she says. “I feel so lucky to be able to interact with children that could one day be my students.”

Farhana is also preparing for that day with her internship. She is currently serving as a pre-service secondary teacher at Darwin High School — one of the city’s most selective. “I’m pretty lucky to be completing my third placement at the same school where I finished my first and second. It’s almost unheard of, but with help from the CDU placement office, anything is possible,” she explains.

“It was initially challenging to study as normal throughout the pandemic period, but having wonderful support from the University, I am now very close to complete my study in Masters of Teaching”.  Upon graduating, Farhana hopes to remain in Darwin. “I can’t leave!” she says. “Regardless of where my career takes me, I will forever be indebted to CDU and all the amazing people I’ve met here in Darwin. This city has enriched my life in ways other places could not.”

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