Amrit Pal Kaur has come a long way since 2016. She had just arrived in Armidale, Australia, to start her PhD at the University of New England’s School of Rural and Environmental Sciences under the supervision of Professor Nigel Andrew in the Insect Ecology Laboratory. UNE was her first choice and she was excited to take her research to the next level.
But being away from her family, she got homesick. She thought she would dance the pain away at Culture Fest in 2016. Representing India through dance and food, she felt she had gained a home away from home, making friends from all over the world and even enjoying the possibilities of forging meaningful global connections. Inspired and appreciated, she got started on organising Culture Fest 2017, as well as the many campus events involved, from Open Days to Friday Feasts, from Global Connections to sporting events. Soon, she became the UNE International Student Ambassador, advising and supporting future students on study options.
Three years later, she won the 2019 NSW International Student of the Year award for her outstanding contributions to the NSW communities, as well as her excellence in international student community engagement.
“Studying at the University of New England, NSW [represents a] turning point [in] my personal growth and development,” she said.
All this wouldn’t be possible without the support of university staff and programmes. Amrit credits UNE for the impressive trajectory of her personal and professional growth in this short space of time.
“The opportunity I was given to participate in different activities held at UNE…has improved my confidence level, improved my language, social behavior, my understanding about different cultural and traditional values, developed respect for different languages, and polished my leadership qualities and time management skills,” she explained.
Located in Armidale, UNE offers more than 200 courses at undergraduate, postgraduate coursework and higher degree research levels, with options to study online or on campus. It’s well-known as Australia’s most experienced provider of online education, but experiences like Amrit’s show that UNE has much more to offer. This is a university that turns international students into future leaders.
Amrit follows a long line of international students who weren’t just great ambassadors for NSW but were also recognised as future leaders and advocates for trade, diplomacy and research links. Iraqi Dunya Alruhaimi, who won the award in 2015 for identifying gaps in migrants’ and international students’ living experience in Australia. She organised a women’s group and connected it to a local support group to help with English lessons and adjusting to life in Armidale. She also supported partners of students who spoke only Arabic by attending medical or school appointments to translate for them.
Other finalists came from countries as diverse as China, Egypt and Sri Lanka, proactively putting themselves forward as volunteers for UNE events and within the local community. From nursing homes to local schools, they look for opportunities to make their adopted community better.
There’s no doubt that these students possess a lot of talent. It may seem that their achievements – all of which took place at UNE – are random, but that’s not entirely true, according to Bronwyn Gilson, UNE’s Manager International Compliance.
There are many ways UNE helps international students make an impact during their study abroad stint here. One key factor is the passion of the UNE International division.
Whether it’s to get financial aid, to improve their academic English language skills or even to get help settling down in a foreign land, international students receive all the support they need from UNE International.
Staff are on the ball, knowing who their students are, what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. Doing this allows them to find the right students for the many opportunities to volunteer on campus, such as Orientation, Open Day, UNEI Buddy Program, Culture Fest and many other events and activities in the community.
There are many important skills students gain from these experiences, says Gilson, who is also the President of ISANA (International Education Association), a role that brings her into contact with key stakeholders in International Education within Australia – including StudyNSW.
“It is such a long list. Problem solving; teamwork; working with people from other cultures; moving out of their comfort zone; seeing the many different approaches there can be to a problem and understanding why some people, cultures or countries approach them in a particular way. Breaking down stereotypes simply by working beside a local person and putting their children into the local schools. Learning and understanding the value of tolerance and acceptance and appreciation of differences,” she said.
All this and more could be yours if you apply to UNE.
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