On Tuesday, August 2nd, the International Student Leadership and Ambassador (ISLA) group held a completion ceremony in the grand Reception Room located in Town Hall. This reception was held to mark the successful completion of ISLA’s 2015/2016 program. The immaculate room was filled with people such as the international student ambassadors in the program, their friends and family, the students’ institution representatives, the police, Consulate Corp, international education sector key stakeholders, and NGOs. Guests were served delicious finger food as they socialized. Though the weather was damp, guests and student ambassadors didn’t let that dampen their mood and spirits.
Selected student ambassadors were given the chance to speak about their journey in this program. Mi Lainmar Oo, one of the student ambassadors, acknowledged in her speech that when she first arrived in Sydney, she struggled. She was nervous, homesick, and struggled to keep track of her life in university, just like any other international student. “If you get scared of doing something, are you going to end your life without doing anything?” is a question Mi Lainmar asked herself after a few months of studying here. She had realized that life within her comfort zones was not beneficial in any way and sought out a way to explore and push herself. That’s when she joined ISLA. She has found out who she is through the various self-development programs that ISLA offers. She’s greatly improved her confidence and found various ways to help the community.
Another noted speaker was Zaki Haidari. Even though Sydney was chilly, his speech warmed the hearts of everyone in the room. He spoke of how his father was the first in his family to be educated, a doctor. Because Afghanistan is a developing country, the medicine had to be imported from overseas and so, everything had to be written in English. His father would travel regularly to Kabul to collect medicine but one day, one journey back from Kabul in 2011, changed Zaki’s life. His father was stopped by the Taliban. His van searched. The Taliban found documents in English and accused his father of helping international organisations like NATO. Zaki has never heard from his father since. After that fateful day, he was targeted by the Taliban and spent 5 months traveling, seeking asylum.
The final part of his journey was the most frightening, Zaki was traveling from Jakarta to Christmas Island but instead of the trip taking 24 hours, he spent 5 days at sea. Zaki came to Australia to seek asylum and to seek peace. With only $100, limited English, no access to education or work rights, Zaki was isolated and stumped. But with the support from the Australian community, he was given a 3 year scholarship from Martin College. His education dream was becoming true, something that was impossible back in Afghanistan. When he first started at Martin College, he had only a few international students so he was really keen on meeting other international folks. In 2015, he was given the opportunity to join ISLA.
That was the first group that made him feel part of the community, through the events and workshops provided. He can clearly see the changes when comparing when he first started out and where he is now — he was shy and cannot speak in public. But through ISLA, he has been given many opportunities to step out of his comfort zone and talk about his experiences in front of crowds. And through his involvement with ISLA, he’s been awarded the NSW International Student Of The Year Award.
At the end of the speeches, the audience was treated to an original song written by one of the ambassadors. “You Are My World” was a heartfelt song written by Tian Qin. She reflects on the adventures she had over the past 18 months with her fellow ISLA student ambassadors. Everyone was attentive while Tian Qin and her friend, Joanita Wubowo, along with two guitarists performed the original. “I am strong when you’re with me…I’m home when I’m with ISLA…Forever I wish I could stay,” sang Tian Qin and her friend. The song made me realize how tight of a bond they’ve created with each other at ISLA and I found myself itching to join and establishing connections with other international students.
Through ISLA and the City of Sydney, student ambassadors have been able to meet new friends, get to know more about the city, and build leadership skills of youth leaders in the communities. Examples of events coordinated by ISLA and the City of Sydney include Journey to the Center of Sydney tours for newly-arrived international students, international student networking events, employment panel to provide advice and support to other international students, and a Youth Leadership Conference for both local and international students to develop their leadership skills.
To conclude, Susana Ng, the Senior Community Program Officer, gave a short and sweet speech congratulating the ambassadors. “Standing here today, I can’t help but feel like a proud parent, attending my kids’ graduation ceremony,” remarked Susana as the audience chuckled. She recollects the purpose of ISLA and how each and every one of the ambassadors have achieved their goals to aid and build strong international youth leaders. She then congratulated all those that made the ISLA program possible, the Mayor, Councillor Kok, the City of Sydney and their interns, international education partners, government and non government organisations.
“In the next few weeks, we will start our new round of ISLA recruitment,” Susana informs.
“So please encourage your students to apply and promote the ISLA program to your network.” Concluding her speech, Susana quotes an ancient Chinese proverb on friendship and urges the student ambassadors to stay connected to each other, Sydney, and Australia no matter how close or far away they may be
“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle but it would never break.”
The night ends with some more socializing before everyone is ushered out by security. Waiters continued serving food to the guests as they finished up their round of networking. We say our thanks to Susana for inviting the VOIS team to this prestigious event that certainly opened my eyes to such an amazing opportunity as an international student. To quote Zaki’s friend Fabian, “If you live in Sydney, you don’t need to travel the world because you have the world in Sydney.”
What’s it like for you to study in Sydney as an international student? Use the hashtag #myfuturesydney to read about other students’ stories or to publish your own!
Last modified: August 9, 2016