When you’re far away from home, friendly faces, a good Australian breakfast and a warm welcome from UWA graduates and staff can be just what is needed to help transition into a new country.
More than twenty international Australia Awards students experienced just that when they met volunteer mentors at an introduction breakfast designed to give them a taste of Australian life.
Volunteer alumni, several of them UWA staff, were paired with students who will study at UWA through the Australian Government sponsored Australia Awards for Development program.
The students come from various developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region, and, in addition to post-graduate study, they are still finding their feet in a foreign land.
While they get a comprehensive orientation program and engage in cultural transition workshops, it can take some time for students to settle in to their new environment.
In the true spirit of community, volunteer alumni and staff have embraced the role of ‘buddy’ to these new international students.
More than just a friendly face, volunteers are mentors who will reconnect with students over at least one additional activity: a bbq, dinner or outdoor event that immerses them in Australian life while offering tips for overcoming challenges and enjoying a successful study experience.
Mark Stickells, UWA's Director of Business Development, was one of the volunteers welcoming students to campus. For him, the benefits of being involved in programs like this are many.
“As an alumnus and staff member, I can offer a friendly welcome to a person new to our campus and city, and also provide much needed support as the students orientate in their studies at UWA,” Mark says.
“This was the first time I have participated in this program in support of the Australia Awards. My impressions were all positive and I believe in the positive role alumni and staff play as ambassadors for our University.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the value created in interactions with our nominated students and with other mentors,” Mark says.
This volunteer initiative is another example of how our alumni community are making a positive difference in the life of a student.
Wilckyster Nyateko Ogutu, a PhD student from Kenya, hopes to connect with alumni who study or work in a related field.
As an agricultural economist she chose UWA as a premier institution where she will be able to undertake advanced research.
“I wanted to study in an atmosphere that would mould me as a scholar in a diverse social and multi-cultural environment in which I will expand my social as well as professional networks”, she says.
Following the completion of their studies, Australian Awards students tend to return to their home countries with strong ties to Perth, an affinity to the University and a burning desire to use the knowledge they have gained for the betterment of their homelands.
If you are a staff member and a graduate of UWA and would like to make a difference in the lives of students through meaningful volunteer opportunities simply update your details and we’ll reach out.