Home | International Education | From Mauritius to Sri Lanka: awards put the spotlight on high-flying international students
Attendees at City of Parramatta’s International Student Welcome Event. Photo: Supplied

From Mauritius to Sri Lanka: awards put the spotlight on high-flying international students

A broadcaster, a student engineer and a future nurse are among the finalists for awards that celebrate international students’ contributions to society.

Department of Industry director Peter Mackey said the annual NSW International Student Awards, managed by StudyNSW, reinforce the benefits of international education to the broader state community.

“From Homebush Boys High’s Duy Quang Mai, who has actively volunteered for numerous school support programs and his local Salvos Store, to Macquarie University’s Vidushi Bhagwanani, who encourages women in STEM to play a more active role in the community, these finalists embody the positive impact international students have on our cultural capital, our global networks, and our communities,” Mackey said.

Awards panellist Mary Ann Seow said the high calibre of finalists demonstrated the massive contribution of international education to the broader NSW community.

International education brought in over 300,000 NSW enrolments last year and contributed over $10.3 billion and 46,000 jobs.

“But the bigger picture contribution of international education to Australia is the chance for cultures to learn from each other for the overall betterment of society,” said Seow, an International Education Association (ISANA) past president.

“These students have not only taken the opportunity of moving to NSW to gain a first class education, they have stepped outside their comfort zones to expand their experience beyond the classroom and enrich the lives of others.”

Sounds like home

University of New England PhD student Nirosha Kumudini Ranawaka, originally from Sri Lanka, was last week named a finalist for her dedication to volunteer work.

Awards organisers said Ranawaka has become known as someone to go to for advice on settling into the local community.

They added her series of SBS broadcasts in the Sinhala language – which she worked with the station to set up after seeing a need – has positioned her as a leader for the Sri Lankan community throughout Australia.

Topics on the program are designed to help international students and new arrivals, while others are on areas like entomology and environmental science, for which Ranawaka has a passion.

Engineering equality

Fellow finalist Macquarie University’s Vidushi Bhagwanani is a passionate advocate for gender equality, cultural diversity and promoting the work of women in STEM fields.

Born in Delhi, India, Bhagwanani began her Bachelor of Engineering in 2015. Just two years later, she became a student ambassador with Engineers Australia.

Earlier this year, she was selected as president of Macquarie’s Engineering Society.

The awards team said Bhagwanani continues to support fellow students and the broader community through her mentoring work, study tours and excursions, industry events and fundraising — she played a pivotal role in the university raising $98,000 for cancer and motor neurone disease research.

And Bhagwanani isn’t looking to slow down. “I feel like my journey of life has just begun and I have a long way ahead to contribute to society on a large scale,” she said.

Hearts and crafts

Finalist in the Vocational Education and Training category Marie Sorenza Rebecca Olivette, from TAFE NSW, came to Australia eight years ago from the harbour capital of Mauritius, Port Louis.

Awards organisers said Olivette is known for her “heart of gold and a love for life that is contagious”.

While undertaking a Diploma of Nursing at TAFE NSW Glendale, Olivette also donates her time to Food Pantry, an organisation that provides staples to families in need.

She also sings at local retirement homes, and runs children’s craft and reading sessions.

In her final year at school, she headed to Cambodia on a school mission with Restore One, an organisation dedicated to breaking the poverty cycle in South East Asia.

International students Parra-matter

Away from the individual awards, the City of Parramatta was named a community and business finalist for its International Student Welcome Event.

Launched last year, the celebration brought together international students from the area’s growing number of education providers along with representatives from a range of local businesses and services.

Last year’s NSW Australian of the Year Deng Adut gave a keynote speech at the event.

Feedback from students indicated it helped them meet new people and broaden their network.

Winners across all categories will be announced at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney on 25 September.

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