Australia’s leading international student news website

Cutting EDGE: leadership program for international students

Iona Salter

Fri Jan 20 2012

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle with EDGE International Student Leadership Program students

MELBOURNE’S Lord Mayor has launched the first EDGE program to prepare international students to be business leaders in “the Asian business century”.

Twenty of Melbourne's best and brightest international students with Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Photo City of Melbourne.

Twenty of Melbourne's best and brightest international students with Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Photo City of Melbourne.

A GROUP of international students has met Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle as he launched the first EDGE International Student Leaders Program on Wednesday.

The Melbourne City Council is providing the students – who come from countries as varied as Kenya, Malaysia, Italy and Kazakhstan – with six weeks of career development activities and networking opportunities.

The Mayor tells Meld it will be a great outcome if the students take skills gained from the program back to their home countries, but he also hopes the course will encourage them to think of Melbourne as a good place to stay and work or start a business.

“We can rely on these students to get the body of knowledge that they need from their [universities, TAFES or colleges] but they’re going to need more than just a body of knowledge, they’re going to need a flexibility, they’re going to need an adaptability, and I think a wider awareness and understanding,” Cr Doyle says, adding that this more cultural view of learning is necessary in the “Asian business century”.

The 20 students were selected for showing outstanding leadership in their fields, and in international student or community advocacy.

They will be assisted to develop a “global CV”, as well as taking part in mock interviews, networking role-plays, and real networking experiences with industry leaders.

One of the students, Sri Lankan Jeewan Rathnayaka, says he thinks the program will be a really good experience because the students come from so many different nationalities and cultures. The business student, who says he barely ever saw different nationalities back home, thinks Melbourne’s multiculturalism is one of its biggest drawcards.

Jeewan, who is also an avid cricket player, was selected because of his volunteer work with NGOs.

“In my country there are areas where people are suffering from poverty and the kids parents, they want them to work, not go to school. And we encourage them to go to school, and we try to change parents’ mentality,” he says.

Jeewan also notes that the same issues – poverty and mental illness – often affect international students, with many of them struggling to cover the cost of rent and food.

Another advocate of international student issues is Malaysian Garry Kuan. Gary was President of the Victoria University International Students Association for two years, and also works with the Council of International Students Australia on student safety issues.

His academic field, however, is sports psychology. In research for his PhD, Gary is using brain scans and physiological feedback to find out which types of music can improve athletic performance if listened to before competing. He says classical music is so far proving the best, as it helps people to clear their minds and focus.

Going places: EDGE facilitator Kathy Lang and the City of Melbourne's Gary Lee present students with their suitcase-shaped welcome packs

Going places: EDGE facilitator Kathy Lang and the City of Melbourne's Gary Lee present students with their suitcase-shaped welcome packs. Photo City of Melbourne.

Cr Doyle showed the students around his office at the Melbourne Town Hall, joking with them that they could call him by his formal title – the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor – or “just call me Robert, if you prefer”.

“They are remarkable young people, I admire them so much,” Cr Doyle told Meld later.

“They’ve come from all parts of the world. They’ve left family and friends behind. They’re here to work hard and study hard.”

Another participant is Italian Master of Arts Management student Matteo Rubbettino. Matteo originally came to Melbourne for a program with SBS radio but was inspired to stay and study.

“You feel straight away there is just a whole lot of opportunities and the way the environment’s so dynamic you feel so inspired and attracted by Melbourne,” he says.

Matteo put on a World Migrants Day exhibition that showcased art by migrants in Melbourne representing the process of migration and adaption to Australian culture. He is currently putting together an exhibition of photos of the Italian community.

Jin Cheng, or Sandy, has also undertaken her Masters in Arts Management. The current Diploma of Management student from China is a professional dancer, choreographer and dance teacher.

“Dancers cannot dance forever,” Sandy jokes.

“I still dance now but I’m planning my future career as an arts manager.”

Sandy had already established a career in China before coming to Australia, but says she loves studying.

“[In China] I never stopped to learn so I think this is a great opportunity. And in Australia I’m working and I’m studying, which can help me to understand the culture.”

Cr Doyle says he hopes the program will continue after this round of students, but it may not be possible every year.