THE annual Victorian International School Students Awards celebrated the achievements of international high school students who’ve made positive contributions to their local and school communities and succeeded academically. Samantha Chew reports.
Recognising the achievements and successes of teen-aged international students, the 2016 Victorian International School Student Awards, hosted on May 13, was a celebration of the efforts made by a selection of outstanding international students who during their high school education contributed significantly to their local and school communities.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier Judith Graley, opened the awards ceremony and spoke fondly about the award recipients, citing their enthusiasm within and beyond education as aspects that make them special and separate them from their peers.
With awards in Academic Excellence, Arts Achievement, Community Engagement, Global Citizenship, Sports, and Leadership for students in Year 11 and 12, Ms Graley, also a former teacher, said the Victorian International School Student Awards was her favourite event of the year and enjoyed witnessing proud parents celebrating their children’s achievements.
Ms. Jingqi (Maily) Wang, who was awarded the Year 12 Academic Excellence Award in 2015, also spoke at the ceremony about her experience as an international student.
Before coming to Australia, Ms Wang was labelled a nerd and felt ashamed of her interests in academia. This all changed however after coming to study in Australia, where Ms Wang was encouraged instead to pursue her interests in science. Ms Wang is now studying biomedicine at the University of Melbourne.
Following Ms Wang’s achievements from last year, this year’s cohort of recognised students also look to lead by example.
Xuzhong Duan (Year 12 Community Engagement Award and International School Student of the Year Ambassador)
The recipient of this year’s prestigious International School Student of the Year Ambassador Award went to Chinese student Xuzhong Duan, who also received the Year 12 Community Engagement Award.
During his studies at Mount Clear College, Xuzhong made various contributions to the Ballarat community and made an aim to aid those undergoing similar circumstances he went through when he came over to study.
Having joined the Centre for Multicultural Youth of Ballarat and becoming a member of its youth advisory group, Xuzhong has helped newly-arrived young migrants settle into Ballarat, and in the process has brought people of all different backgrounds together.
He and his peers have organised resume writing classes and connected work-seeking youths to local employers. He has also made contributions to the City of Ballarat by being involved in its Harmony Festival, which celebrates the community’s multiculturalism. Additionally, Xuzhong has provided peer support to new international students.
“Coming from a completely different culture really [gave] me a chance to experience a whole new range of things that I was not exposed to before.”
Academically, he has also strived consistently towards his goals and says that studying in Victoria has helped him learn “so many new things”, much of which came from outside of school.
“Coming from a completely different culture really [gave] me a chance to experience a whole new range of things that I was not exposed to before,” he said.
On his study and social life balance, Xuzhong said, “It’s very important as well as very difficult to find a balance if you feel like [you’re] studying too much or not studying enough. It’s very hard [even] for me to keep the balance but I’m still trying”.
Xuzhong is now a student at the University of Melbourne studying Commerce.
When asked about advice he would like to give to international students, Xuzhong advised students to try and embrace the new culture in front of them.
“[It] is definitely very different from the [culture] from where [you] come from [but] just try to not hold back [and] move forward and try to get engaged with the community and people around you. Try to be more active in any way possible.”
Minh Thao Nhu Duong (Year 12 Arts Achievement, Student Leadership and Commendation in Global Citizenship Awards)
Earning not one but three awards, Minh Thao Nhu Duong — formerly from Brighton Secondary College and now studying industrial design at Monash University — personified international student excellence with her awards in Year 12 Arts Achievement, Student Leadership and commendation in Global Citizenship.
The Vietnamese student’s vested interest in visual and design arts has earned her a shortlisted spot on the VCE Top Design Season of Excellence 2016 and a place in the next edition of the Visual Communication Textbook.
Showing conviction behind her appreciation for design and the arts, the high-achieving student (who also goes by the name Sue) believed in her passion, never feeling like it was a responsibility and thus has had fun along the way.
“Find what suits you and do it with maximum level of enjoyment and commitment.”
In addition to her academic achievements, Sue has also made contributions to the community. Elected in the past as the International Student Captain at her school, Sue has organised various events such as the International Choir, International Week and the Year 12 Final Assembly at her high school.
She has also made contributions in the form of volunteering, where she has assisted in a soup kitchen and helped with fundraising efforts for the Salvation Army.
On advice she had for international students, Sue reminded students to simply have fun with the overseas study experience.
“When you have fun you work at your best ability and you bring joy and happiness to other people as well. That’s my tip: find what suits you and do it with maximum level of enjoyment and commitment.”
Saran Kim (Year 11 Arts Achievement Award)
Having won the Year 11 Arts Achievement Award, Saran Kim is incredibly passionate about music and visual arts.
Saran is a student at Mater Christi College where she is a member of the school orchestra, jazz band, rock band, and other small ensembles. She plays the piano, drums, and saxophone. Hailing from Japan, Saran says that she was a little lonely when she first had to adjust to life here in Melbourne. She was the only Japanese student at her school and didn’t have a chance to interact with someone in her own language.
On overcoming this obstacle, Saran advised students to challenge themselves by approach local students, talking with their teacher and engaging with their host families.
“Try not to stay in your own comfort zone,” Saran said.
“[O]ne of the reasons I chose to come to Victoria to study was [because] I have a lot of opportunities to see wonderful art works and architectural buildings and exhibits.”
Since then, she has encountered success, generating a portfolio that includes various art and mixed media pieces. Her work has been exhibited at national, state and community exhibitions and she has received a number of awards for them as well. Her highlighted work, “Nuclei”, was an art project that depicted the impact of the Fukushima disaster in Japan by way of postal stamps.
Her obvious love for the arts was a factor in her decision on coming to Victoria to study.
“I [have] loved art since I was in primary school and one of the reasons I chose to come to Victoria to study was [because] I have a lot of opportunities to see wonderful art works and architectural buildings and exhibits”, Saran explained.
Aspiring to pursue architecture in university, the student artist has also contributed to her community through the performing arts. In school, she is a member of the Arts Committee, International Student Council and was elected College Co-Captain this year.
These are just some of the students who walked away with the major awards on the day. The full list of winners on the day include:
Academic Excellence Award: Yijia “Julie” Shen (Balwyn Highschool)
Community Engagement Award: Hechong “Iris” Lin (Balwyn High School)
Global Citizen Award: Jixingzi “Cyn” Liu
Sports Achievement Award: Jiaming “Jasmine” Chao (Charles La Trobe College)
Student Leadership Award: Yuxiao “Henry” Zhang (Mount Clear College)
Arts Achievement Award: Saran Kim (Mater Christi College)
Academic Excellence Award: Ying “Winnie” Li ( Aquinas College)
Community Engagement Award: Xuzhong Duan (Mont Clear College)
Global Citizen Award: Haotian “Charlie” Jia (The Knox School)
Student Leadership Award: Minh Thao Nhu “Sue” Duong (Brighton Secondary College)
Arts Achievement Award: Minh Thao Nhu “Sue” Duong (Brighton Secondary College)
International Student of the Year Award: Xuzhong Duan (Mount Clear College)