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Winners of the Victorian International Education Awards 2016

Stevi Lee

Fri Dec 09 2016


EXCEPTIONAL international students were celebrated recently for their positive contributions to international education in Victoria at the 2016 Victorian International Education Awards. Stevi Lee speaks with a few of these outstanding students the night of the awards ceremony.


Seven international students were recently rewarded for their exceptional accomplishments at the recent 2016 Victorian International Education Awards. The awards ceremony in November recognised the positive contributions that outstanding international students have made towards their studies and communities and also acknowledged the efforts of education institutions, companies and service providers in Victoria.

The winning students were chosen from a field of 28 nominees coming from 18 different countries. We spoke to some of the winning students on the night to get their thoughts on their victories and what winning means to them and the wider international student community.

Balaji Trichy Narayanaswamy (International Student of the Year – Regional)


During his studies at Deakin University, Doctor of Philosophy student Balaji Trichy Narayanswamy was awarded a full Postgraduate Research Scholarship and also nominated for two of the university’s Institute for Frontier Materials annual awards. Additionally, Balaji contributed greatly to the internationalisation of Deakin University by offering his insights and experiences as an academic mentor and International Orientation Coordinator for new international students.

Prior coming to Australia, Balaji admitted that he was nervous coming to a foreign country. Despite his anxiousness over adapting to a new environment, his nervousness soon disappeared as he quickly discovered the friendliness of Melbourne’s people.

“When I arrived, [my perspective] changed instantly and everything was easier and the people here are really nice,” he said.

Balaji is encouraging of any prospective international students to consider Melbourne as a study destination. He advises students to keep an open mind and become more open to the different cultures they will inevitably face in Melbourne.

“Try to explore as much as possible and you can expand your horizons,” he said.

Freddy Mata Mendoza (International Student of the Year – Vocational Education and Training) 


Venezuelan international student, Freddy Mata Mendoza, completed his study in Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology at Holmesglen Institute and was awarded International Student of the Year in VET.

For Freddy, he feels that Melbourne is the best option for international students looking to study abroad. Given Melbourne’s multicultural makeup, you’re likely to feel not as homesick given the many different types of people who live and work in the city.

“You will not feel homesick as you are always attending activities outside classrooms, placement programs related to your industry and other activities. [These] activities allow you to meet different people and broaden your network too,” he said.

Maria Victoria Gonzalez (International Student of the Year – English Language Training)


Echoing the same sentiments about Melbourne’s multiculturalism is Argentina’s Maria Victoria Gonzalez, who was awarded International Student of the Year in English Language Training. She has been studying in Melbourne since April.

“[Melbourne] is a very multicultural city, and right away you [will] feel like this is your second home [as] you will and can find someone from your country who has settled down here,” she said.

Maria, who came to improve her English language skills at Swinburne College, admitted that she is fortunate also to have access to different opportunities here as well. Her advice for students?

“[Given] the opportunities here in Australia, don’t limit yourself and continue to pursue that which you are most passionate about,” she said.

Her passion for healthcare and a career in the pharmaceutical industry ultimately led her to Australia where she has not only shown incredible improvement over her command of the English language, but has also contributed in discussion with peers over international pharmacology and health care issues.

Jessica Pandohee (International Student of the Year – Research)


Jessica Pandohee, recipient of VIEA’s International Student of the Year – Research award, is studying a PhD in Applied Chemistry at RMIT University. With her experience as international student, Jessica has helped new students at her university settle into their new environments and taught them to embrace the different cultures that lie ahead of them.

“My advice for the international students would be to always be ready to go outside your comfort zone and always be ready to speak to [other] people. Getting out more allows you to meet more people and it helps to develop your communication and networking skills,” she said.

Jessica hopes to continue to inspire other students and to raise more awareness about sustainability and conservation in the world. During her studies she was involved with the Australian Federation of International Students and was also a volunteer at Conservation Volunteer Australia where she assisted in the restoration of coastal areas around Geelong Bay. Following her award win, Jessica hopes to continue her research career in other countries such as Germany or France.

Wesa Chau (Victorian Student of the Year – Internationalisation)


The awards not only acknowledge the efforts of outstanding international students but also locals who have contributed positively to the international student community in Victoria in one way or another. Wesa Chau is a shining example of this and for her role in international education, she was awarded Victorian Student of the Year in Internationalisation.

The PhD student in Business Management at Swinburne University founded the Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) in 2002, a non-profit organisation that continues to provide significant support to international students in need here in Australia.

“It is very important for [locals] to be a good host for the international community,” she said.

And as good hosts, we make great connections; connections that enable to travel to her friends who live around the world.

“It’s not just about international students coming back to Australia, but it is also about us connecting to the world. And for me, engaging with international students is the best way to do it,” she said.

On what kind of advice she would give international students, Wesa added that joining clubs and societies at school and participating in their events and activities helped her gain skills useful both in academia and in the workplace; skills such as time management and task efficiency.

“Some of the skills gained from these experiences can be ultimately used for your entire life and careers too,” she added.


For the full list of VIEA 2016 winners, see below.

Providers Awards:

Excellence in International Education – TAFE
William Angliss *Highly Commended*

Excellence in International Education – University
Deakin University

Excellence in International Education – English Language
Deakin University English Language Institute

Excellence in International Education – Private Education & Training
Health Careers International

Excellence in International Student Experience
Australian Federation of International Students

Excellence in International Student Employability and Career Development
Impact English College

Excellence in Innovation in Partnership and International Engagement
The Monash Warwick Alliance
Deakin University – Save the Children *Highly Commended*

International Provider of the Year
Holmesglen Institute

Student Awards:

International Student of the Year – Vocational Education & Training (VET)
Freddy Mata Mendoza (Venezuela) – Holmesglen

International Student of the Year – English Language Training
Maria Gonzalez (Argentina) – Swinburne College

International Student of the Year – Higher Education
Sander Bredal (Norway) – University of Melbourne
Yuliana Sari (Indonesia) – Swinburne University *Highly Commended*

International Student of the Year – Regional
Balaji Trichy Narayanaswamy (India) – Deakin University

International Alumnus of the Year
Kashif Bouns (Pakistan) – Victoria University

International Student of the Year – Research
Jessica Pandohee (Mauritius) – RMIT University

Victorian Student of the Year – Internationalisation
Wesa Chau – Swinburne University

International Student of the Year (Overall)
Jessica Pandohee (Mauritius) – RMIT University