Victoria’s best international high school students were recently recognised for their outstanding contributions towards community and their excellence in academia and leadership at the 2017 Victorian International School Student Awards.
Hosted annually at Parliament House, the awards ceremony showcased the diverse talent that international students possess and the positive impact they bring to the state’s education community.
In her opening address, Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier, Judith Graley noted that the students honoured at the awards ceremony had “risen above the unique challenges faced by international students” — challenges such as being in a new country and learning a new language — to thrive in their schools and in their communities, thus making their achievements truly unique.
Executive Director for International Education at the Department for Education and Training, Victoria, Joel Backwell, concurred with Ms Graley’s statements and further added that governing bodies and local communities, now more than ever, needed to make sure “that instead of closing our doors and putting up walls, we are putting out our hands to understand a little bit more about each other”.
Following these opening statements, last year’s recipient of the Year 12 Community Engagement Award and the prestigious International School Student of the Year Ambassador, Xuzhong Duan, spoke about his experience as Victorian international student and the assistance he provided to other international students living in the Ballarat area. Now a commerce student at the University of Melbourne, he continues to actively help other international students and believes that while academics are important, it was also important to contribute where you can. He believes that every student’s contribution is important and is “a big part of the reason why Victoria is such a good place for international students.”
The celebratory event was also made all the more joyful with a mesmerising performance by Templestowe College’s Hyekyung (Bella) Park, the recipient of the Year 11 Arts Achievement (Visual Arts) Award, who performed the song ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from the Disney film, Moana. An aspiring illustrator, Bella hopes to study Bachelor of Design at RMIT upon completing her VCE studies and wishes to pursue a career in animation.
Bella is also joined by the following elite international high school students with whom Meld spoke with.
Yifang (Yvonne) Chen – International School Student of the Year and Year 12 Student Leadership Award
The winner of this year’s prestigious International School Student of the Year award was Yifang (Yvonne) Chen of Strathmore Secondary College.
The Chinese native excelled academically, participated in extra-curricular activities and maintained her leadership positions with skill and grace. Yvonne worked tirelessly as Strathmore Secondary College’s International Student Captain by ensuring events fostering friendships between international and school students were delivered and that her fellow international students were participating activities outside of the classroom.
Additionally, she has worked with her fellow student leaders to improve the environment through increased recycling facilities at school, and helped raise funds for a Year 12 farewell lunch and a graduation dinner.
Yvonne gave an inspiring speech upon receiving her awards.
“I have gone through bright and dark days, but hope helped me reach here. So for all those studying in Victorian secondary colleges, my wish for you is to become your own hope. Be the one to start your adventure and to break the ice. People need that. No matter how hard you think you are struggling with your studies, your friendships and your development, keep the hope alive, and keep trying. Don’t stop. Keep the hope alive.”
Yvonne is currently a student at the University of Melbourne pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree and has plans to enter a career in civil engineering.
Nan (Nancy) Gao – Year 12 Global Citizenship Award
Nancy Gao, the recipient for this year’s Year 12 Global Citizenship Award, is passionate about sharing her culture and bringing others together. Charismatic and a true all-rounder, Nancy has coordinated many events at Caulfield Grammar School for students to celebrate each other’s cultures. These events include the International Week activities, Mid-Autumn Festival and Lunar New Year festivities. She has also organised talks highlighting mental health, co-edited the annual Overseas Students Magazine and actively participates in badminton, debating, and chamber choir.
Through all of this, Nancy says she has “learnt more about Australian culture” and about global citizenship.
Her advice for future international students? “Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Being in a new environment is scary, but if you embrace the opportunity, it can be a great experience.”
Nancy is currently at the University of Melbourne studying Commerce, but has plans to further her studies at the Imperial College in London.
Ziyu (Mike) Chen – Year 12 Sports Achievement Award
A tennis and badminton champion, Ziyu (Mike) Chen truly exemplifies what it means to be a lover of sports. Mike has won an array of sporting awards in both Australia and his homeland of China. These awards include the Shandong Province Singles and Doubles Champion, the China Open Tournament Championships Primer, China Nike Cup Singles Runner-Up, Associated Catholic Colleges (ACC) Open Badminton Runner-Up, ACC Open Tennis Runner-up and most recently the Victorian Badminton Open Tournament, where Mike came in third place. At his school, Whitefriars College, he was voted Badminton Captain in 2016.
Mike understands the role sports can play in transcending language, connecting people and forging friendships. He was honoured to have received the award, and is currently studying at Swinburne University pursuing a degree in Bachelor of Science, majoring in Applied Mathematics.
Mike has plans to become a teacher and wishes to continue contributing to the community and maybe even become a professional tennis player. His advice to international students coming to Victoria to study for the first time is simply this: “Enjoy yourselves, be safe, study hard and don’t waste your time.”
These are just some of the brilliant students who walked away with awards that day. The full list of winners at the 2017 Victorian International School Student Awards include:
Academic Excellence Award: Hao (Coco) Dong (Balwyn High School)
Arts Achievement (Visual Arts) Award: Hyekyung (Bella) Park (Templestowe College)
Community Engagement Award: Thuy Ngan (Christina) Vuong (Keilor Downs College)
Global Citizenship Award: Yuchong (Clarence) Wei (Eltham College)
Academic Excellence Award: Yijia (Julie) Shen (Balwyn High School)
Arts Achievement (Visual Arts) Award: Ying Yan (Hebe) Ng (Rosehill Secondary College)
Global Citizenship Award: Nan (Nancy) Gao (Caulfield Grammar School)
Sports Achievement Award: Ziyu (Mike) Chen (Whitefriars College)
International School student of the Year and Student Leadership Award: Yifang (Yvonne) Chen (Strathmore Secondary College)