Seven international students have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to their education and community at the recent Victorian International Education Awards.
The awards are Victoria’s highest distinctions in international education; award recipients are presented with $10,000. The prestigious Premier’s Award winner is presented with an additional $10,000. Award recipients also go on to become ambassadors for Study Melbourne.
We spoke to the diverse pool of winners across the seven student categories to learn more about what the award means to them, and how they feel about their time in Melbourne.
Samuel Shedrack Chukwuweonu (International Student of the Year – Vocational Education and Training)
Samuel is currently undergoing an Advanced Diploma of Computer Systems Technology (Cyber Security) at Chisholm Institute. He came to Australia in February 2016 and instantly felt connected to Melbourne.
“I remember coming here without a place to stay and I just got help from random people and that lifted up my spirit about Melbourne and I thought yes this is the place to be,” Samuel said.
In his spare time, Samuel devotes his efforts to helping those less fortunate in the community. He volunteers for Youth for Christ Melbourne, which runs juvenile justice programs, charity organisations such as Clay Foundation, Hillsong Church and Cross Purpose Church to give back to the community.
“I want to [leave] an impact on the people here and it’s really important for people who come to Melbourne to be a part of the community. I think it’s something we all need to work on.”
Su Htet Zaw (International Student of the Year – Higher Education)
Su holds the distinction of being the first Myanmar student to receive an award at the VIEA, something that likely wouldn’t have happened if Su chose another city to study in. When Su received her scholarship back home, she was given the chance to pick any country to further her studies in.
“Melbourne popped up as the most liveable city in the world,” Su said, in reference to her online search for cities to study in. A Google search also led her to La Trobe University where she took up a Master of Educational Leadership and Management.
While she’s been here, Su has found volunteer work beneficial in opening doors to many other opportunities and paid jobs here in Melbourne.
“[International] students should take part in volunteering as you will learn a lot from it. I got three paid job offers just from volunteering experience,” she said.
She first began volunteering at her university as an international student welcome host and a connect volunteer for orientation programs. She has also given her time to assist as a postgraduate student representative in the Library Consultative Committee, a volunteer tutor for disadvantaged youths through the La Trobe School Partnerships Program at Reservoir High School and is currently the president of her university’s Red Cross club, just to name a few.
Wing Yan Chan (International Student of the Year – Research)
Wing’s Melbourne journey started two and a half years ago, when she made the choice to undergo a PhD in Bio-Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her studies aimed to develop coral stocks with increased climate resilience for future generations. Wing’s passion for marine lives started at an early age when she used to visit the ocean with her family.
“I’ve always liked the ocean and over time I realised the reef doesn’t look quite the same anymore now compared to when I was a kid,” she lamented.
Wing is also one of 80 female scientists chosen from across the globe to participate in the Homeward Bound initiative in Antarctica in 2018. Additionally, she also trains students in leadership and communication and has volunteered with various organisations including serving as a ‘Friends of UNICEF’ ambassador.
Dr Bartlomiej Kolodziejczck (International Alumnus of the Year)
For the second time, Dr Bartlomiej was given another VIEA award this time for his amazing work with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on projects related to renewable energy, the European Commission, G20, OECD, Chinese Government and many other international organisations on issues on science, innovation and policy.
He is currently the CTO of a company based in Singapore that designs and manufactures eletrolyzers. Apart from that, he has also established a not-for-profit organisation called ‘Scientists-in-Residence’ in Melbourne where they run many science workshops and outreach activities.
“We try to encourage scientists to be engaged with community by providing free of charge science advise to local government and community groups,” Dr Bartlomiej said.
Bartlomiej has a PhD in Materials Engineering from Monash University. He first came here many years ago as an exchange student for his Master’s thesis. Coming from the other part of the world, Bartlomiej had always dreamed of coming to Australia and experiencing the culture.
“Australia is a far away land, so you read about kangaroos and koalas but you never get to experience them because it’s so far away. So when the opportunity to do my research in Australia came, I took it,” he said.
Natalia Eugenia Palacio Vasquez (International Student of the Year – English Language Training)
Natalia came to Victoria to learn English as a second language at Impact English College. Melbourne’s culture drove her to come all the way across the globe, to start a new journey. She arrived in Melbourne in February and her stay has since been fruitful.
“This has been the best experience of my life. I have done a lot of things in just one year,” she said.
Back home, she was a communications professional which made it easier for her to connect with people of diverse backgrounds. In Melbourne, she was able to improve her English reading, writing, listening and public speaking skills.
“I have had a lot of experiences that have made me stronger, a better student, a better person and a better professional.”
Courtney Webster (Victorian Student of the Year – Internationalisation)
Courtney Webster studied Bachelor of Education at Victoria University. After spending time in South Korea as an exchange student, Courtney developed an interest in multiculturalism and helping international students integrate into the wider community and adapt to new environment.
She has also done her share of volunteering in Melbourne as an International Orientation host and Team Leader at her institution for a number of years.
“I love working with people from various backgrounds, connecting with them and building relationships,” Courtney said.
Chi Le (International Student of the Year – Regional and Premier’s Award – International Student of the Year)
An elated Chi Le was the evening’s double-winner, taking home the regional award for International Student of the year as well as the Premier’s Award, given to the best overall international student in the state. She was recognised for her achievements as a regionally-located PhD student in Environmental Management at La Trobe University in Albury-Wodonga, where her course explores the causes of shifts in macroinvertebrates.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Chi said. “This is not only recognition for myself and for what I have tried to achieve… but also the recognition and support from La Trobe University. I’d like to say my personal thanks to the staff, the university who assisted and supported us.”
Like all the other amazing winners, Chi also contributed her personal time doing volunteer work. She was an international student host welcoming new arrivals to the institution, is a co-founder of the International Connect Club at La Trobe University’s regional campus and has volunteered as a guide and interpreter for Vietnamese secondary school students who visited Wodonga through a two-week program for Vietnamese students planning to study in Australia.
Chi arrived in Melbourne in February 2015 but hasn’t spent much time outside Albury-Wodonga. However, she finds Melbourne very lively and of course, multicultural.
“Everything is amazing here. I’d love to stay here longer”
See full list of winners:
- Victorian Student of the Year – Internationalisation: Courtney Webster
- International Alumnus of the Year: Dr Bartlomiej Kolodziejczck (Poland)
- International Student of the Year – Regional: Chi Le (Vietnam)
- International Student of the Year – Research: Wing Yan Chan (Hong Kong, China)
- International Student of the Year – Higher Education: Su Htet Zaw (Myanmar)
- International Student of the Year – Vocational Education and Training: Samuel Shedrack Chukwuweonu (Nigeria)
- International Student of the Year – English Language Training: Natalia Eugenia Palacio Vasquez (Columbia)
- Premier’s Award – International Student of the Year: Chi Le (Vietnam)