Every year, the Victorian Government aims to celebrate the many talents of Melbourne’s burgeoning international student community, and raising awareness for the benefits that this community would bring to the wider Australian population. The Victorian International Education Awards (VIEAs), presented by Study Melbourne, aims to do exactly that. The awards consist of two main categories – Student Awards and Provider Awards, alongside the highly coveted Premier’s Award.
On the 25th of September, 7 awards were given out a total of 10 winners. These students represent some of the best that the community has to offer. Their passion for bettering the lives of people around them and immense talent they have in their respective fields culminate, highlighting each of their unique individualities. Thus, their work was rightfully commemorated and memorialised that night, where each of them was awarded $10,000 scholarships to assist them on their bright journey ahead here in Melbourne.
International Student of the Year – English Language Training
This award was shared between two winners. The first being Colombian born – Monica Andrea Rodriguez Pinzon, from the Swinburne University of Technology. Initially studying English at the Kangan Institute, Pinzon eventually achieved an applaudable IELTS score to continue her studies here.
Her fellow winner Kezhan Zhang from China is actively engaged with the Graduate Student Association’s Council (GSA) in the University of Melbourne, improving her English while expanding her practical skills and management theory at the same time. Zhang also has aspirations to creating safe spaces of international students, especially females, to have support avenues here in Melbourne if they find it difficult to adjust away from home.
International Student of the Year – VET & International Student of the Year – Premier’s Award
Next up, this award was presented to outstanding international student Ka Ho (Dereck) Lee, hailing from Hong Kong who is currently working on a Diploma of Community Services from the Holmesglen Institute. It’s a course that has greatly enriched his knowledge of compliance and workplace communication.
Before Lee sought an education here, he had already spent 4 years working closely with Australian community development organisations that focus on providing assistance to the many asylum seekers that are displaced in the country, while also providing support to alleviate poverty in Australia. A student equipped with an enormous heart, he also undertook a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science (Social Work) and worked as a youth worker in Hong Kong before coming to Australia.
Once stepping foot on Australian soil, he has been able to practically apply the skills and knowledge obtained through supervised placements through his Community Services diploma in his journey to attain his career goal.
Lee also works with international students here who may have anxiety or fear about dealing with the institution regarding issues of clarification about their studies. Acting as an intermediary between both students and the management, he ensures all concerns are raised and problems addressed as they arise. As such he has become a recognised leader in the international student community.
International Student of the Year – Higher Education
Following closely, Nguyen Thanh (Daniel) Dat, a Commerce undergraduate at Deakin University from Vietnam, won this award for his extensive work in his surrounding communities. As a volunteer student mentor, he maintains a strong involvement with student life on campus, integrating himself well into the lifestyle here.
He had also won the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) award prior to this, earning him a full scholarship to study his first year of his Bachelor’s Degree. He was also awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Medal for Outstanding Contribution to University life this year. No stranger to accolades, Dat’s advice to future international students are to “Be brave and explore Victoria with an open mind.”
International Student of the Year – Research
Sharing this award is graduating physician from the University of Espiritu Santo in Ecuador, Wilson Castillo-Tandazo. He is currently enrolled at the University of Melbourne, hard at work completing his PhD in Philosophy at the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health. With an intense passion in the production of the development of treatments, his eventual long-term goal is to improve the treatment and outcomes for children with cancer.
Castillo-Tandazo has also published 6 articles in prestigious medical journals throughout his time here, along with numerous citations. His PhD now focuses on the effects of mutations in a gene called Recql4 that develop a disease called Rothmund-Thomson Syndrome.
Sharing the award with Castillo-Tandazo is Julie Gaburro who is a PhD student from France, majoring in Philosophy at the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation, Deakin University. In her time at university so far, she seeks to answer the question – “What are the neurobiological mechanism driving behaviours, and how do alteration due to disease or environmental factors alter behaviour?”
Prior to her doctorate, Gaburro has completed her Masters by Research degree in Ecophysiology and Ethology at Strasbourg University in France. Since then, she has also published numerous academic journals – four journal papers, a conference paper and two book chapters. Her end-goal is to eventually open her own lab and pursue her research.
International Student of the Year – Regional
Tejas Deshmukh is the deserving student who won this award. He has demonstrated excellent engagement with the Victorian community while showcasing remarkable academic growth as well. Deshmukh is currently studying a Master of Community Planning and Development at La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus.
As the current president of the Bendigo International Student Club (BISC), he has expanded his insights into the regional Victorian community. He also developed knowledge on broader perspectives of sustainability and resilience of country towns with a focus on population changes. At the same time, he encourages incoming international students that “socialising and student engagement is the key for a better education and learning experience.”
International Alumnus of the Year
Currently working as a graduate mental health nurse at Goulburn Valley Health, Shepparton, Lyiade Aibinuomo has a keen interest in mental health nursing and providing direct service delivery and support to psychogeriatric clients. While completing a Bachelor of Nursing at Holmesglen in 2017, he was also awarded the Study Melbourne’s International Student of the Year – Vocational Education and Training (VET).
A man of intense dedication to the craft of bettering the lives of others around him, he expands his reach beyond Melbourne by acting as a student ambassador for Holmesglen Institute in Ghana and his home country of Nigeria.
Victorian Student of the Year – Internationalisation
Mauricio Latino is a lecturer and tutor in the engineering faculty at Deakin University, who understands how fundamentally hard it is to make friends as an international student. Through his own personal experience, he knows how detrimental social isolation can be to new students.
While he works on his PhD in Philosophy at Deakin University, he also supports domestic and international students as the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) Student Representative, ensuring a comfortable transition into university life for all of them.