Nepalese student Neha Bogati isn’t someone who waits for things to happen. In her first year at ACU, she says she was pretty happy, but she missed the sense of connection and belonging she had back home.
A former member of Rotary’s Interact clubs and a keen volunteer for school and community projects, Neha decided to put her experience into action and do something for herself – and for other international students at ACU.
“In my first semester, I approached the Student Enrichment Advisor, who suggested I work towards reviving the International Students Club. The club had similar objectives in terms of what I was looking for,” she says.
The International Students Club had been inactive for a while; two other students had been working on bringing it back to life since the previous year. Neha canvassed her networks and made a point of attending a number of Orientation sessions, meeting new students and encouraging them to join the club. Within a few months, it was officially back up and running.
Now in her second year at ACU, Neha is the President of the International Students club, which now has 13 members. The club is focused on building strong relationships between international students studying at the North Sydney campus – they organise game nights, Netflix parties and regular check-in sessions with members to keep everyone connected. Recently, they hosted a careers session for club members, inviting two industry experts to share their own stories of being international students in Australia.
Having a network of friends and fellow international students has been an important part of Neha’s Australian experience – but when COVID-19 emerged, that network became more important than ever. With the ACU campus closed, the connections that she’d built with her fellow club members really helped her cope with the uncertainty of a socially distanced life.
“During the pandemic, having access to a group of students who could support each other in these tough times did help,” she says.
“We had a few first-year students who I was successfully able to guide and ease their confusion in this new environment away from home.”
Now, with students returning to campus and life going back to some version of normal, those bonds are stronger than ever. Neha says being part of the club has enriched her Australian experience, giving her the chance to build strong friendships within the club and with members of other ACU clubs and societies, as well as with local students.
The skills and confidence she’s gained as club president also inspired her to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a five-day intensive leadership experience for people aged 14-30. That experience led to her joining her local Rotaract club in Burwood where she was recently appointed as the Marketing Director. In September this year, she signed up as an ACU Frontier Silver volunteer to support the activities of ACU’s campus ministry.
It’s been a busy year, but Neha shows no signs of slowing down. And she’s got a few words of advice for new international students too: don’t be afraid to get involved with campus life.
“The staff and the international student advisers have always looked out for my wellbeing and will do the same for all the new students. And if there is anything that troubles you then ACU International Student Club will open you with open arms,” she says.