In a new country international students need a helping hand at first.
At ACU our domestic students are there to empathise and assist!
This year Kathleen Zuniga has been heavily involved with extra-curricular activities to assist our international students and also students from other universities and education providers.
She became the ACU International Student Club executive member, an international student mentor and also volunteered on the International Student Welcome Desk at Sydney Airport.
“During my final year at ACU I decided to try something different,” Kathleen says.
She wanted to participate and be more involved with events and clubs. During her first years at university she had met many friendly students who convinced her to join the International Student Club.
Kathleen was born in the Philippines and with most of her family living overseas, she understood the difficulties that international students faced.
She became an ACU International Student Club executive member and an international student mentor because these roles had a lot of interaction with international students.
“I became friends with many of them and have heard their stories and struggles with coping with their studies and the change in culture.
“I wanted to help not only those that I’m friends with, but I wanted to help the broader community.”
These roles led her to become a StudyNSW volunteer and she got involved with the International Student Welcome Desk at Sydney Airport.
“I enjoyed making friends that have a different culture and engaging with international students and visitors.”
The program also allowed her to build her skills including good verbal and non-verbal communication skills, effective teamwork and leadership, time management, empathy and cultural awareness and understanding.
“It gives you a good exposure to different people and situations while working in a team to ensure that you are assisting international students and visitors the help they need. It allows you to practice and develop hands-on people skills which help you apply for the job you want in the future.”
While Kathleen helped countless international students in her role as volunteer, there was one that particularly stuck with her.
During a Saturday shift, an international student from China came to the booth in a panic.
“He spoke broken English and was pointing to his phone. There were three of us at the booth and none of us spoke Mandarin.
“We got out our phone and opened google translator and typed our questions such as; “which university are you enrolled in?” “Can we see your university paperwork to see where you meeting point is?”.”
Kathleen and her workmates discovered that the student wasn’t meeting with the university driver but with a friend.
The student’s phone didn’t have a sim card and the airport WIFI wasn’t working on his phone.
“The phone allocated by the program ran out of credit the day before, so we lent him our phone. His friend wasn’t picking up, but he was able to see a GPS of where his friend was.
“I decided to hotspot my data so he could message his friend and see his GPS.”
While he was waiting for his friend, Kathleen and her workmates gave him a Sydney guide and chatted with him to help him feel at ease.
“It wasn’t until 20 minutes later that his friend turned up. The student thanked us and insisted on a selfie with him as a memory of his first day arriving at Sydney.”
Kathleen says she enjoyed her time working on the desk and would recommend it to other students for the experience as well as the boost it gives a resume.
“I would definitely recommend this program, not just for international students but domestic students as well.
“It an effective way to expand your social circle and to make good friends who have a different cultural background. It’s also a unique experience, it’s not every day that you get to interact with 25+ people with different nationality!”
Click here for more information on the Sydney Airport welcome Desk and information on the Work Integrated Learning Program.