Engaging with the Armidale community: UNE International Hub
Dunya Alruhaimi from Iraq tells us about her experience working at the University of New England International Hub in Armidale.
Many international students have come to Australia with their families and barriers such as language, culture and traditions can result in them feeling isolated. I have experienced this journey and would like to share my story with you.
I came to Australia at the end of 2013 to do my Masters degree in Education. I found some difficulties in my study at the beginning as the educational system in Australia is totally different to the one I was used to. I was a very outgoing person in my country and I was involved in many activities in my community, trying to help in any way I could. However in Australia I was spending most of my time sitting at home because I was afraid to get involved with other people due to the differences between the two societies eg. language and culture. But when I decided to go out and become involved with other people, I suddenly found many doors were opened to welcome me.
I started to engage in different activities within the Armidale community and I also encouraged other people to be engaged with the local people. In 2015, I received a call from my supervisor at UNE telling me about a possible nomination for the 2015 NSW International Students Awards due to my involvement within the community. At the beginning, I did not expect to be nominated through the UNE panel to the StudyNSW panel, so I was very surprised when I got a call saying that I was a finalist and I had to go to the ceremony at the Sydney Opera house. I could not believe it when they announced me as the winner for 2015 for the higher education sector.
1n 2016, I got an email from the UNE International office asking me to write a proposal for a community project to get funding from StudyNSW, Bupa and UNE international. I wrote a proposal idea which came from my experience as an international student living in regional Australia. So the idea of the International Hub project derived from my experience with my study journey. I tried to include all my experiences and needs from when I first came, and translated them into different activities. Also, I tried to include the spouses of the students and family members in the project activities as most services offered to international students’ do not usually extend to their families. The project aims to fill this gap.
The International Hub is a project that seeks to engage international students and their families with the local community throughout the New England region, and is focused on the health and wellbeing of new arrivals to the region. The International Hub services to provide opportunities to engage with the local community.
The project includes various activities which brings benefits to both the student and their families, helping them adjust to life in Armidale and Australia more broadly. It offers opportunities to learn about the Australian way of life, laws and culture by encouraging them to engage in programs that explore multiple aspects of life in a regional community.
The project supports:
- Family school visits
- National Day events provide information about different cultures through exhibitions of traditional customs, dress and food and are presented by students
- A Positive Parenting program
- Access to an international women’s gym, swimming lessons and sporting activities
- Driving lessons for Australian conditions, safety and to apply for an Australian driving licence
- English learning through an international ladies group which brings together international women and Australian volunteers fortnightly
- Tennis Classes for adults and kids
- Closed Fitness Classes for women
- Bellifit classes
- Aerobics Classes
- Hosting multicultural days for local preschools and schools
- An improved international student information app and website.
The UNE International's success in securing funding provided me with this opportunity to be the project officer of the International Hub.
Finally, I am happy to find the job I love which changes my life. It started with small engagement activities here and there and I have now ended up with a job, networks, friends, a loan to buy a house and the decision to settle down in Armidale.
In 2016 ABC profiled Dunya as part of their international student stories series. Take a look at Dunya's story here.