Dibyashree Chhetry

DIBYASHREE CHHETRY

Dibya (4th from the left above, middle below) volunteering at the Lord Mayor's Welcome to International Students

An overwhelming experience!

Being warmly welcomed in a foreign land

Is a panacea to acute homesickness,

Thank you for being so friendly and kind

We are overwhelmed by this warm embrace!

I was pretty excited to volunteer at the Lord Mayor’s Welcome to International Students in Town Hall, Sydney even though I had no idea that it would be extraordinarily grand and welcoming. At the end of the day as an international student, I found it to be an overwhelming experience to be a part of the program. Thank you StudyNSW for providing me this opportunity to volunteer in such an exciting program. I am pretty sure all international students who were in Town Hall felt largely welcomed in a new city far away from their homelands and also conveyed message about those thrilling experiences to their families and friends.

The program venue, Sydney Town Hall, one of the most historic buildings of this city was itself symbolic in reflecting the grandeur of this annual welcome event. The beginning of the program with an aboriginal performance was really impressive as it familiarized international students to some bits with the history of this country. For many of them from rural places of their countries, it imparted a sense of ownership to this country.

It was a real honour for international students to be welcomed in a magnificent ceremony by Lord Mayor Clover Moore. She openheartedly acknowledged the contribution of international students in imparting multicultural and diverse character to the city of Sydney making it one of the most attractive destinations for education in the world. She welcomed more than 1000 international students from over 180 countries in Town Hall encouraging them to grab myriads of opportunities abound in Sydney. Recognition of international students as one of the partners in overall prosperity of city of Sydney was enormously appreciating.

The way Lord Mayor summoned all international students to engage with their local communities and participate in volunteering opportunities conveyed an important message of respecting cultural diversity, building support networks and enhancing cooperation among local communities and new comers in Sydney. It is really admirable that she mentioned diversity as one of the strengths of city of Sydney. Her welcome message has made us feel a sense of ownership towards a new place in a new country. This has opened up avenues to build up warm relationships with the locals living in Sydney and bridge the communication gap with coordination and communication among each other.

At a time when hostility is spreading at a rapid pace, being welcomed in an alien land is the strongest aspect of making new arrivals feel safe and secure. Lord Mayor’s Welcome program for international students was really successful in doing so by letting them know how NSW is happier to welcome new students and looks ahead for two-way benefits also ensuring their safety and comfortable living. Especially for international students who come to this country from a very different context, programs like this is a boon to let them feel comfortable and homely. The program inevitably manifested full support of government and agencies for international students to make their journey fantastic in this dynamic city.

A speech by an international student Uttam Kumar from a rural village of India on his story how he succeeded to amalgamate with communities in this land while also gaining academic success was truly inspiring for any international student who comes to Australia with big dreams and aspirations. His story of success proved how NSW Government and its mechanisms are always positive in providing international students with whole bunch of opportunities, full support and care to lead their performance towards excellence.

This event provided me with a great opportunity to meet students from all around the world, hear their stories, expand my network and also make few new friends. The most interesting part was to share my wonderful experiences of volunteering via Study NSW with other international students. Communicating with them also helped to enhance my communication and interpersonal skills.

The food and drinks provided throughout the event were fabulous. Also the service provided to all participants in the hall was praiseworthy. In addition the music played in the background was warming the environment inside the hall inspiring students to interact with each other.

The event was not only entertaining and inspiring but also largely informative for international students. The program had brought community groups, health and safety services and Sydney’s leading tertiary education institutions together to inform students about services available for international students across Sydney.

While I walked around and gathered information about all the services available, the two most important ones, I believe, all international students must know about are Redfern Legal Centre and Surf Life Saving NSW. While Redfern Legal Centre provides free legal services to international students, Surf Live Saving NSW delivers key surf safety messages. I was reminded of few death incidents of students, especially from my home country Nepal when they were enjoying beaches in different cities across Australia, while I was getting information from Surf Live Saving NSW. They are making huge efforts to educate new comers on how to safely enjoy in beaches. This kind of services is indispensable especially for those who hail from a landlocked country and are not familiar with sea life. Coming to this event thus has inspired me to spread the message about this service to as many international students as possible.

Attending this welcome event thus has been enormously inspirational for me to attempt to explore this place to the best possible extent during my whole stay in this city. Apart from this, it has enriched my experience of volunteering, a journey that I started with support of StudyNSW.

Dibya Chhetry is from Nepal and is studying a Master of Social Work at Western Sydney University.