Powerful international student stories on show

Flinders international student Gizela Da Silva lived through the violent struggle for independence in Timor-Leste, and was forced to flee into the mountains to survive.

“My cousin was shot to death whilst running for safety from the Militias. I ran back to him, hugged him tight, yelling my heart out for help while bullets flew over our head like the sounds of popcorn in a microwave,” she says.

Kabita Sijali also remembers fearing for her life when Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015.

“I hid myself under my bed and closed my eyes. I could hear screaming people who were crying out of fear of dying. I saw the death and the destruction of buildings and our old heritage. I was in my final year and my final exam was approaching.”

Both Kabita and Gizela left their family and country behind to forge a new but often challenging path studying in South Australia.

“I struggled because of different teaching styles and a different pattern of studying. Sometimes I felt ignored by classmates,” says Kabita. “However, I strongly believe that difficulties are what makes life interesting: and overcoming those difficulties makes life fascinating and meaningful.”

These are just a sample of the powerful stories shared through In the Frame: International Stories of Empowerment, an exhibition by Flinders International and Flinders University Art Museum which brings together stories of strength and inspiration from the international student community.

A photograph of Kabita Sijali from the exhibition, 'In the Frame: International Stories of Empowerment'. Photo: Alex Frayne
Kabita Sijali from the exhibition, ‘In the Frame: International Stories of Empowerment’. Photo: Alex Frayne

The exhibition runs from  22 August – 3 September at  Flinders University – The Studio at Bedford Park – as part of the South Australian Living Arts Festival.

Alex Frayne is an Adelaide-based artist who operates in the mediums of film and photography, primarily analogue film formats.

“In developing this project we aimed to address the challenge of cultural misunderstanding and misinformed interaction that can negatively impact the international student experience.” says Mr Frayne.

“The resulting exhibition, comprising nineteen portraits, reflects the diversity of our international student cohort and the energy and vitality of the individual students directly involved in the making of the works.”

SA Governor Hieu Van Le with international students part of the In the Frame exhibition

In casting a light on the challenges, the goal of the project is to inspire and build resilience among international students, while showing how empathy and shared connections across Flinders and the broader state can enhance experience.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, David Ridgway launched the SA International Education Sector Strategy on Monday 19 August 2019, which outlines the government’s strategy of achieving a $3 billion industry and employing 23,500 South Australians by the year 2030.

Sebastian Raneskold, Vice-President and Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) says Flinders supports the Governments International Education Plan which clearly emphasises the importance of the best onshore student experience including initiatives to support the wellbeing of students.

“Nothing can enhance the international student experience more than our ability to understand and deliver on student’s hopes, challenges, aspirations and dreams. In the Frame  is a creative medium that gives our students a voice and our own community a lens in which we can do this”.

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