Students making a world of difference

As well as academic and research excellence, Flinders University international students showcased a world of caring experiences as recognised at this year’s StudyAdelaide Student Awards ceremony.

Two Flinders University students took out postgraduate excellence awards while a third student from Flinders was bestowed with the inaugural Support and Advocacy award.

Rubayat Sawar from Bangladesh won the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework) Award. She is studying a Master of Business (Finance) degree, and attributes her motivation to the desire to work to her strengths, and challenge cultural perceptions.

“I come from a background where girls’ education can be seen as a burden. However, from an early age, I felt mathematics and analytics were my strengths,” she says.

Also an artist and musician, Rubayat sacrificed 13kg of her baggage allowance to bring her harmonium to Australia, and has since performed using the traditional instrument at Flinders. She has also immersed herself in Adelaide’s art scene.

“It’s a fantastic experience to paint here. I’ve found many opportunities with different art competitions in Adelaide.”

Rubayat has also kept busy volunteering – as a resume checker in the Flinders Career Hub and at the Flinders Community Market distributing food to her university friends, also volunteering at the Australian Red Cross, and she has visited an aged-care residence for a performance and cultural exchange.

Natasha Nagle won the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Research) Award. From the United States, she is studying a PhD in Geoarchaeology at Flinders University, under the supervision of Associate Professor Mike Morley. Her research focuses on the geoarchaeological understanding of early human dispersal into Southeast Asia and Australia, as part of Dr Morley’s ARC Future Fellowship.

Natasha Nagle, left, Sisley Li, Najma Khaliq Khan and Mey Yeng Wong with their award certificates. Photos courtesy StudyAdelaide

Arriving in Adelaide at the beginning of this year, Natasha has immersed herself in both leadership and additional learning opportunities, including undertaking an acting course at TAFE SA to boost her presentation skills.

Since arriving in Adelaide early this year, Natasha has taken on leadership opportunities in and out of the classroom and contributed to the Flinders and broader South Australian communities through artistic, scientific and entrepreneurial pursuits.

She came to Adelaide after formal studies in at least 10 countries, with degrees from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Cambridge, research experience in Israel, Australia, Italy and the US.

“My PhD in Adelaide is the next crucial step towards achieving my goals and giving me confidence,” Ms Neagle says. “It’s a great place to live and study, and I’ve had nothing but great interactions so far. I’m thrilled the project directed my gaze to Australia and Adelaide.”

Meanwhile, Flinders University Master of Social Work student, Sisly Li (Xi Li) from China, won the new Support and Advocacy Award. The award is a new category created to acknowledge tireless help for their peers through the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help her fellow social work students, she worked with her colleagues to create a mentoring network. She also started online fitness sessions for friends and peers.

In a time of hardship, Sisly dedicated her energy to creating connected communities where people were able to share their experiences, help each other, and look after their physical and mental wellbeing.

When studies moved online due to COVID-19, Sisly worked with her colleagues to create a mentoring network, mentoring two students herself, and started online fitness sessions.

“Our mentoring program came under the Flinders University Social Work Association and is still running,” she says.

“The good news is that the International Student Services team at Flinders University have shown interest in building more networks for this program, especially to help students who are still studying offshore.”

“Whenever I felt down during the lockdown, I learned to adjust myself in the face of the difficulties,” she says. “I sought support from others and from within myself and spread the strengths I gained from these experiences by supporting others.”

Two other Flinders University students were highly commended at the 2020 StudyAdelaide awards.

Najma Khaliq Khan from Pakistan, who is studying a Master of Arts (Women’s Studies), was highly commended for the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework), and Mey Wong (Wong Yeng Mey) from Malaysia, who is studying a Bachelor of Arts (Enhanced Program for High Achievers) was highly commended for Academic Excellence: Undergraduate Awards.

In addition, Natasha Neagle and Mey Wong each received 2020 Horizon Professional Development Awards while Ms Wong received a 2019 Chancellor’s Letter of Commendation and Senior prize in Philosophy at Flinders University.

Mey says her arts program at Flinders University has allowed her to explore interests in English, philosophy, geography and environmental studies.

“By meeting different people in various contexts, I learned diverse ways of being and seeing the world,” says Ms Wong, who volunteered as president of the Flinders University Lions Club.

“This not only fostered a necessary holistic and global world view but also opened new possibilities and paths in my career aspirations.”

Sebastian Raneskold, Flinders University Vice-President and Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), congratulated all recipients.

“Our community and University benefit from the tremendous talents of our international students, in particular those who have been selected in these prestigious awards,” Mr Raneskold says.

“We especially commend the perseverance and courage of these winners who draw upon their energy, intellect, integrity and diverse skills to produce excellent results and much more during bushfires, the pandemic, and other hurdles and distractions this year.”

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