Across the cultural divide
It was an evening of laughter and crossing cultural divides when nearly 100 international AusAID students met their local University of Melbourne hosts in late February at the “Welcome to Melbourne Program” launch, an event designed to offer all participants a unique opportunity to connect.
The University’s Alumni Relations Unit and International Student Services had an overwhelming response to the semester one program with nearly double the previous number of AusAID students signing up for the opportunity to learn more about Australian culture via the goodwill of their hosts.
The program is all about providing a local connection for the international student with the host providing support, advice and friendship during the student’s time in Melbourne.
“The program is a simple one,” says Professor Philippa Pattison, Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching).
“The hosts and students met for the first time at the launch and in the coming months each host will welcome the student – and for some, their family as well – into their home for dinner.
“This program is aimed specifically at making a positive and real difference to the lives of our international AusAID students, all of whom are being groomed for leadership positions in their home countries.”
This year also saw the extension of the AusAID’s scholarship program into all of the African countries for the first time.
“Over the past ten years the University has welcomed over 1260 new AusAID scholars and their families from more than 34 countries,” Professor Pattison says.
“We are very excited to also have a group of African female students here who are the first in their countries to study in Australia under an AusAID scholarship. Through the Welcome to Melbourne program, these women – like the rest of the group – will also now have the added benefit of having a local person whom they can socialise with and learn from.
“International student surveys tell us that local connections and experiences with Australians make a great difference to the student’s overall view and levels of satisfaction of their time studying here.”
According to Leonie Boxtel, Director, Alumni Relations, the cohort of alumni who participate in the program come from all disciplines and backgrounds.
“Alumni tell us that this program is a great chance for them to give back to current students,” Ms Boxtel says.
“They want to share their expertise and knowledge about the city they live in and about their own careers and experiences.
“Interestingly many alumni comment about how much they learn and benefit from meeting students as well – face-to-face exchange almost always has a mutual benefit woven into it.
“There is evidence indicating that students’ resilience and ability to complete their studies is enhanced by the program; and the icing on the cake is that many of the alumni are developing long-lasting friendships with their students.”
The Alumni Relations Unit will be seeking applications for the semester two intake in late April. University staff and alumni are welcome to express their interest in hosting by sending an email to Lisa Randall: