I hope you enjoyed the season festivities 2016. As my job as USASA international student representative 2016 came to its end, this will be my last post for the year 2016.
I wrote an article for the international uni blog which I will copy-paste here for those who won’t see it on Facebook pages.
My job as USASA international student representative nearly came to its end. For this reason, I decided to write this article talking about my experience representing 12,000 international students for the past 12 months. Before that, it is important for me to mention briefly how everything started. The more you will read this article, the more you will realize that I do not have my tongue into my pocket and some truths might surprise as well.
Originally from Mauritius (located on the east coast of Madagascar), I joined UniSA last year in February 2015, to pursue a Master of design (interior architecture). It was my first time being an international student in Australia, as I completed a bachelor of interior architecture in Malaysia.
Last year, I was the President of the new African Society, and as the society was doing well mainly for a new society, I was approached to join Activate (a group of Labor left students) as candidate of the international student representative. I did not hesitated at all, as I knew I was the right person for this position and I had experiences from my previous university in Malaysia (Taylor’s university), where I was event director of the TUISC (Taylor’s University international students council), and many more councils/clubs in which I was part of the executive committees.
During the campaign, it was not very easy. We were seven students running for the same position and my ethnicity, as an African was an issue for many students, for who I quote, “will not vote for an African”. At that time, I was running for the position to represent international students and for my personal experience on a student’s board. Hearing those ‘cruel’ comments made that I preferred changing tactics; winning the elections not for myself, but for all the African students.
I knew that this victory was the right opportunity to prove to the university that international students were well present, and to break stereotypes regarding Africans, as we can do great work as well. I am very happy about my work done this year, as I kept all by promises regarding issues faced by international students. It also seemed that USASA board was happy as well, as my “predecessors have not done as much” as me. I think what made me good at the position were that I understood students needs and was always ready to help and to have a chat with them. The fact that all my contact cards are gone is a proof that I exposed myself a lot. My ambitious, innovative mind and past experiences in my previous university contributed a lot as well, as I knew what I was doing, and what was best. Within this year, I wanted to reduce the cost of student’s accommodation, increase the amount of scholarships, offering more internship available for international students in Australia and creating more cultural events share the multi-culturalism on campus. Sometimes, I realized that I was going against the government while trying to reduce the costs, so I found myself stopping some actions; but at least I tried. Trying to connect all cultures together to facilitate the spread of these on campuses, I created the international sub-committee consisted of Presidents of cultural clubs. This sub-committee took me 3 months to be approved, but now any issues from international students can be reported to the sub-committee. There are many other advantages of the sub-committee like tutorials, helping clubs getting more members or improving their finance, getting closer to the students and direct communication. During a focus group conversation with international students, some of them expressed the wish of connecting with other international students of South Australia. As from there, I contacted both international student representatives of Flinders and Adelaide University, who accepted to collaborate. The only issue was that it was hard to get everyone collaborate together, as some did not took it serious and were not willing to represent international students of their university. This could be seen from the CISA (Council of international students Australia) forum I organized at UniSA with the help of CISA and another university. This year taught me an important thing; people put their name into something and once in, they do not do the required job. I saw people who were never happy when I had the good intention of organizing events or talks for international students. Maybe these people ran against me and lost or maybe also their attitudes proved they were running not to represent international students, but for themselves or to improve their CV. Meanwhile, I had good experiences as student representative. I enjoyed talking face to face to the international students and asking them their expectations and how I could help. I loved the trips out of state, all the other ‘students organizations’ I got into either on state, national or even political. My grand grand father was a foundation member of the first political party of Mauritius, which was the Labor. For this reason, I got involved as a member into that political party and with Activate (but I am not into politic at all). As for USASA staff and the board, they supported me and advice me with my projects. Big thanks to my favorite Policy & Research Officer, who supported me in my nearly daily visit and our long talks; he is behind most of the things I did. USASA also opened me doors to students and the exterior world, as exterior organizations approached me to connect more with the international students of South Australia. An important person in Australia has nominated me for Channel 9 Young Achiever Award 2017. This nomination is a big thing for me, as it will open doors allowing me to create my own NGO in many African countries which will fight against discrimination in schools, and why not becoming one of the most inspirational African women. I always said that Africa needs me to get things improved. YES, I see big, I think big and I do big. Never being scared of doing things made me who I am. Being part of USASA also made me learn more from different cultures, people’s differences, being very confident, willing to help students at anytime, smiling more (because I never smile), and made me be stronger as an African. What I was doing on USASA board made me replicate my actions in the African Society (in which I am the President) and vice-versa. If I did not had my thesis to do next year, I would have ran the elections this year as well, but my studies are my first priorities for which I came in Australia. I am glad the next USASA President is my friend and I know she will do many great things. As for the next international student representative, I hope she will continue the work I did this year, and I believe she will be great as well, otherwise I would not have campaigned for her J, and best of luck for USASA board 2017. I am glad to have given a good image and proved that international students are great, to have broken some African stereotypes and taught that Africans have only a word, shown my Mauritian roots and how hard working we are.