Committee members of the Australia Awards Scholars Club at the University of Melbourne (L-R): Saqiba Sheerazi, Ambreen Sharif, Ershad Jan Chowdhury, Sara Ali and Sarah Ejaz Ahmed. Photo: University of Melbourne’s Australia Awards Scholars Club (AASC)
Getting involved with an association, society or club at university is an excellent way for you as an Australia Awards scholar to meet people and to network. Your institution will have several clubs and societies for you to get involved in, ranging from sporting teams, to religious or cultural clubs, to special interest groups.
Orientation week or ‘O-Week’ usually provides a great opportunity for you to see the variety of associations, societies and clubs offered by each institution, to sample some activities and to sign up. Some universities have societies for international students, designed to help you meet like-minded individuals and to provide activities and events to help meet Australians and get more involved with the Australian culture and way of life. Clubs and societies also provide a great platform for you to build your network, and you may be surprised at what opportunities arise through your involvement.
If you haven’t already, we highly recommend that you see what clubs and societies are available to you at your university or institution. You can usually find a list on the university’s website or the University Union website, if they have one. Alternatively, you can ask your Student Contact Officer for more information.
The University of Melbourne’s Australia Awards Scholars Club (AASC) is a student-operated club for all Australia Awards scholars at the University. It aims to organise social and cultural events for members and their families; provide peer support and a welcoming atmosphere for all new Australia awardees; and provide networking, leadership and teamwork opportunities for all members.
Five of the AASC committee members are scholars from South and West Asia. Ambreen Sharif, from Pakistan, is the Vice President of the club, with Ershad Jan Chowdhury from Bangladesh working as Co-Secretary and Sarah Ejaz Ahmed from Pakistan holding the position of Co-Treasurer. They are supported by Sara Ali, Academic Engagement Coordinator, and Saqiba Sheerazi, Social Media & Engagement Coordinator, both from Pakistan.
Below, the group answer some questions about their work on the club, and provide some insight as to the advantages of joining or becoming involved in the organisation, or a club or society at your institution.
Why did you decide to become involved with the Australia Awards Scholars Club (AASC)?
Ambreen: Being a student, usually we focus on studies, classes and ignore a study-life balance and miss community engagement. AASC adds life, energy and connects awardees with each other. During my initial days, after participating in some events by the club I felt a sense of connection with my multicultural family.
Saqiba: After landing in Australia, I was so impressed with the multicultural norms and values, particularly in Melbourne. I decided to be part of the AASC as I feel it has the same role to play by promoting and harvesting the multicultural norms through coordination and communication with scholars from different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. This prompted me to contribute my role in making one strong multicultural family of AASC scholars.
What events have you organised for your fellow Australia Awards scholars?
Sarah Ahmed: The AASC has organised a number of events in 2017, such as the Welcome Party, Farewell Party, Mid-Semester Bash, Morning Tea, Information session with Student Success, etc. Apart from these, the club also organised monthly excursions such as the Great Ocean Road, Wilsons Promontory, Ballarat, the Grampians, Rhododendron Gardens, Phillip Island and many more around Victoria.
How do you think the AASC helps your fellow scholars while they are in Australia?
Sara Ali: The AASC plays a huge role in bringing all the scholars together on a single platform. The trips that AASC organises for the scholars help in fighting homesickness and anxiety with regard to settling in a new society. Moreover, AASC provides opportunities which actually help in making great friends and knowing other scholars more closely.
Ambreen: This club is playing a significant role in the life of scholars when they are in Australia. Recreational activities arranged by the club provide a necessary break that is beneficial for good grades. Apart from this, it polishes leadership skills, confidence and hidden talents by participating in different activities.
Has being involved in the AASC helped you build your network while in Australia? If so, how?
Ambreen: Indeed, this club provides venues for networking with like-minded people and organisations which further open new opportunities for volunteer community work. Being members of this club, we got the chance to meet with the Melbourne City Council. This provided a space for our club members to seek opportunities in different community engagement initiatives, especially for the international students.
Do you recommend that scholars at other universities get involved with student associations and clubs? If so, why?
Ershad: Yes, I do recommend that scholars should get involved with student associations and clubs. Student associations and clubs are the best place of practical learning for coordination, cooperation and organising events, as well as functional activities which may develop scholars to be ready for future professional careers. Besides, these associations create scope for building connections, which is very helpful to succeed in today’s network-based professional environment.
Sarah Ahmed: Absolutely! Apart from the AASC, I am also a Student Representative on the Graduate Studies Committee, as well as a Graduate Ambassador for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. Being involved in such diverse roles has cultivated opportunities for me to constantly develop my leadership and cross-cultural communication skills by interacting with diverse communities across the campus. Apart from vastly expanding my social and professional network, engaging in these roles has added an experiential element to my academics, making my overall experience in Australia truly memorable. Through these connections, I now feel strongly connected and committed to my university and the global Australia Awards community.
Thank you to the committee members at the AASC for taking the time to share their experiences.
We hope this inspires you to get more involved in clubs and societies at your institution if you haven’t already. If you are at the University of Melbourne and haven’t heard of the AASC, please approach your Student Contact Officer or any of the scholars mentioned above for more information via the AASC website.
For examples of professional associations and organisations Australia-wide that you can join or become involved in, and tips for networking, please see the Australia Awards South and West Asia Professional Networking Brochure.
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