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Interview: Lynne Williams, University of Newcastle

Lynne Williams, pictured front in white, with the new 2018 cohort of Australia Awards scholars from the University of Newcastle. Photo: Lynne Williams

The Australia Awards South and West Asia Program had the pleasure of being joined by Lynne Williams, Student Contact Officer at the University of Newcastle, at a Return Home Workshop in Canberra in September last year.

The workshop brought together Australia Awards scholars based in New South Wales who were due to complete their studies at the end of the year. Two scholars from the University of Newcastle attended the workshop, and were pleased to see that Lynne had made the trip to be part of the experience with them.

As well as being able to discuss and share experiences with fellow scholars, having a staff member from your university present at the workshop adds another dimension to discussions that take place regarding returning home. It also means that the Program and universities can work better together to support you and your fellow scholars throughout the Scholarship experience.

Lynne was kind enough to answer some questions about her experience attending the workshop. We hope that her answers below give you an insight into what you may learn and discuss from attending workshops.

How do you think that the Return Home Workshop benefits scholars who are due to return home?

It provides the returning scholars insight into potential difficulties they may encounter when transitioning from life and study in Australia to life and work in their county of citizenship. The workshop offers them a safe environment to discuss any concerns they may have about their return and opens their minds to ways in which they can manage the challenges and changes they are likely to experience.

Did you find the workshop useful for you in your role as Student Contact Officer?

The Australia Awards provide scholars with amazing opportunities; however, with that come difficulties that we (institutions and Student Contact Officers) need to give more consideration to. Any information that we can obtain is of benefit when managing students’ academic needs and—of equal if not greater importance—their welfare.

Did you find it beneficial to hear from University of Newcastle scholars about their experience while in Australia?

[I’m] always happy to learn more from the scholars and while our role is to support them, they in turn can teach us ways in which we can improve our support programs, i.e. what works and what doesn’t.

Was there anything covered in the workshop that you hadn’t thought about before?

The impact on the children [of Australia Awards scholars] who may have been living in Australia since they were very young. Australia has become the only home they know and to move back to an unfamiliar country must be incredibly challenging for the child and their parents.

Would you recommend that scholars attend the Return Home Workshop, and if so, why?

Returning scholars should definitely attend the workshop. While the institutions can offer reintegration sessions covering areas such as careers and reverse cultural shock, the Return Home Workshop provides country/region-specific information which is very relevant for their re-entry plans.

Thank you to Lynne for attending the workshop. For those of you due to complete your studies in Semester 1 2018, we look forward to seeing you at a workshop soon.

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