Program success (Issue 20, 2009)
The City of Melbourne’s initiative to make an event out of welcoming international students received a great response from current students and Melbourne residents and great feedback from new students. Almost 55 per cent of students living and studying in Melbourne are international students and the program is a free display of events meant to offer them a warm introduction to the city they will be living in, as well as making them aware of the services that are available to them.
La Trobe International staff member Andrés Bayer volunteered to be part of the organising committee. As a former international student at La Trobe University, Andrés was in a good position to share his ideas and suggestions of what would make the welcome most successful.
‘This event gives new students the chance to meet people from all over the state and make friends as soon as they arrive in Melbourne. Apart from entertainment and networking, it emphasises issues such as safety or accommodation, which are very important for people that have just arrived in the country,’ says Andrés.
The committee members met regularly to brainstorm ideas for the welcome. They decided that cultural dance performances, live crocodile feeding, food stalls as well as interactive and informative stalls to celebrate cultural diversity in Melbourne would make a good welcome program. Lord Mayor Robert Doyle officially welcomed the new students and the Essendon Football Club launched its International Students Club on the day.
The event was advertised throughout Victorian universities and colleges newsletters and websites. The City of Melbourne set up a Facebook page where students could find more information about the day’s events and what they could look forward too.
On the official welcome day, a human map of Australia was organised with the help of all attending students. Photos of the human map were then made available to all participants in the form of a postcard.
This event adds to the welcome and orientation programs that universities organise at the beginning of each semester. La Trobe has a comprehensive five-day orientation program – the International Welcome Festival – which comprises sessions specifically tailored to the needs of international students.
For 2010, the City of Melbourne is planning another large welcoming event, but in the meantime it offers other programes aiming to engage the international students’ community throughout the year, such as The Couch – International Student Centre, the International Student City Ambassador Program or the community interaction GloBALL program. For more information visit the City of Melbourne – international students website.