International students take on the Aussie surf and bush (Issue 3, 2012)
International students from Victorian universities have been given the opportunity to experience a true-blue Aussie holiday with La Trobe and Darebin Youth Services – and they loved it!
From Sunday 15 to Tuesday 17 January 2012, 35 international students from different universities enjoyed a summer holiday at Angahook Holiday Park, in the Great Otways National Park.
The camp was designed for two reasons:
- to give international students an opportunity to experience a typical Australian summer holiday, allowing them to see a part of Australia they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to; and
- to provide a safe, friendly space for them to share experiences, build friendships and networks, and to identify opportunities for further engagement with the support of institutions like La Trobe and Darebin Youth Services.
Some of the activities during the camp included canoeing, bushwalking, swimming in the Australian surf, volleyball, cooking, and a multicultural talent night.
Of the 35 participants more than three quarters were La Trobe students, including Lily Yuen – former International Students' Association (ISA) President, and Dzung Ta – Executive Member of the Council of International Students Australia (CISA).
As well as having fun, being challenged and making new friends, the camp resulted in some profound feedback from students who opened up about their difficulties connecting in Australia. One La Trobe student commented at the end of the camp that it ‘had provided him with important, life changing, long lasting impressions of Australia.’
Of the 35 participants, two brought their families, which enabled them to join in where they otherwise would not have had the opportunity. Reemee Shakil, a La Trobe sponsored student from Pakistan, brought her three children. It was the first time all three had seen the sea, as well as their first camping experience. Reemee had tears in her eyes at the end of the camp, and said she would never forget it.
‘Thank you for giving us this wonderful opportunity to go camping with you. It is at times like this when I want to stay longer to do my PhD at La Trobe. I can still close my eyes and see the waterfall and feel the cool air on my face. Thank you,’ Reemee said in a note of thanks to the University.
The camp is funded by Darebin Youth Services as part of their summer program for young people in need. International students are identified as one of four categories of young people in need of greater community support. Other groups include young boys at risk, teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, and African/Afghan migrant or refugee boys. The camp costs approximately A$10,000, which includes accommodation, transportation, food and activities.