Lord Mayor Clover Moore last night opened the doors to Sydney Town Hall for the first International Student Welcome since the start of the pandemic.
The event was attended by leading tertiary education institutions, consulate representatives and Study NSW. Various international student support services and organisations offering volunteering opportunities also took part, including Centre for Volunteering, Surf Life Saving NSW, Redfern Legal Centre, Sydney Community Forum and NSW Police Force, who together work to ensure students have positive experiences during their time in Sydney and gain a sense of belonging to the city.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney was delighted to welcome the hundreds of international students back after the Covid pandemic interrupted the lives of so many young people.
“International students help to boost the city’s social and cultural life and build Sydney’s global reputation as a centre for learning, research and innovation,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Sydney offers world-class educational and research institutions, a leading knowledge-based economy, a vibrant and multicultural metropolitan city with a high quality of life and friendly people – these qualities make it one of the world’s most popular cities for international students.
“Moving to another country to study can also be challenging for some students, particularly with language barriers, making friends and integrating into local communities.
“In collaboration with key stakeholders, we have developed free resources, services and programs to help orientate newly arrived international students and make them feel welcome in our city.”
Before the pandemic, more than 230,000 international students were enrolled to study in the City of Sydney’s local area. Since the borders reopened, 70,000 international students have returned to NSW, and there are currently more than 160,000 international students enrolled locally.
The international student sector is one of Australia’s largest service-based export industries and the country’s third-largest export earner.
“International students are important for our city. Pre-Covid, the international student market was contributing more than $1.6 billion to the local economy and generated demand for more than 10,000 fulltime jobs,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Recently I advocated with the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors and Australian universities for visa policy reform to enhance options for students to remain in Australia after completing their studies so they can share their talents in our workforce.
“International students can also create vital links between Sydney and their home countries, becoming life-long ambassadors for Australia as a place to visit, learn and work.”
Last night’s reception also recognised students who have been part of the City of Sydney’s international student leader ambassador program. The program gives students skills, through training, mentoring and practical work experience, to become community ambassadors who can help other students strengthen their links with local communities.
The 2021-22 cohort that recently completed the program comprised 31 ambassadors from 13 countries, eight educational institutions and more than 31 academic disciplines. During their 18-month ambassadorship, the students organised 23 face-to-face and online events for more than 1,500 participants to support the wellbeing and connection of the local international student community during the pandemic.
Si Thu Zin, a medical student from Myanmar, said the program provides a unique platform for ambassadors to support and advocate for other international students while developing their own skill sets.
“Through the program and the different opportunities that Sydney provides, I have been able to develop my communication, leadership and project management skills – these are invaluable as a future medical practitioner,” Si Thu said.
“Sydney is full of opportunities and there are no limitations to your dreams. I would highly encourage all new international students to get out of their comfort zone, take on every challenge and look for those opportunities.”
The reception also featured an international student leaders’ panel discussion where the ambassadors shared their experiences and tips with event attendees.
“Having listened to the panel, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with the challenges of being in a new land. Seeing the panellists work on those issues and achieve greater things has inspired me to believe that I can do it,” said Selvy Gusni, a Master of Business Analytics student from Indonesia.
The City of Sydney is looking for more international students to join its international student leader ambassador 2023-24 program. The program is open to all international students living and studying in Sydney. Program applications will open in early November and training is expected to start in February 2023. More details are available on the City of Sydney’s ISLA webpage.