Newcastle Locals Connecting with International Students
The University of Newcastle's reputation as a world class institution, combined with our region's celebrated lifestyle and location, are real drawcards for international students looking to study in Australia. In return international students enrich our University and the wider community. They bring valuable cultural and life experiences to our Australian students while they experience the Australian lifestyle.
The University of Newcastle's International Student Support Team provides a range of welfare and support services which are designed to make international students' time at the University a rich and rewarding experience.
The Community Connections program is a cross cultural friendship program through which volunteers from the local community link with international students from all levels of study.
International students join this program to meet people from the community and to broaden their Australian friendships. The program allows students to learn more about Australian culture and customs, while sharing information about their home country with others.
People of all ages and walks of life join the program as volunteers. After first meeting both the student and volunteer decide how often and where they will meet and what they will do together, including going to movies, playing sport or just catching up for coffee.
Majid Hosseini, his wife Homa, and daughter, from Iran, are paired with locals Adam and Mel Burgess and their two children.
Majid came to Australia for the first time in 2006, as a backpacker. After three years in Malaysia gaining a Masters in Computer Science, Majid received a scholarship offer from the University of Newcastle to do a PhD in Computer Engineering.
Majid and Homa were computer engineering classmates in Iran. Homa studied education in Malaysia, and is now also doing a PhD in engineering. Their nine-year-old daughter attends a local school.
Both families have been enjoying the benefits of their friendship of 18 months. They catch up in the park with their children, and barbecues are taking on a combined Aussie-Iranian flavour.
"Whenever I have questions, I am sure that Mel will be available. She was very supportive and helpful," says Homa. Explaining customs and language idiosyncrasies are just a couple of examples where having a local contact can make a difference.
For the Burgess family, the Community Connections program was a good fit, as the program works to match people with like interests and also families with other families.
"It's very two-way," Mel says. "At first I thought I could be helpful to someone else, but I was very surprised at how much magic happens. It helps teach my kids that there is an array of people who come into our lives, and we don't have to fear difference."
Mel encourages other locals to become a part of Community Connections. "I'd recommend anyone who is available to link in with the program and get a new friendship started."
To learn more about the Community Connections program, visit the website.