(This is a translation of a Chinese article and interview. Read the original here.)
In 2019 and at only 17 years old, one of our Chinese students, Amy represented Australia at the United Nation Asia-Pacific Headquarters Youth Leadership Summit. Amy was recruited by EIC Education Group in 2017 as an international student to study in South Australian Government Schools. What made her achieve such a success and how did she go with her study and living in Australia? This is her story:
Xiao Qi: Hello Amy, as a student recruited by EIC, would you please say hello to your EIC buddies here?
Amy: Hello everyone! My name is Amy, I came to Adelaide, South Australia in 2017 through the help of EIC Shanghai Office. I am a Year 12 student at Glenunga International High School doing the International Baccalaureate Program. I am very happy to share my study and living experience with you, and I hope this will help you understand how I integrated in local culture and coped with my study in a new environment.
Xiaoqi: What do you think are the attractions of Australia? And why did you choose South Australia as your study destination?
Amy: What fascinated me most about Australia, and especially Adelaide, is its cultural diversity, its friendly people and the quality education. Adelaide is a very beautiful and peaceful city, with people from all different cultural backgrounds. I really hope that Adelaide will get more attention and from more people.
I highly recommend Adelaide because it has very warm, enthusiastic and dedicated teachers, as well as a beautiful environment. I think this is an excellent learning and living environment. I always promote South Australia and my school in various ways, including acting as a student leader and student ambassador, and speaking at various international conferences. I thank EIC for helping me to be admitted by South Australian Government School, and I thank my school, Glenunga International High School, and International Education Services for the support they provided to me.
Xiaoqi: Can you give us a brief introduction about your school, Glenunga International High School?
Amy: My school, Glenunga International High School, is one of the largest public high schools in South Australia. Currently, the students in my school come from 76 different countries or cultural backgrounds. Academically my school ranks among the top ones in the state.
Our school encourages each student to develop their potential to become international-minded citizens with creative thinking skills. Excellence, opportunity, international mindedness and harmony are the four key values of our school and a goal for students to achieve. Students are encouraged to pursue the best individual learning outcomes, as well as to achieve sustainable and comprehensive development, and never give up their aspirations lightly. Students are also encouraged to seize every opportunity to achieve success in each subject, and value their own creativity and abilities.
Glenunga International High School provided me with a lot of academic and extracurricular activities, which enabled me to explore my potential and to offer help to others. I have learned four important skills at my school, which are collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.
We now live in a global era, and we need to have a global perspective. We need to understand and embrace cultural diversity, work with people from different cultural backgrounds, and respect each other. This is what I have learned from Glenunga International High School, and from living in Adelaide.
Xiaoqi: As a student from China, how did you settle into a new study and living environment? Have you encountered any learning difficulties?
Amy: I remember when I first came to Australia with my mother three years ago, I was only 15 years old. Being far away from my friends, from my family and from China, I found that I could barely communicate with local people here. Not only did I have to adapt myself to a new life, but I also had to face many cultural shocks. For example, when I first came to Glenunga International High School, I knew almost nothing. I felt like an outsider with classmates who had been in this environment for two or three years. You can imagine my stress in a totally new country and a new school. I worked very hard to learn a lot of new English words day and night, these words were ranging from geography to history and to culture, which enabled me to settle into the new life.
Xiaoqi: Can you share with us how you integrated into Australian study and life, and how did you achieve such a success?
Amy: In order to quickly integrate into the local community, I did some in-depth research about the local culture and seized each opportunity provided by my school. I also became an active member of the student council. In order to change some stereotypes of Asian girls, I participated in many drama activities and public speaking. This not only helped me to become a more active person but also made people more aware of the significance of multiculturalism. In addition, many of my roles as a committee member of the student council (a part-time worker, a volunteer, a saleswoman, a waiter in restaurant cleaning dishes etc.,) all helped me to have a deeper understanding of the local people. From doing these things I learnt how to make a living and to live independently.
I am also a volunteer of the Aboriginal Marathon Organisation. I participated in various activities, such as the three-kilometre the Colour Run and a 6000 meters run, raising money to support water resources. I raised more than $5,000 for these organisations. I recently worked as an intern in a Chinese-Western restaurant to further improve my overall skills so that I will be able to firm my foothold in this era of rapidly developing society.
In short, participating in various activities enabled me to have a better understanding of local society and a deeper connection with locals. These opportunities helped me develop my skills and abilities. In the meantime, I also positively influenced the local community. All these activities helped me to set a great milestone in my life and to engage globally.
Xiaoqi: You have won StudyAdelaide’s Academic Excellence Achievement for International Students awarded by the Governor of South Australia, his Excellency the honourable Hieu Van Le AC in 2019. Can you tell us how you won this award?
Amy: I am currently doing the International Baccalaureate Diploma course at my school. My GPA has always been above 13 or 14 points, which is equivalent to full A-grade. In addition, I won rewards for multiple subjects every semester.
I also participated in various math competitions. My team was awarded the best team in the 2019 Math Night for all South Australian public high schools. I also won the first and second prize for two consecutive years in the Australian National High School Math Competition.
This award is not only based on one’s academic study result but also takes into consideration the contributions one has made to his or her school. Such as leadership in school, or participation in extracurricular activities. I have acted as a student leader for three years, I helped a lot my school mates, especially new arrivals. I also acted as a companion of overseas visitors and students’ parents when they took a tour at my school and helped them understand the subjects and programs my school offered. As a student leader I also organised various activities for students to enrich their school life, such as the International Week. My committee has made great contributions to our school and our efforts were acknowledged. My contributions also helped me win the Champion for International Mindedness.
I was invited to attend the 2019 Australian Youth Leadership Summit, speaking on behalf of young people from Asian countries to bring closer relations between countries. I was also invited to make a speech at the launch of a video, Voice of Students, for Chinese international students. This made me see a big picture of the world and how we should face the problems in front of us. I believe all these activities increased my chance to win this award.
Xiaoqi: As far as we know, the award was given to students from 13 countries. How do you feel to win the award as a Chinese international student?
Amy: Of course I am very proud. However, I don’t feel it is just owed to my own efforts, but also to my school. I thank EIC for referring South Australian Government Schools to me.
Xiao Qi: We also know that, last year you were invited to attend the 7th United Nations Asia-Pacific Headquarters Youth Leadership Summit in Bangkok, and you were the youngest and the only representative of Australia. Tell us about this.
Amy: First of all, it is a great honour to be selected as the sole and youngest Australian youth representative for attending this Summit.
The initiative of this project is to create as many employment opportunities as possible for young people and disabled people in rural areas, and to allow more children to be able to access education. In some areas, other than the limited income from the rice fields, local farmers and housewives often have no other source of income. Through implementation of our plan and measures for them, we expect that their income will be able to lift to above the average level and to sustain for a certain period.
There are dozens of children in an area called Bang SaKae who cannot afford school education, we aim to help them to fulfil their dreams to receive education. We presented the local principal more than 100 cards in English to let the students have an opportunity to “experience” the charm of different cultures. In addition, this is also an environmental protection project. For example, we use local honey and grapefruit skin to make a new product, hand-soap, which is good for people’s heart and skin.
The plan for the next ten years of this project has been presented to many entrepreneurs of major United Nations member countries, with visualised presentations and displays of physical objects, who have unanimously voted this project as one of the successful business activities that can help to achieve the goal of sustainable development. The product is packed with a QR code, which enables people to view the Facebook homepage of Bang SaKae, hence increasing the public awareness of the area.
We aim to bring Bangkok closer to the international market through this project, and help to export the world’s best grapefruit from Bang SaKae to Australia. We also aim to overcome the language barrier and to help with cultural exchange as well as economic growth. This is a carefully selected collaboration project of the Asia-Pacific Youth Exchange and the United Nations in Bangkok. We expect this project will help to generate more than THB10, 000 annually, which will be evaluated in 2030.
Xiaoqi: As a Chinese student, how did you win this opportunity to become the only representative of Australia?
Amy: The program was originally meant to be open for people aged 18 to 30, with an average age of 24. I submitted the application to the official UN web-site, followed by submitting my resume and answering questions. I finally got the opportunity for a face-to-face interview. I overcame all the difficulties on the way and was selected from over 8,000 applicants to be the sole, 17-year-old representative for Australia.
Xiaoqi: From what I have just heard, I understand that the major benefit from you studying with South Australian Government School, Glenunga International High School, is you have developed an international perspective, am I right?
Amy: Yes. And through my participation in the UN Asia-Pacific Headquarters Youth Summit, I learned that there are so many people in this world who need help. Although I am just a high school student, I really want to be closer to them, to not only enjoy the natural scenes in remote areas, but to also deepen my understanding of their culture, their life and their needs. I hope I can truly be in their shoes, and use what I have learned to help them to fulfil their dreams as much as possible.
We didn’t have any budget at all for this project, from searching for materials to making and forming my plan, from collecting samples to marketing, it is all from our own pockets. We gave all our hard work and the good outcome, including the product and brand, for free to help the people of Bang SaKae. As a student, the biggest gift that I can give, perhaps, is my warm support and my knowledge, and the best return or reward to me is the beautiful smiles of their children.
My Chinese name Shi Yu was given to me by my mother, which doesn’t seem to be a name for a girl, neither does it have a sense of romance or trendiness. However, it implies to ‘give-up’ and not expect anything in return, as the Chinese character Shi-Yu carries. I am willing to devote my whole life to practice why my parents gave me this name. I feel I am already a member of Bang SaKae, which is the third home for me after China and Australia.
Xiaoqi: To finish our conversation, can I ask any suggestions you have for other prospective Chinese international students?
Amy: Never hesitate to showcase yourself, to showcase the best-side of yourself and your full confidence. Never stop your steps for self-development, despite the language barrier. There is no boundary for personal growth, your achievement depends on where you believe you can stand and how far you can reach out. So never look down on yourself, everyone can be their best selves. If others can, why can’t you? And remember, don’t let the world change you, but you can change the world.