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Scholarship recipients prepare for study and life in Australia

Posted: 14 December 2023

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Experience,

More than 140 Australia Awards Scholarship recipients from South Asia and Mongolia are currently preparing to embark on their Scholarship journey. These emerging leaders from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will all commence their master’s degree programs at world-class universities in Australia in 2024.

Every year, the new Australia Awards scholars attend pre-departure briefings in their respective countries before they leave for Australia. At these briefings, scholars learn about what to expect in Australia, cultural differences and similarities, health insurance coverage, laws of Australia, and how to cope with the challenges they may face while living and studying in a different country. Australia Awards also organises receptions to formally farewell new scholars before they depart on their journey. At these events, Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to meet and engage in discussion with the Australian High Commissioner in their country and other dignitaries, including officials from the relevant Ministries of Education, and to network with Australia Awards alumni.

The pre-departure briefings and farewell receptions for the cohort of scholars who will begin their study in 2024 have recently been hosted by the High Commissions and Embassies of Australia in their respective countries, as described below.

This year, Bangladesh held a three-day pre-departure briefing on 22–24 November, catering to 44 Bangladeshi scholars. High Commissioner Jeremy Bruer encouraged the scholars to live up to the philosophy of Australia Awards, which is to make a difference and lead positive change in their communities, in their workplaces and in Bangladesh upon completing their studies and returning to the country. Scholar Divine Wealth Chakma, who attended the pre-departure briefing mentioned, “The beauty of the Australia Awards lies in its endeavour to address the human capital gaps across diverse sectors and in its approach to providing tailor-made solutions for individual countries. Studying in Australia would be a highly enriching experience as it would blend world-class education with scholars spanning diverse backgrounds from a myriad of countries. I am truly looking forward to embarking on this learning journey that would turn me into a better professional than what I am today.”

The Bangladesh pre-departure briefing was held online this year.

Senior officials from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, which is accredited to Bhutan, joined the Royal Civil Service Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan in attending the pre-departure briefing for the country’s 12 new scholars on 23-24 November. Scholar Sherab Dorji, Desk Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, attended the event and said, “We hope to gain new and relevant knowledge and skills that will support not just our own career goals and objectives, but also those of our organisations and our country.”

Belinda Costin (First Secretary at the Australian High Commission in India) delivered the keynote speech at the farewell event to celebrate the achievements of the new Scholarship recipients from Bhutan on 24 November 2023. She said, “I congratulate you all for being selected for the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarships—it is the fruit of your hard work, perseverance and preparation. I would also like to emphasise by reminding [you] that you are not just selected for your academic excellence, but more importantly your potential as a future leader and changemaker for ongoing development of Bhutan.”

Scholars and Australia Awards team members with Tiruchirappalli Vishwanathan from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi (third from left, front row) in Thimphu, Bhutan.

In Mongolia, the pre-departure briefing for the 15 new Mongolian scholars took place on 17–18 November at the Australian Corner in Ulaanbaatar. In addition to the new scholars, those in attendance included government officials, Australia Awards alumni, Australian volunteers and representatives of the Mongolia Australia Society (Mozzies).

Dave Preston (First Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Mongolia) and Baatarsaikhan Doljin (Member of the Civil Service Council of Mongolia) both spoke, sharing advice with the new Mongolian scholars about Australian cultural differences and encouraging the scholars to make the most of their stay in Australia by meeting new people and further enhancing Mongolian and Australian connections. Finally, they wished the Scholarship recipients success with their studies and reminded them to contribute to development in Mongolia upon their return. After participating in the pre-departure briefing, scholar Tuvshinjargal Ulambayar, who will study for a Master of Economics and Resource Policy at the University of Adelaide mentioned, “The briefing session helped our family be literally and mentally aware of what needs to be prepared and acknowledged when it comes to living and studying in Australia. Thus, all the information exchanged between cohorts and former awardees was extremely balanced and practical in terms of what we should expect through our stay”.

Scholars with Dave Preston, First Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Mongolia (second from left, front row) and Enkhtuvshin Lunden, Australia Awards – Mongolia’s Country Program Manager (second from right, front row) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

On 1 December, the Australian High Commission in Maldives hosted a pre-departure briefing for 12 new Scholarship recipients. This was followed by a farewell reception on 3 December. High Commissioner HE David Jessup met with the scholars at the pre-departure briefing and shared his insights about preparing to study in Australia. The Minister of Higher Education, Labour and Skills Development, HE Dr Maryam Mariya, attended the farewell reception as the chief guest.

Scholars with High Commissioner HE David Jessup (middle) at the farewell reception in Maldives.

This year, 21 people from Nepal received Australia Awards Scholarships to study master’s degree programs in Australia in 2024. Attending the pre-departure briefing, scholar Ram Pukar Mahara said, “Receiving the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarship is a significant milestone in my life. I guess I am the first person from the Madheshi Dalit community to be bestowed with this honour. The award ceremony was an emotional moment where I couldn’t help but reflect on my community and family’s struggles that brought me to this point. It was a truly memorable day.”

Australian Ambassador to Nepal HE Felicity Volk congratulated the Scholarship recipients from Nepal at a ceremony on 1 December. During her keynote address at the ceremony, HE Volk said, “[…] I look forward to seeing their vital contributions to Nepal, drawing on their new knowledge and skills in public policy development, health, infrastructure development, policy for people living with disability, the empowerment of women and girls, education, sustainable energy production and transmission, and more”.

Recipients with Chief Secretary Dr Baikuntha Aryal (front row, fifth from left), Australia’s Ambassador to Nepal (front row, sixth from left), other representatives of the Australian Embassy and Australia Awards during the Australia Awards Ceremony in Kathmandu, Nepal.

In Pakistan, 14 people received Australia Awards Scholarships for study beginning in 2024. They attended a Pre-Departure Breifing on 9–10 November, hearing from officials from the High Commission and alumni. The Scholarship recipients practiced their elevator pitches to enhance their ability to build linkages with Australian organisations and individuals during their studies.

At a farewell reception on 9 November, High Commissioner HE Neil Hawkins was delighted to meet the 14 Scholarship recipients and present them with their well-earned certificates. He wished the recipients every success as they begin studying at world-class Australian institutions and exhorted them to bring back valuable insights to contribute to Pakistan’s development.  High Commissioner Hawkins encouraged them to consider themselves as “Ambassadors for Pakistan while in Australia”.  Reflecting on her own period as a scholar, Alumna Sumaira Abbasi encouraged the Scholarship recipients to take advantage of all the opportunities that come from living and studying in Australia.

Scholars with High Commissioner Neil Hawkins (sixth from left, back row) in Pakistan.

In Sri Lanka, a pre-departure briefing was held on 25 October in Colombo for the 24 new Scholarship recipients. Sophie Gordon (Second Secretary at the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka) urged the talented group to build their personal and professional networks and be good ambassadors for Sri Lanka in Australia.

High Commissioner HE Paul Stephens later hosted a reception to farewell the 24 Sri Lankan scholars. Suren Raghavan, Sri Lankan State Minister for Higher Education, was among the guests; he commended education ties between Australia and Sri Lanka in his speech. This year, the Australian High Commission dedicated a Scholarship in memory of Manik Suriyaaratchi, an Australian alumna and entrepreneur who lost her life in the 2019 Easter terrorist attacks. Scholar Jeevani Fernando received the Manik Suriyaaratchi Memorial Scholarship and will undertake a Master of Computer Science at the University of New South Wales. She was also awarded a grant to pursue professional activities to help Sri Lankan women improve their digital connectivity.

Scholars with High Commissioner Paul Stephens (middle) receiving certificates at the Farewell event in Colombo, Sri Lanka.