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Virtual Farewell meeting for scholars

Posted: 17 December 2020

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Scholars Platform, Sri Lanka, Alumni, COVID-19, Experience, In Australia, Scholar,

A Virtual Farewell meeting was held last month for the Australia Awards scholars from South and West Asia who are scheduled to complete their studies at the end of 2020. Around 45 scholars from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attended the online meeting, which was hosted by the Australia Awards team in Adelaide, South Australia.

The Virtual Farewell meeting was organised to give scholars an opportunity to check in with one another as they prepare to graduate and travel home under unprecedented circumstances. It also allowed them to connect with the Australia Awards teams in their respective home countries and learn about the resources available to them as they transition to becoming alumni.

During the meeting, Cecilia Brennan, Acting Assistant Secretary for the South Asia Branch at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed the graduating scholars. She recognised their achievements, remarking, “Graduation is such an important marker in our lives, and I would like to commend you for the commitment that you all dedicated to studying in your respective areas.” Cecilia acknowledged that graduating in 2020 could not have been easy, especially for scholars who have been away from their family and friends.

Cecilia said that an important objective of Australia Awards Scholarships is to “equip future leaders … to become strong, empathetic and energised leaders, who are able to return home and make a positive contribution to their communities”.

She added that, as Australia Awards alumni, the graduating scholars will be “well placed to share Australian expertise and maintain ties between [their] communities and Australia”. She encouraged scholars to also establish networks with each other and wished them every success in achieving their goals.

Madiha Rizki, Regional Alumni Coordinator for Australia Awards – South and West Asia, also spoke to the scholars about the resources and opportunities available to them as they transition to becoming alumni. Madiha emphasised the benefits of being part of “an engaged and influential global network of leaders and advocates” and urged scholars to stay connected to the Australia Global Alumni network and the local alumni networks in their home countries. She also encouraged scholars to keep in touch with the Australia Awards team after returning home and share stories of their accomplishments and successes as alumni.

Alumna Arifa Jahan Ema on campus. A picture from 2018 when she was a scholar

Alumna Arifa Jahan Ema from Bangladesh shared her experience of graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic

Australia Awards alumna Arifa Jahan Ema also shared her experience of graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the meeting. Arifa recently completed a Master of Philosophy (Occupational Therapy) at Monash University and has now returned to Bangladesh. Despite the challenges she has had to face, Arifa believes that for her, this was a “great time to reflect”. Even though she missed having the opportunity to take graduation photos in a cap and gown, she is delighted with her achievements. Arifa spoke about her move back home, sharing her realistic and hopeful perspective.

“I knew that … I was not going to emerge from this pandemic period as a replenished and newly ambitious version of myself,” Arifa said. “But I knew that we all were tackling this in our own ways, by being resilient and with tenacity.”

Arifa summarised her viewpoint with a forward-looking statement. “This is not the graduation any of us expected,” she said, “but once the doors to the world are reopened, the class of 2020 will be ready.”

Australia Awards scholars who have graduated in 2020 and are soon to return home are encouraged to access resources to support them with their transition and to stay connected with Australia Awards.