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Learning by giving

‌Almost two years ago, I came to Australia as an international student, to pursue my nursing degree. I always wanted to go to university, so I enrolled for foundation course, leading to a Bachelor of Nursing at University of Technology Sydney. I am Rista Shankar B K originally from Nepal and I am perusing my bachelor’s degree in Nursing at UTS.

As a new comer I had mixed feelings, I was nervous and excited at the same time. New place, new faces and everything so different from where I came from. I have always been outstanding in my studies, however, I was introverted which didn’t help me a lot into broaden my network and make new friends at the university.

Initially things were not as easy as I thought they would be the first semester, thereby I had various hurdles. Additionally, experiencing issues at the university and being unaware about where to get help when needed, inspired me to represent students voice.I started to shift my focus to other stuff as well. Back at home my family was always there for me and since I was far from them I became close to some of my fellows students and made really good friends. Despite being from a different cultural background, we had a good bonding and understanding. I know we all spoke different languages, followed different religions and cultures, but the university environment gave us exposure to know each other. I now realised how important it is to have good friends around. Being a international student away from home gave me knowledge about the importance around student support and the issues international students are facing every day.

Therefore, considering myself as a dedicated and visionary student with hopes to bring effective changes into the university focusing more on upstreaming and the causes, I represented myself as a student representative. Being a student representative is the ability to adapt to the surroundings, so everyone feels empowered to contribute creatively. The previous experience I have has always been faithfully constructed with this philosophy.

Since my first semester, I have engaged myself as a student representative where I mediated between FYE coordinator and fellow groups where we do a deep discussion about student’s problems and solutions. Also, being a secretary at Rotaract Club at UTS, I went to various training and events and got an opportunity to collaborate with people outside the university. At the CISA conference 2018 in Cairns, Queensland, I represented UTS and advocated for the interest and needs of all the international students on a broad topic such as accommodation, employment rights, travel and immigration. Campaigning for opal card concessions in the NSW parliament has stood me up to raise the voice of inequality. Representing UTS, I had a couple of discussion panels with the representative of union NSW where I addressed workplace violence/exploitation of international students and successfully came up with various solutions which can be implemented for campus students.

I collaborated with different people sharing their values, beliefs, perceptions, language and culture. In regard to this, I empowered myself to have a personal sense of what predicament is like, by sharing pain, feelings, joys, and sorrow. I have good grades in my courses, however to empower myself I believe being an empathetic person who can behold from other’s perspective, is significantly crucial.

With all these engagements and by broadening my network, I acknowledged that empathy is the ability to feel someone else emotions, their thoughts and hereby undertake compassionate actions. Basically connecting with people in every possible way. I am grateful I was able to extend empathy by connecting with people from different “mindsets”. I enjoy the diverse range of perspectives with varying cultures, nationalities, country, age, and stages in our life. I am glad I have met people who is completely different to me, and yet being able to connect and advocate for their issues.

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