Read the inspiring stories of three international students shaping their identities and their futures in Victoria.
Pursuing a global education is a thrilling journey of highs and lows. International students bravely adapt to a new country, language, and studies, contributing significantly to Victoria's connection to the world.
Stormwater engineer Sarbjeet Singh, management consultant and sustainable transport entrepreneur Abhishek Kansakar, and public health advocate Meantepy Hoeung share the unique journeys they’ve undertaken, overcoming challenges and transforming into remarkable individuals.
The Victorian International Education Awards celebrate exceptional students, including Sarbjeet, Abhishek, and Meantepy, highlighting stories of resilience and inspiration.
Sarbjeet Singh: Weathering storms of change
Sarbjeet's journey began in Chandigarh, India, where his passion for civil engineering ignited at age 13 during annual summer projects building houses with a friend. Earning a scholarship led him to Deakin University in Geelong, a town reminiscent of his home in India.
‘Geelong is very similar to Chandigarh – it’s a smaller town and very beautiful. After coming to Geelong I thought, ‘am I back home?’’
Despite this, the transition from living in India to Australia posed challenges.
‘Coming from a small town to a country where the people don’t speak your language and then right after arriving going into lock down, it was quite overwhelming,’ he said.
‘But this was actually a big turning point for me.’
‘It gave me time to reflect, allowed me to think about what I really want to do and helped me realise a few things about myself.’
Finding solace in the community, Sarbjeet engaged with the local Sikh group, preparing meals for those affected by the pandemic's job losses. He also became a Campus Coordinator, Student Mentor and created the Deakin University Indian Club, which became one of the biggest clubs on campus. Drawing on his own background, he established a study support group for international students to ease the transition to Australian university life.
‘I used my own experiences and mistakes I’ve made along the way to tailor the support groups to suit international students and help them navigate the new period of their lives with tips and tricks,’ he said.
Now employed as a stormwater engineer at the City of Greater Geelong, Sarbjeet is using his education to help build flood-resilient communities and incorporate sustainability into engineering projects.
‘I love working for the community. It’s great to work somewhere that is trying to address the issues of climate change and build a flood resilient city.’
Abhishek Kansakar: Bridging continents through sustainable transport
In 2016, Abhishek moved from Nepal to study in Melbourne, drawn by the city's global education reputation and inclusive environment. It became not just a destination for learning but a canvas for personal growth and innovation.
‘Meeting individuals from various backgrounds allowed me to broaden my perspective, appreciate different cultures, and form lasting international friendships,’ said Abhishek.
Navigating a new cultural landscape, Abhishek credits this inclusivity that defines Australian society and noticed similarities in his own culture.
‘I’ve always felt that Victoria is my home,’ he said.
‘Everyone I’ve met in Victoria is friendly and approachable, making integration into the community easy.’
After winning the 2018 UniMelb Start-up Pitch Competition, Abhishek founded Electrify Infinite, an application that aims to simplify access to electric vehicle (EV) charger stations.
‘The inspiration behind Electrify Infinite is deeply rooted in my early experiences in Nepal, particularly during a time of civil unrest when essential resources like food and electricity were scarce.’
‘These firsthand experiences have been the driving force behind my unwavering commitment to sustainability.’
His dedication to accelerating the transition to net-zero emissions and his personal interests in tech and all things cars and motorbikes have converged to create ‘a cause larger than myself’.
As a first-generation university attendee and entrepreneur, his advice for future international students is rooted in self-belief.
‘Embrace diversity, perspective, and cultural insights as sources of strength,’ he said.
‘Embrace the courage to try new things, and above all, cultivate a love for learning to fuel your curiosity. Find joy in the entire process, appreciating both triumphs and challenges.’
Meantepy Hoeung: Blazing a trail in public health
In 2018, Meantepy embarked on a transformative journey from Cambodia to become an international student at Holmesglen Institute studying nursing. Driven by a passion for community healthcare and reflecting on her experience, she shared, ‘I feel very lucky to call Melbourne home’.
‘It has so much opportunity for growth, success and personal development.’
Transitioning to a Bachelor of Applied Public Health at Australian Catholic University, Meantepy's horizons expanded at LiverWELL, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preventing viral hepatitis and liver disease. Volunteering and later becoming a Community Educator, she initiated vital conversations about viral hepatitis in culturally diverse communities.
‘I really recommend volunteering as an international student, it not only helped me get experience in my field, but also deepened my understanding of Australian culture.’
This experience paved the way for her role at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, combining her passion for connecting with culturally and linguistically diverse communities and public health advocacy.
‘We work to provide support to people newly diagnosed with hepatitis B, especially overseas students, refugees, or asylum seekers, to receive treatment and ensure that they are linked to care, regardless of their Medicare status,’ she said.
Meantepy's advocacy extends beyond her professional role. She actively works to improve access to health care for international students and helps address the stigma and discrimination for those diagnosed with Hepatitis B.
‘As an international student I want to see this change, and if I want to see this change, it should start with me.’
To find out all the winners, and read more, visit: Victorian International Education Awards 2023.