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Interview with Amrit Pal Kaur, NSW’s International Student of the Year

On October 2, UNE student Amrit Pal Kaur was named NSW’s International Student of the Year. The award recognises a student’s outstanding contribution to improving the student and local community through volunteering.

State governor the Hon. Margaret Beazley presented Amrit with the award at Government House in Sydney and we share UNE International’s feelings – we are incredibly proud!

Amrit is an exceptional member of the UNE community, and her devotion to University and local events has not only enhanced the multiculturalism within the Armidale community, but has also given her a rich understanding and appreciation for community.

We sat down with Amrit to find out more about her inspiring journey touching on her community involvement and experience as an international student at UNE.

Firstly, congratulations! What was your reaction when you found out you were selected as one of three finalists in the 2019 NSW International Student Awards in the higher education category?

 I felt greatly humbled and honoured when I received the email from Study NSW saying that I was a finalist.

I’m so grateful that I had made the decision to study in Australia so many years ago. Most importantly, I just felt lucky to be a part of the wonderful community at UNE. The love I have for UNE is returned by the support the University has given me within my studies and community work. There are many Indian students enrolled at UNE this year, so I felt very proud to be recognised within the University and International student’s community. I have been totally enjoying that limelight… 😁

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All photos courtesy of the UNE International Team

Being an international student comes with many obstacles, what are some of the challenges that you have faced as an international student?

As an international student, I can tell you that the biggest challenge is language.

English is my second language, and I struggled a lot with communication when I first arrived in Armidale. Ha, I was so afraid of Australian Slang – whenever I heard an odd word I would google it and end up with a strange meaning every time, to be honest, that was sort of fun too. However, by being involved in volunteer work at different levels and with different age groups; I improved my speaking and listening abilities, and started using Australian expressions more and more. I would love to mention here – that although language is the biggest challenge, I was so amazed by how welcoming the Australian community is, as many would try to understand what I was trying to say even if I had to use signs to express it, and they never let me feel bad for my English. My Australian friends would motivate me with praises on my English, even I knew it was very bad. Apart from language difficulties, being away from family and friends is another challenge for international students.

What have you learned from your role as a member of the UNE student Ambassador team? And, why should future students get involved?

Volunteering as a UNE International Student Ambassador taught me some important skills in time management, leadership qualities, teamwork, respecting other’s opinions, and handling constructive criticism. Volunteering also taught me a lot about organising Australian events. In particular understanding, the legal permission required before holding any kind of event, and what sorts of things should be considered to make an event suitable for children and community members. These experiences have helped build my confidence and have motivated me to seek all the extra-curricular activities such as cultural festivals, international day celebrations, harmony day celebrations, New England Festival, and volunteer activities within the UNE. I also enjoy visiting schools and teaching children about my culture. Other charitable activities I have been involved in such as the Zonta International Club empowering women and volunteering within the native and international community have given me a platform to works besides UNE staff members, senior members of the Armidale community and the less fortunate within Armidale and New South Wales. These experiences gave me a better understanding of our society and how my contribution can influence someone’s life at a personal level as well as at an organizational level.

Future students will definitely learn as much as I did if they choose to involve themselves within the volunteering experiences within Armidale. By being involved in such activities it can help us to polish our behaviours and skills so that we can be part of a society in a multicultural country.

What is your favourite event at UNE, and why?

UNE holds a number of events that benefit the students, their families, and the wider community. I love all the events that UNE and UNE Life host, including Life Saver Day, Open Day, Friday Feasts, Global Connections, ‘Stro nights, and the various sports events that are hosted. However, my favourite one is ‘Culture Fest’ that my friends at UNE International organise every year. I enjoy sharing the experiences at events by participating in and watching traditional dances, observing the colourful dresses, and even helping out with cooking, serving and tasting traditional food. UNE cultural events are so colourful, and it’s amazing to see and taste different cultures in person, it’s wonderful that we can do this in our little regional community.

So you moved to Australia to complete your Ph.D., tell us about it…

For the past five years, I have been studying dung beetles for my Ph.D. in the School of Rural and Environmental Sciences, under the supervision of Professor Nigel Andrew in Insect Ecology Laboratory. I am looking into the nutritional assessment of dung beetles which contributes to the understanding of why they are an important part of our ecosystem and Australian agriculture. It has been an amazing experience!

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All photos courtesy of the UNE International Team

Why is it important to be involved in the UNE community while studying? How does it enhance your time at UNE?

Studying at the University of New England, has been a turning point for my personal growth. My research within the School of Environmental and Rural Science has been occupied with laboratory work and field visits. Living within the NSW region and studying at UNE has provided a number of opportunities for me throughout my studies. My enthusiasm for the community has helped me to say “yes” to every opportunity that I can. These opportunities have improved my confidence level, and my language and social behaviour. I have also been able to polish my leadership qualities and time management skills. By being an active member of the UNE community and, I have seen myself grow to develop an appreciation and respect towards different cultural traditions and values.

Where did you first begin your involvement in the community within UNE and what inspired you to get involved?

 I started participating in December 2016, when I was feeling homesick and was looking for something to distract me from missing my loving family. I danced in Culture Fest 2016 (Which is coming up again the next weekend)  for the 250 people that attended. Only four nationalities were represented, and I served food cooked by myself to represent India. The appreciation we got at the culture fest lead us to expand the celebrations and now 25 countries are represented, welcoming and a huge crowd exceeding 1500 in 2017 and 2018. This year, the festival will be even larger, extending for three days and will include a film screening, various workshops, kid’s activities, food stalls, and cultural performances from various countries. I have a great appreciation for these events and the continuing success of them inspires me to participate again and again.

UNE’s Culture festival is held this weekend November 1-3, to see the running times and event, click here

What is the International Hub and why is it important to you?

The International Hub was a partnership project with Study Sydney and Bupa. The project involved engaging international students and their families with the local community in New England and was focused on the health and wellbeing of new arrivals to the region. The International Hub was managed by Mrs. Dunya Alruhaimi – the 2015 NSW International Student of the Year, on behalf of UNE when it commenced operations. The project is over now, but UNE holds many different events through UNE international office.

What is one thing you would change about the world? 

The world is a great place with everything we need for our survival and existence. Being an agriculturalist, I would love to promote safe alternatives to avoid plastics that are polluting our soil and water resources. Being human, I would love to remove all the negativity surrounding us so that we all can breathe in a pure, positive and enthusiastic atmosphere to help us be the best at what we are capable of.

 How long have you been studying at UNE Armidale and why do you think other international students should look at studying here?

I have been in Armidale since April 2016 when I started my Ph.D. Many international students think that Armidale is very quiet area with not much happening here but I would like to tell them that we can create our own platforms to make things happen, and by sharing our culture and tradition with others we can gain a lot, which we usually miss when we live in a big city. There is a lot of travelling when living in a big city, with people always watching their phones and always in rush. Here in Armidale, we can actually interact with people, providing a place to share and care.


It has been an absolute pleasure talking with you Amrit, thank you for sharing some of your journey with us.

We’re really excited to see you at #ClutureFest2019

If you’re keen to get involved in any UNE Life Clubs and Societies or find out more about becoming an International Student at UNE,  speak with the team at UNE Life today and we can point you in the right direction!