Majid, Homa, Mel and Sol
Connect with an international student
The International Office provides a range of welfare and support services designed to make international students' time with us a rich and rewarding experience.
One of these is the Community Connections cross cultural friendship program which links volunteers with international students from all levels of study.
International students join the program to meet locals and broaden their Australian friendships. It allows students to learn more about Australian culture and customs, while sharing information about their home country with others.
People of all ages and walks of life join the program as volunteers. After first meeting both the student and volunteer decide how often and where they will meet and what they will do together, including going to movies, playing sport or just catching up for coffee.
Mel Burgess, who works at the Family Action Centre, her husband Adam, and their two children are paired with Majid Hosseini, his wife Homa, and daughter, from Iran. Mel says the Community Connections program was a good fit, as it works to match people with like interests and also families with other families.
"It's very two-way," she says. "At first I thought I could be helpful to someone else, but I was very surprised at how much magic happens. It helps teach my kids that there is an array of people who come into our lives, and we don't have to fear difference."
Mel encourages other staff members to become a part of Community Connections.
"I'd recommend anyone who is available to link in with the program and get a new friendship started."
Majid came to Australia for the first time in 2006, as a backpacker. After three years in Malaysia gaining a Masters in Computer Science, Majid received a scholarship offer from the University of Newcastle to do a PhD in Computer Engineering.
Majid and Homa were computer engineering classmates in Iran and are both doing PhDs with us. Their nine-year-old daughter attends a local school.
Both families have been enjoying the benefits of their friendship of 18 months. They catch up in the park with their children, and barbecues are taking on a combined Aussie-Iranian flavour.
"Whenever I have questions, I am sure that Mel will be available. She was very supportive and helpful," says Homa. Explaining customs and language idiosyncrasies are just a couple of examples where having a local contact can make a difference.
There is an opportunity for more local volunteers to be involved in the Community Connections program and all enquiries are welcome
Find out more and/or sign up here.