International Student of the Year 2020

" I don’t see my achievements as achievements, they are milestones", says Parveen Sharma, a man with a well-planned path to success who has just been awarded International Student of the Year 2020.

Information technology has been Parveen’s passion since he exhausted playing all the games on his laptop in his hometown of Kurukshetra in the Haryana Province of India and became curious about how technology worked. He admits, “I wanted to know, how does WiFi work.” He started with deciding to create his own game so he learned Java programming language to do so and then to get deeper into the technical side, he pulled apart routers and put them back together again.

After completing school and 9 months at army camp where he obtained the first of three certifications required to enter the Indian Army at an elite level, his family gave him three possible paths: study for his Indian university entrance exams for a place in the highly competitive university system; enter the Indian Army; or study overseas. He chose to study overseas and quickly set his sights on Australia because of its multicultural reputation.

Parveen sought advice from an education agent who laid out his options as being the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, or he could go to Mildura, which was likened to him as more of a village.

I wanted to see the real Australia and how Australia really works.

Plus, my agent said studying in Mildura is cheaper than in a city, so I thought I would "give it a go,” explained Parveen on how he came to study a Diploma of Information Technology Networking at SuniTAFE.

In India, Parveen undertook some initial studies at a local college while he prepared for his studies abroad. He explains that the two study experiences could not have been more different with the style of classes involving more teacher interaction, the practical component of his Australian course and that the computing facilities and IT infrastructure at SuniTAFE was on par with the most expensive and exclusive private colleges in India. Parveen has found his SuniTAFE teachers to be supportive and always prepared to answer every question he had, taking the time to ensure that he understood each concept. “They stick around you until you get it,” he says.

An additional benefit for IT students at SuniTAFE is the ability to also undertake professional certifications in Cisco and Red Hat Academy, both of which Parveen believes demonstrate skills that industry needs and will increase his employability.

Parveen has found living on campus at SuniTAFE Residences to be a perfect fit for him. He cites the convenience of living on campus (he can pop home to make lunch) and the peace to focus on his studies and sleep as key factors, as well as the affordability, security and the social aspect, as reasons he enjoys living on campus.

After taking a couple of months to settle in to his new home and his studies, Parveen decided to look for a part-time job. He received assistance from SuniTAFE’s Skills and Jobs Centre in preparing his resume and left armed with some contacts of businesses he could approach with his resume. The day after he started his job search, Parveen had a call back from the owners of a petrol station with a job offer and he started work the very next day working for people he describes as being like family to him. Parveen now works in a busy coffee shop where he likes nothing better than chatting with the locals who come in to talk about what’s going on in Mildura. The communication skills and his increased understanding of human behaviour from his customer service roles have increased Parveen’s confidence and given him more skills to add to his resume.

When taking time out to relax, Parveen enjoys going to the Mildura Riverfront to lie on the grass under a tree. He thinks the Murray River is a great part of living in the region. Although he didn’t know how to swim when he arrived in Australia, Parveen joined the local pool to learn and now feels that he has more confidence around the water and the skills to save himself.

Parveen has a well thought-out plan for his future beyond SuniTAFE. First, he wants to gain industry experience, putting the skills he has gained to work and seeing how the business world operates. Parveen then plans for more study and, in 7 or 8 years, would like to start his own business because he believes that people need ideas.

Parveen describes winning the International Student of the Year Award as the best day of his life in Australia.

“I was so happy, more so than for graduating as I never thought I might be the winner. I couldn’t stop smiling all night – it means everything to me.”

Parveen’s older brother, who is also studying in Victoria, visited Mildura for the first time to see him graduate from his Diploma and take out the top prize for international students. Family is important for Parveen and he reminds other international students to not forget about their families, that days are precious and it is important to keep in touch.

One final piece of advice Parveen has for other students preparing to come to SuniTAFE is to be positive and stick with what you want to do.

“Some situations are harsh but there is no shame in calling for help, so ask if you are struggling to deal with anything.”