Tell us a little bit about yourself and your achievements to date.
I was born and raised in the Philippines. I have been studying for the majority of my life! I have a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in sociology. I am now pursuing a Ph.D. in community planning and development in La Trobe University Bendigo. I am passionate about environmental preservation and social justice, and my PhD thesis advocates for fairer, just, democratic, and inclusive policies and processes that can help the poor and marginalised to better adapt to climate change. Getting a scholarship at La Trobe, publishing academic journals, getting involved in the community, and being a VIEA winner are some of the things that I consider as achievements to date.
What are your goals in the future?
My dream is to work as an academic here in Australia. Doing research, reading, teaching are the things that I love to do. I can imagine myself doing these things for the rest of my life. What I love about being an academic is that I can serve as a voice to advocate for the needs and aspirations of the most vulnerable members of our community. I envision that my articles and publications will help shape policy and practice especially in the field of climate change studies. On a personal level, I would love to travel the world with my family, get to know about other cultures and meet new friends!
How have you gone about making new friends and building your networks in Victoria?
In my first few months of study in Australia, I kept to myself and stayed in my office much of the time. The only thing that mattered to me was getting my degree. But this eventually changed when I started to meet and talk to different international students at my university. Being an international student myself, I started to get a sense of the numerous challenges and difficulties they regularly face. This is when I decided to volunteer and become an international student host at La Trobe University Bendigo. What started out as simply a “try and see experiment” turned into a passion and commitment which broadened from a focus on international students to ethnic and multicultural communities in general. I am now an intercultural ambassador for the City of Greater Bendigo, working to promote cultural diversity and inclusion in our community. Through these roles, I have started to meet new friends and build my networks here in Victoria.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for students who are thinking about studying in Victoria?
Studying in regional Victoria is one of the best decisions that I have made in my life. The quality of education is world-class, the facilities are superb, and my supervisors have been very friendly and supportive. In addition, I feel very privileged to live in Bendigo, a beautiful and liveable city that is filled with very warm and friendly people. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the big city, I find Bendigo to be more relaxing and comforting. It is home to large green spaces, great heritage buildings, and rich cultural events and attractions. It is really an ideal place to study, relax, and have fun!
While the Covid-19 pandemic may have adversely affected the international students in Australia, one thing I realised is that we are not on our own. The Victorian government, together with numerous community-based organisations, have been doing everything they can to extend help to us. I feel very lucky that Victoria offers a strong support system for people who are in need. I have also seen how people reached out and helped support one another in these trying times. Despite our cultural differences and places of origin, we have been together, as one community, during the crisis.