Local crowned International Student of the Year

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When 22 year-old Leticia Cabral Satiro Luiz first came to Australia from Brazil to study at the University of Sydney (USYD), she was excited to meet people of all different nations. It’s this enthusiasm that led to her being crowned the NSW International Student of 2013.

Leticia comes from a small rural town called Oliveira in Brazil. She left there when she was 16 years old to go to a selective school in the city before starting a mechanical engineering degree at Universidade Estadual de Campinas. In July 2012, she received a Science Without Borders scholarship and left Brazil to study engineering in Australia.

Upon arriving, language was the most difficult hurdle. “I used to be a good communicator but when I got here I couldn’t talk to people,” she said. “You can’t understand what a person is saying. It’s very frustrating.”

She also recalled reluctance and shyness among other international students to cross cultural boundaries. “Many people have a strong tendency to stay with other people from their own nationality,” she said. But she persisted in trying to bring different cultures together.

She began giving speeches and leading forums at the Centre for English Teaching USYD (CET), encouraging students to join extracurricular activities and meet people from different countries. “When you get to know people from other cultures, it’s adding to yourself because it’s something different, something that you don’t know,” she said. “You don’t know much about your own culture until you compare your culture with something else.”

In 2012, she helped organise a talent show for CET’s annual awards ceremony, showcasing acts like Chinese folk dancing and a pipa music performance. She also volunteered for Engineers Without Borders early 2013, assisting in an event that encouraged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students to consider a career in engineering.

She was rewarded for all her work on October 10 last year when StudyNSW and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet presented her with the NSW International Student of the Year Award in the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students category.

USYD Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Carlin, says CET nominated Leticia for her ongoing commitment to building stronger student communities and her leadership skills in creating opportunities for international students to meet and integrate with Australian students.

Leticia said her experience in Australia has been “life changing”, enabling her to develop public speaking skills, empathy for other nationalities and a better understanding of worldwide education systems. Returning home late February, Leticia is now hoping to share what she’s learnt of Australia’s “good educational system” in order to improve Brazil’s own system.

 

Published in the South Sydney Herald, February 2014.

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