International Student of the year

Charles Sturt student wins International Student of the Year


At Charles Sturt University, we’re fortunate to have some amazing international students call our uni home. Each and every international student is such a dynamic part of our university community, bringing diversity, culture and a global perspective into our classrooms and onto campuses.

Each year, more than 300,000 international students enrol to study in New South Wales (NSW). In 2017, Charles Sturt University welcomed 10,000 international students to our beautiful regional campuses – and into the Charles Sturt family.

So when one of our own is selected for a special achievement, we want to celebrate. Meet the student named as the 2018 NSW International Student of the Year award – our very own Forough Ataollahi. Forough is an Iranian student completing her PhD with us, and has contributed so much to the Charles Sturt community.

To be nominated for the award, Forough needed to show that she was an inspirational role model to the community and demonstrate an achievement that adds value to the community through:

  • touching the lives of others
  • participating in the community
  • volunteer work
  • connecting an ethnic or language community group with the broader NSW community.

Forough has been involved in the International Student Club since she began studying with us, becoming club president in 2016. In 2017, she was elected women’s officer for national peak international student body the Council of International Students Australia (CISA). In this role, Forough delivered the first CISA International Women’s Conference and continues to work hard to establish international student workshops on leadership and sexual assault.

Outside university, Forough volunteers with several community organisations, including the St Vincent de Paul resettlement program and the Wagga Wagga City Library’s Language Cafe initiative. Forough also provides valued input at the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga’s informal cultural club meetings.

Insight chatted to Forough about her background, her experience at Charles Sturt and what winning the 2018 NSW International Student of the Year award means to her.

Path to Charles Sturt

I am from Eshkour, a small village located in south-east Iran. I am passionate about animals, especially livestock, and my involvement with animals and agriculture has been extensive and longstanding.

I began my undergraduate degree in 2004, studying veterinary medicine in Iran. In my home country, veterinary medicine is a six-year course and a year-long Honours project – seven years total. After graduation, I worked as a research assistant in the Department of Biomedical Science at the University of Malaya for four years. At the same time, I completed the Master of Biomedical Science in 2015 at the same university. From there, I was awarded the Charles Sturt University Postgraduate Research Scholarship and the International Tuition Payment (ITP) Scholarship, which enabled me to pursue my PhD.

Australia, and particularly Charles Sturt University, are known for having a very strong veterinary medicine program and high employment outcomes. Moreover, my Honours project is centred on mineral deficiency in sheep. The university has a large and expert research group in this area, which motivated me to apply to Charles Sturt.

I’m really enjoying my PhD study. It is very exciting to work on something that can improve a part of the sheep industry.

Transition into Australian society

The education system in my home country is very different from Australia. I gained theoretical experience during my undergraduate degree in Iran, but did not get the level of practical experience I have had here in Australia.

Since arriving in Australia, I have received strong support from the staff at the university, including my supervisory committee, the international student liaison officers, the Division of Student Services, the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

Moreover, the expertise and knowledge of my supervisory committee was very critical for shaping a strong research study. In my PhD study, I worked on a project which is very beneficial for the sheep industry and is providing good strategies for the farmers and producers to improve animal production and husbandry.

On being named the NSW International Student of the Year

When I came to Australia, I felt isolated when I first arrived. Then I met a great group of Australian people at a multicultural event. They showed me so much support – they took me shopping every week, they invited me to their house for dinner and they tried to make me feel at home.

It was at this time I realised just how important it is to support international students when they first arrive in Australia. Over the last three years in Wagga Wagga, I have been involved in many activities aimed at helping new international students settle into Australian life. I’ve put my heart and soul into this work – and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.

Being the award is a great validation of what I’ve achieved so far and it’s an honour to be recognised among a high level of successful applicants. It is great to be recognised and be acknowledged for my work. It shows me that I am on the right path and that following my heart does work.

Being selected for this accolade also gives me a voice. I’m confident in myself and my ability to help more people. I hope to continue with my creativity and to create positive change on a bigger scale. I’m excited for the future.

Ready to embark on an Australian adventure like no other?

Take a look at what you can expect when you join the Charles Sturt family as an international student and how to transition into life in Australia.

Video credit: Department of Primary Industries and StudyNSW.