The 2022 Mayor’s Student Ambassadors are from 14 countries, representing nine Gold Coast institutions in what is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Over the year the Ambassadors will encounter a range of activities which will see them grow academically, personally and professionally within a program that’s designed to build a deeper understanding of themselves, their fellow students and the wider Gold Coast community.
What does it take to become a Mayor’s Student Ambassador? Read on to discover what makes the 2022 contingent such an exceptional group of young people and remember, if you’d like to share their journey with them, just follow their amazing experiences on social media.
Sujin Kim (South Korea) – Certificate III in Marine Craft Construction, TAFE
I’m from Busan, a beautiful city in the south-eastern part of South Korea. There are many wonderful beaches, traditional markets and festivals in Busan, so it’s a popular tourist destination. Whenever I used to see people from overseas on the street I would talk to them. I was always curious about where they had come from and it helped me to improve my English.
In Korea, I attained a Business Administration degree and at that time I thought I might become an employee of a major company or an accountant, but just before I graduated I spent a year in Canada and it changed my perspective. Living life without competing with other people there allowed me to focus on what I really wanted to do and what I really wanted to be, without living up to anyone else’s expectations. I decided that wanted to explore the world and meet more people with different stories from diverse backgrounds.
Studying boatbuilding on the Gold Coast is amazing. There are many marine businesses here, so it was easy for me to get a job and gain valuable work experience while studying. I’m working with Riviera, the largest luxury yacht manufacturer in Australia. I’m glad that I chose to study marine craft construction as there are lots of opportunities for me to learn skills here and I’m really enjoying studying and living on the Gold Coast.
I want to share with people how much I’m loving my Gold Coast experience and the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program is a great way to do that. I’m very excited to meet students from all over the world and build relationships that could lead to more career opportunities. I can’t wait to see how I can grow within this program and be a positive influence on others.
Eleni-Pinelopi Tsolakidou (Greece) – Master of Dentistry, Griffith University
I was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, moving to Australia when I was 8 years old. Thessaloniki holds many childhood memories including excursions in the beautiful forests and singing Christmas carols in the snow. We would also spend time in Litohoro, my grandfather’s village, at the base of Mount Olympus. It was so beautiful and reminds me of the Gold Coast very much.
I chose to study dentistry because I’m passionate about health and helping people, and over the years I’ve realised that dentistry is so much more than just that; something as small as a tooth can have such a huge impact on life, and it became about building trust with every patient and developing a desire to genuinely help them.
The Gold Coast is a wonderful place to live. Griffith University offers such a great clinical dentistry program, and it feels like I’m working towards my dream every day, while also being in the presence of a beautiful city.
I joined the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program because I’d like to show students how great it could be to live here. I also wanted to step out of my comfort zone and take up new opportunities while meeting amazing people. I’m looking forward to being an active part in new experiences and I cannot wait to spend more time with my fellow Ambassadors this year to build some great friendships. I am so proud to be able to represent Gold Coast and Greece, while also representing Griffith University, as they are all places that have shaped who I am.
Adam Skawinski (Australia) – Year 12, The Southport School
My family are from Poland but I grew up on the Gold Coast, having lived here pretty much my whole life, with the exception of spending four years in the United Arab Emirates. Living there was a completely different experience. The distinct culture and customs were an amazing opportunity to learn about unique and different foods, spices, music and traditions. Growing up on the Gold Coast I spent lots of time, as most Aussie kids do, on our fabulous beaches and hiking the national parks and generally enjoying local nature.
I have been playing and studying music since I was five years old. I have played for various orchestras and bands, which led me to perform in many fascinating places. I have played with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Youth Orchestra and numerous local bands at venues like QPAC, HOTA and the Griffith Conservatory, as well as many gigs throughout South East Queensland. Through music I’ve met many fantastic Australian musicians like James Morrison and the world famous trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, who is now a friend of mine.
Growing up here I’ve done a lot of volunteering work, such as planting trees after fires and more recently helping the less fortunate by volunteering with Rosies and The Movement Gold Coast. Caring for the homeless and the vulnerable is very important to me, just providing meals can save them from worrying about food for a few days. Each Friday I cook many meals (with the help of my mum) at home which we distribute on Saturdays to the local disadvantaged. With Rosies and The Movement Gold Coast, we provide the homeless and vulnerable with hot meals, sandwiches and food that they can take away and eat at a later time. I might not be able to change the world around them, but at least a few of them can have a hot, home cooked meal, some clothes and items they might need.
I wanted to become a Mayor's Student Ambassador to meet like-minded students who are passionate about studying on the Gold Coast. I am looking forward to all the memorable experiences that we will have while building great friendships with the other Ambassadors. I would like to improve my personal and professional skills to further develop my leadership capabilities to allow me to better assist those wanting to study on the Gold Coast.
Cecilia Picaut (France) – Diploma in Leadership and Management, Australian Pacific College
I’m from the Corsaire (pirates working for the king) town of Saint-Malo in Brittany, North-West of France. I grew up by the sea (the Channel), so I’ve always been surrounded by water, living an outdoor beach life (even though it’s way colder than on the Gold Coast!). My home town is full of history and we are proud of it.
As a swimmer, I chose the “natural” path for me at the time: swimmer, beach lifeguard, swim instructor then I followed my childhood dream by joining the French army. I was in civilian defence for eight years working as a sport and first aid instructor. In my training, I also became a firefighter, flood rescuer, and even had my certification in “dangerous coast rescuing”. I learnt so much about myself that it totally changed my life and is one of the reasons why I wasn’t afraid to come to Australia by myself.
The Gold Coast is a beautiful city with an enviable lifestyle. I love walking on the beach every morning and go surfing as much as I can. It’s such a wonderful place to feel happy and safe as everything comes with ease.
I became an Ambassador because I wanted to challenge myself and be able to help other students here. My personal goals are to become more confident and meet new people through the Program as I continue to grow my business as a personal trainer and swim instructor. Ultimately I want to create my own wellness centre to help people feel better about themselves by being physically active and I also want to be able to support junior athletes who don’t have enough money to pay for a coach.
Quynh Tram Tranova (Czech Republic) – Bachelor of Psychological Science (Hons), Griffith University
My parents migrated from Vietnam to Czechia, where they fell in love, and I was born and raised there so I have two first languages, Vietnamese and Czech. I grew up in Karlovy Vary, a small mountain town famous for its beautiful architecture and healing hot springs. Growing up there was great, but there were not many opportunities.
I moved to Prague and since it was the first time I was on my own I spent a lot of time discovering who I wanted to be. I enrolled at Charles University, where I studied the humanities which fostered my eventual career path when I became interested in psychology. While I was studying I worked as a croupier in a casino, but the long hours were exhausting, so I came to the Gold Coast, which was one of the best decisions I ever made.
After studying at the Griffith English Language Institute I received the Griffith International Scholarship with a direct entry to the Bachelor of Psychological Science at Griffith University, from which I graduated last year. Currently, I am in my fourth year working towards my thesis. I’ve had the most wonderful time living and studying here. I’m honoured to be chosen as a Mayor’s Student Ambassador and I’m really excited about the opportunities available through the Program.
I am most looking forward to Jellurgal Aboriginal Centre and OzHarvest experiences in the Program as I’ve heard from others that these provide a rich cultural and social experience. For many international students, myself included, coming to a foreign country alone is challenging because we do not have the professional connections we might have back home, and I believe this Program will help me to gain these. Moreover, I am excited about getting to know all the other amazing Ambassadors and their diverse life experiences. There is so much we can learn from each other.
Luisa Coelho Pinheiro (Brazil) – Master of Teaching, Southern Cross University
I’m from São Paul, Brazil. I admire my country and I love what a big and busy city such as São Paulo has to offer. Growing up there was like having a huge menu in front of you, so many options that you don't even know what to order. From bars, restaurants and nightclubs (that stay open until late, which I miss a lot here) to museums, parks, performances and concerts.
I lived in Brisbane for almost four years before moving to the Gold Coast. This city was always such an attractive destination for anyone wanting to recharge. There is an amazing balance of life here that so many people dream about. It’s a place where you can have it all – there’s time for everything you want to do, whether that’s going to work, studying, recharging your batteries, getting close to nature, or meeting friends – it’s all about actually enjoying life.
I chose to study a Master of Teaching because I strongly believe in the power of education to reach a positive change in the world. After I graduate I aspire to be a full-time preschool teacher and advocate for early years learning development.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program appealed to me because I knew it offered amazing opportunities that can take me closer to my personal and professional goals, like developing my communication skills - from how to introduce myself with confidence to doing a public pitch. I’m really looking forward to connecting with new people from different places and facing situations that will challenge me.
Olivia Chudleigh (Australia) – Bachelor of Laws / Business, Bond University
I am from Adelaide, the calm and beautiful capital of South Australia. I grew up living by the beach, spending lots of time with my family fishing on our boat or on camping trips to the river. When I was younger I also lived in Hong Kong for a few years and it has always been my second home. Hong Kong is so fun and lively, with a busy night life. Living overseas was a significant part of my life, as it shaped me as a person from being immersed in different cultures.
The Gold Coast is a favourite family holiday destination and I always loved the whole vibe of the city, as it was filled with so many fun things to do, especially the fun parks. In Year 12, I came to the realisation that I wanted to study outside of Adelaide, and I learnt about Bond University after being enrolled in a mooting competition. The more I learnt about the opportunities Bond had to offer, the more I set my heart on studying at Bond.
My favourite thing about studying at Bond University is how supportive the community is, and as a student, there are endless opportunities available to us, especially as we work towards our future career goals. Living on campus at Bond has been a great experience, as I have met so many amazing people and made memories of a lifetime.
I wanted to become a Mayor’s Student Ambassador because I hope to be an advocate for this city that I feel so passionate about. I believe the Gold Coast is one of the best places to study, as there is a great contrast between an excellent education program and the endless experiences available. I’m looking forward to growing personally while getting to know all the people involved in the Program and making new connections from across the world. I’m also looking forward to learning more about the Gold Coast and further exploring the city.
Nico Hein (Germany) – Heavy Commercial Vehicle Technology, TAFE
Growing up in Germany I had a very versatile life between nature and living a city life. I really like Australia, although I do miss the savoury food from home. Prior to my arrival on the Gold Coast I worked in an industry with big automated machinery and I was intrigued by the dimensions of that machinery and the way it worked, so studying Heavy Commercial Vehicle Technology at TAFE was a good fit for me.
Out of all the places available to study this course, the Gold Coast resonated with me the most and I’m loving it here! Every day feels like a holiday. The city has so much to offer and there’s always something to do.
I believe in taking responsibility for my choices and ensuring that the decisions I‘m making align with my purpose and values and I believe these traits will make me an ideal Mayor’s Student Ambassador.
The Program appealed to me because I love to create value for people and this is a great way to do that for a lot of future students who might still be pondering where they want to study. It’s also a great way to connect with people and I’m looking forward to the new experiences and people I’ll encounter along the way. As such, I really see this program as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
Twisha Bokhoree (Mauritius) – Master of Marketing and International Business, Griffith University
Although I was born in Mauritius, I spent the majority of my life growing up in the UK. As a younger kid I was quiet and reserved and did not have many friends. My life in England was still amazing though, and some of the best years of my life. I remember seeing my family every weekend, having sleepovers with my cousins and found true happiness in the annual blankets of snow. There was nothing a mug of hot chocolate and pair of rain boots couldn’t fix, and I really do miss those times. I regularly visited my home country of Mauritius too, and there was always something about the exotic beaches, home cooked meals and colourful cultures that excited me.
I first heard about the Gold Coast when learning about the most touristic areas in Australia. I had always wondered what life would be like on the Gold Coast, and now that I’m here it does not disappoint. The Gold Coast offers friendliness, openness to culture [diversity] and an abundance of opportunities that I know I won’t get elsewhere. I feel as though I have a better chance of being myself and succeeding. The friends I’ve made here have become more like a family to me.
I joined the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program because I wanted to learn more about the Gold Coast and the opportunities available here for students during and after their studies. I’ve heard so much about this program from previous Ambassadors who have mentioned how rewarding and fulfilling it is and I wanted to experience it too! I’m also keen to meet people outside of my regular friendship circle through a shared experience that not only offers professional development, new experiences and personal growth, but also new ways of just having fun.
I’m most looking forward to the professional development workshops, specifically those on the topics of marketing, social media and content creation – all of which will benefit me in my career path. I’d also like to improve my networking skills while building my confidence and independence through the Program.
Kelly Lizarazo (Colombia) – Diploma of Aged Care, Charlton Brown
I am from Santa Marta, a small city located in the Caribbean region of Colombia. I had a very happy childhood, although my family's economic conditions were not very favorable. My parents always say that the best gift they can give us is an education and thanks to that I have come so far, being the first in my family to study overseas. I have always been an altruistic person - in my country I worked as a nurse and volunteer and by studying a Diploma of Community Service I saw the opportunity to help people with disabilities and older adults by supporting the community to meet their basic needs and live in comfort.
In 2016 I quit my job and sold all my belongings to go backpacking through South America. Travelling alone as a woman through these countries is quite dangerous due to insecurity, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. Sometimes taking risks brings great learning.
What I like most about living and studying on the Gold Coast is that every day you have the opportunity for new experiences and meet people from all over the world. I wanted to be a Mayor’s Student Ambassador because it’s a good opportunity to get to know the Gold Coast from another perspective and learn more about the culture and history of the city.
As an Ambassador I’m looking forward to engaging in professional opportunities to assist my development as a community service student while improving my social and communication skills. I’d like to be more proactive, improve my growth mindset, create good memories, make more friends and learn many new things. Later, I’d like to study a Community Welfare degree and then create a nonprofit organisation to support Latin communities on the Gold Coast.
Dhruv Padmakumar (India) – Master of Business, Bond University
I was born in India and raised in Mexico for much of my formative years before moving back to India to finish my schooling. India and Mexico have a lot of similarities in their way of life, as both countries are very family and community oriented. There is immense importance given to family and working towards the greater good of the community as opposed to just focusing on the individual.
Right after finishing my undergraduate degree, I turned down an interview with a large company and instead went and volunteered at the 2016 Rio Olympics. As soon as I started working at the event I realised it was going to be a life changing experience and it ended up being better than anything I could have ever imagined.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program stood out to me because it's designed to help students like myself by providing us with opportunities for both professional and personal development while also helping us explore the Gold Coast in a unique way. It is also a great way to meet people from all walks of life and build connections and bonds that last a lifetime.
One of my key goals as an Ambassador is to develop and hone my professional skills through the various workshops and seminars. The Program gives us the unique opportunity to meet with so many industry leaders across multiple disciplines and I would love to be able to learn from them and gain insights that can help shape the way I operate in the future.
Jenny Gunnarsson (Sweden) – Master of Speech Pathology, Griffith University
I grew up in Sweden and Taiwan, so life was very diverse for me. Both countries are beautiful in their own ways. Sweden is peaceful, a land of endless countryside, with the Nordic winters transforming to sunny summer days. Taiwan is densely populated, but always bustling with life, has a rich cultural and spiritual heritage and incredible food and night life. Being multilingual has definitely shaped me as a person. I grew up speaking Swedish, Mandarin Chinese and English, and during my education I studied German and Italian. I’m about to start a course in Auslan (Australian Sign Language) which I’m very much looking forward to.
I am studying a Master of Speech Pathology because I found passion in voice disorders, vocal rehabilitation and working with voice active careers (such as singers, actors and teachers), as well as bilingual or multilingual children or adults. Voice and language are two important aspects close to my heart that as a classical singer and multilinguist I wanted to explore while helping those in the community that are having difficulties across these realms.
I decided to study on the Gold Coast because I was looking for a university that offered real-life, hands-on experiences from the start of the degree. The course is young but already has a fantastic reputation and that really appealed to me. The food and lifestyle on the Gold Coast is an added bonus that makes studying here so much better! My idea of relaxing in between my studies is typically a walk by the beach or exploring a new area. The fact that I can now do just that right next to my doorstep couldn’t be more perfect. On weekends you will most likely find me either by the beach or strolling through the local markets.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen my professional skills, step out of my comfort zone and contribute to the City of Gold Coast. I’m looking forward to making friends with likeminded people and participate in professional development workshops. Personally, I’d like to focus on building my professional networks and further my development in media training while striving towards making a difference by engaging with the local community.
Zhuominna Ma (China) – Year 12, Queensland Academies of Health Sciences
I moved to Australia when I was eight or nine, living first in Melbourne and then on the Gold Coast. Before that, I called Beijing my home, and in a sense, it still is. Despite my love for the Gold Coast, Beijing has the charm of ancient history and the modern conveniences of traditional palaces next to high-rise skyscrapers. Much of my childhood in China was spent in favourite bookstores and fooling around with a gaggle of children in our apartment block. The food was also unparalleled.
I am looking to study natural sciences or engineering in the future. I enjoy learning, and I believe the sciences provide a uniquely beautiful perspective on the world. I can’t imagine myself studying something not related to science!
My family fell in love with the Gold Coast almost immediately after holidaying here. The rest is history. The freedom and the easy-going vibes here, combined with the exquisite natural environment, are the city’s best assets. I love how close nature is to us on a daily basis with the proximity to beautiful beaches and the abundance of natural parks. Furthermore, the Gold Coast has all the conveniences of an urban city, but without all the noise and the hustle.
I became a Mayor’s Student Ambassador because I wanted an opportunity to share my experiences, and to learn about my extended community. I’m looking forward to making friends and fostering new connections within the local community, alongside participating in exciting activities and educational workshops. I see the program as a way of challenging myself and taking me outside my comfort zone and doing something different. I hope to develop my leadership skills and my interpersonal abilities through the course of the program, as well as connecting with the Gold Coast community.
Shanice Saavedra (Philippines) – Marketing and Communications, Entrepreneur Education
I grew up in the Philippines' Queen City of the South-Cebu. Though a small and laidback island, we host the biggest festival in the country, Sinulog, with a parade of dancing queens and colourful entourage dancing in the streets all day long. Our island is a melting pot of various cultures - as you walk along the streets, you can see the mix of traditional beliefs amid the modern day hustle. As for the scenery, you get the perfect blend of mountain and sea, where each is an hour's drive away.
In the midst of the Omicron COVID variant my hometown was hit by Typhoon Rai about two months before my trip to the Gold Coast. If anything, the experience taught me resilience. If I could survive a month without electricity and only a limited supply of food and drinking water in the middle of a pandemic, I knew I could handle just about anything.
I have always been an island girl, wanting to pursue the urban life but not wanting to leave the ocean behind. On the Gold Coast I’m able to experience the best of both worlds. At first I was worried that I’d have to make significant adjustments when I moved here, but it’s such a convenient place to live that the beach, school, grocery, tram… almost everything is a 10-minute walk from my place. It’s also nice that our educational institution has such a diverse group of students and a practical approach to teaching the necessary skills to help us improve in our field.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program is a great opportunity for me to represent the Filipino community and document my experience. I want to get to know Gold Coast through the eyes of a local while being inspired by the opportunities and the people I meet. It’s such a liberating experience to be living away from home, so I’m putting myself out there to network, meet new people, discover and experience new things. Eventually I’d like to establish a globally competitive business influenced by my experience here.
Jeane van Dam (South Africa) – Bachelor of Law and Commerce, Bond University
I’m from a small town named ‘Vanderbijlpark’ in beautiful South Africa where my family still live. South Africa is known for its many cultures, and I am grateful that I got to grow up in such a diverse environment. It taught me how to respect people from different races and backgrounds.
I am the proud founder of my own Non-Profit Organisation ‘The Beauty of Caring’, which provides funding to educate young boys and girls whose families can’t afford to send them to school. We also provide food and necessities to the less fortunate. Last year I was crowned Miss Grand South Africa and had the opportunity to represent my country at one of the world’s biggest international beauty pageants, ‘Miss Grand international’. I am proud to say that I placed 4th out of 60 countries in the finals.
In 2017 my family came to Australia for a holiday and that’s when I fell in love with the Gold Coast. I had the opportunity to visit Bond University while I was here and I knew then that was where I wanted to study. I applied to become a Mayor’s Student Ambassador because I believe in making a difference in society. I’ve seen the work that previous Ambassadors have done and I felt inspired by their journey. This program is the perfect platform to use my voice to be an ambassador and spokesperson for international students.
My goal is to grow my business and become a successful female entrepreneur. hopefully becoming a role model to young girls who dream of becoming successful businesswomen.