This year twenty Mayor’s Student Ambassadors have been appointed from ten countries, representing eight 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 2020 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.
Jinyang Yang (China) – Year 12, Merrimac State High School
My goal is to study medicine at university. I come from Beijing and the world around me during the first 14 years of my life was always at a fast pace. I heard about the Gold Coast on the news and I was thrilled by the beautiful scenery and the multiculturalism. That’s why I decided to study at this amazing city at the age of 15. Now I’ve been here for three years and I’m confident to say that the Gold Coast is much more than tourism – it’s a wonderful place to obtain a high-level education while making new friends from diverse cultural backgrounds.
I really enjoy my days on the weekends where I can engage in club activities, do physical exercise and self-study at the library. To me being part of the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program is such a pleasure. It’s a great opportunity to stay close with a supportive community while improving my academic skills and building my social network. I’m excited about the oncoming events throughout the year and I’m looking forward to meeting new people and introducing the Gold Coast to communities around the world.
Dania Iskandari (Iran) – Bachelor of Psychology, Griffith University
I’ve been drawn to psychology ever since I decided to help people in support of their mental health and give back to the community. Growing up in Iran where psychologists were uncommon I was even more encouraged to pursue psychology as a career. I first heard about the Gold Coast from my dad who showed me the beautiful pictures of nature and life on the coast so I was determined to come here. I fell in love with the Gold Coast at first sight, the amount of support and love the locals here showcase to everyone and how welcoming the nature of it is, seems pretty incredible.
Griffith University is one the best universities for studying psychology with plenty of student support, so it’s a really good fit for me. The best part about living and studying on the Gold Coast is the people I have met along my journey who make my life so much better. I’m really looking forward to growing more as a person and making long-lasting friends through the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program while gaining new skills. I’m even more excited to make more connections and widen my network as an Ambassador. My biggest goal is to learn something new every day while helping others through the experience of this wonderful program.
Vishabh Verma (India) – Master of International Hospitality and Tourism, Southern Cross University
I grew up in Ludhiana in the state of Punjab in northern India. My two elder sisters are both entrepreneurs and gave me the urge to follow my dreams to achieve what I want in life. I moved to New Delhi for my Bachelor in Hospitality Management and trained with some of the finest hotels in India with the Sheraton and Taj Hotel groups. Living, studying and working in different cities gives you a broader perspective on life and I feel very much that way about being here on the Gold Coast. One of the reasons I was drawn to this city is because it’s so vastly different from home. The Gold Coast had everything I was looking for – the right course of study, the environment in which I wanted to live, a different lifestyle with a diverse cultural perspective and it’s the tourism capital of Australia.
Since arriving I’ve been lucky to meet people from all over the world, which has given me a great opportunity to learn about other cultures. I became a Mayor’s Student Ambassador because I want to bring out the best in myself and to grow through the opportunities that the program provides. I’ve fallen head over heels for the Gold Coast, so I’m keen to engage with the wider community and contribute to the growth of the education sector in this city by encouraging others to study here in showcasing what the Gold Coast has to offer.
Weiwei Zhang (China) – Master of Construction Practice and Project Management, Bond University
I am from Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province on the southeast coast of China. Hangzhou is one of the seven ancient capitals of China and is a garden city with four distinct seasons. Often referred to as ‘paradise on earth’ Hangzhou was described by Italian explorer Marco Polo as “the finest and most luxurious city in the world". West Lake is a symbol of the city and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. When I was a kid, I had already heard the name “Gold Coast” in Chinese, it is such a beautiful name and I couldn’t forget it. At that time, I told myself that I must travel to this city one day. This wish became a little seed in my heart that sprouted when I saw the name again as I was looking to choose a university.
When I arrived on the Gold Coast I discovered that it is far more relaxing than I could ever have imagined. During my summer break at the end of last year I often got up early to watch the sunrise and in doing so discovered how many people were up and about surfing, walking their dogs along the beach, boating and jogging. This city has such a wonderful and vivid coastal life. It’s very convenient and comfortable living here, not like the hustle and bustle of other cities, the Gold Coast has a special breath of life. It’s a city that merges modern elements while being respectful of nature.
Becoming a Mayor’s Student Ambassador is an opportunity to get involved in student life across many institutions while meeting students from different countries and backgrounds with different cultures. I believe that the Program will help me to enhance my abilities, such as my communication skills and time management. For me life is all about experience. Having worked for several years after graduating from my college in China, I really appreciate the chance of studying on the Gold Coast, which is such a stunning and vibrant city. I enjoy meeting people and appreciate the energy and inspiration they provide to me. As an Ambassador I want to explore this wonderful city on a deeper level through this amazing program and in the process share the positive energy we gain from the experience.
Katura Halleday (Australia) – Year 10, All Saints Anglican School
I was born and raised on the Gold Coast and love my home and all of the opportunities that I have here. We live on 3 acres in the Gold Coast hinterland surrounded by animals and nature so it’s pretty much an idyllic lifestyle. I love studying at All Saints because the school’s motto of ‘Truth, Compassion and Faith' rings true to me. I also feel lucky because I am surrounded by teachers who support not only my academic life but my passions.
I’ve done quite a bit of travel over the past two years because I have a focus on educational equality in developing nations. I have travelled to Thailand, Fiji, Russia, Africa, Bali and the USA which has truly highlighted to me the amazing privilege I have to study and live here, a place of safety, security, and opportunity that knows no end. I hope that during my time as a Mayor’s Student Ambassador I can gain a more in-depth view of the world through the eyes of new students to the coast from diverse backgrounds. I also want to develop my leadership skills, improve my networks and do some good in my community along the way.
One day I would like to work at the United Nations, I believe that real change is possible if we all unite and work for the good of all mankind but to do that we need strong and educated leaders. I want to make a difference in the world through bringing sanitation, education and medication to children in developing countries. I believe we can drive entrepreneur activities (especially for young women) in these areas to provide a sustainable future for all. Through this we can help to solve the sustainable development goals of 2030.
Vineesha Veer (Australia) – Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Bond University
I was born in Alice Springs but moved to Tamworth when I was three years old, living there until I came to the Gold Coast to study at Bond. Something I really loved about Tamworth was the very Aussie culture and it being a tight knit community. The good ol’ Aussie slang being thrown around, greeting everyone on the street because everyone knew everybody else and we all supported each other - especially in droughts, which happened a lot. I always knew I wanted to study in Queensland, due to having family here. With Bond’s accelerated programs and boutique status I was intrigued by the university. Then I took a tour of the campus and was impressed with the culture of inclusivity and friendliness of Bond’s students that set my decision in stone.
Since moving to the Gold Coast I’ve realised that the multiculturalism and friendliness is not only limited to Bond, it’s seen right throughout all parts of the community. I still get knocked out when I go to the beach and everyone gives a friendly wave, even though it’s the first time I’ve ever met these people. There’s also an inclusivity about the Gold Coast that makes me reminisce about the rural community in Tamworth, there’s definitely a country town friendliness about this place. The real difference here is the diversity. Though there was quite a lot of diversity in my rural community, it was never on the same scale as it is here on the Gold Coast. I’m very interested in learning about other people’s culture so I get excited when I meet people of different backgrounds and am in awe of the stories and experiences they mention.
I joined the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program because I’m not the most social person - I want to be able to communicate, empathise with and understand others better. One aspect of the Program I’m really looking forward to is the indigenous experience. Learning more about indigenous culture and what they have cherished for thousands of year will be an honour. Personally I’d also like to build some close friendships with the other Ambassadors. Everyone in the program has their own unique story to share and we are such a diverse group filled with so much personality, kindness and happiness to offer. So I’m hoping to have 19 really good friends by the end of this year!
Courtney Higgins (Australia) – Bachelor of Business Majoring in Events and HR, Griffith University
I had an incredible time growing up on the Gold Coast, typically spending most of my weekends at the beach, with my family and eating ice cream! There’s so much to offer here through the lifestyle, accessibility and the opportunities that I never really wanted to leave – there was never a question that I would want to go to a university anywhere else. It’s just so easy to get around the city – I can get to university by public transport and if I have a gap in my schedule can be swimming at Surfers Paradise or shopping within minutes.
As a Mayor’s Student Ambassador I believe the experience will be incredible and open so many opportunities for me. It will be a great way to improve my personal and professional self while raising my profile and making positive connections which could lead to potential employment opportunities, particularly as I’m graduating at the end of this year. I hope to gain employment as an events coordinator or HR manager, but more than anything I want to have a positive impact on the world.
Drishya Prasad (India) – Master of Marketing and Hospitality Management, Griffith University
I am from Bangalore, basically India's version of Silicon Valley. Bangalore is also known as the "Garden City", so a lot of my childhood was spent in parks or long road trips across the country with the family. As one of India's cultural melting pots, growing up in Bangalore gave me the unique opportunity to experience different cultures and helped me become more accepting and inclusive as a person. I actually always thought I wanted to be a chef but over time I realised that it just wasn't for me, but I had always been fascinated with the hospitality industry and love curating experiences for people so I thought both these courses would help me the most.
I didn't know much about the Gold Coast when I started doing research on potential colleges but I had heard of Griffith University. Once I saw pictures of the Gold Coast I was awestruck and knew that there was really no other place I would want to study! My first priority was always the quality of the program - I was looking for a place that would allow me to study hospitality and Griffith had a reputable program that I believed would really challenge me. I also wanted a change from the city life that I had grown up in and so this really presented a great opportunity for me. My first impression was that the Gold Coast was a lot slower and quieter than I had initially imagined, it definitely took me a little while to sink into the lifestyle. Now after a year I never want to leave this beautiful city!
There’s so much to do and see here – there’s always a new beach to discover or trail to hike. It’s also a place that is very culturally diverse and has opened me up to a host of new experiences. The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program offers students a chance to get involved in the community but at the same time provides us with a chance to grow professionally and individually. There is always so much to learn from your peers and other professionals that influence your perspectives and alter your decisions in the future. The only way to move forward in life is to keep learning, and what better way than with my fellow Ambassadors and all of the opportunities that come along with this program.
Rayah Arthur (Australia) – Year 11, Helensvale State High School
I was born and raised on the Gold Coast to Kiwi parents, so my accent is a mix of both New Zealander and Australian. I’ve always had a loved and sheltered life that I’ve shared with my four siblings. My parents always encouraged us to take on extra-curricular activities so I’ve been playing piano since I was 8 and netball since I was 10. There’s so much that I appreciate about growing up here, whether that’s bike rides around Surfers Paradise, eating Korean BBQ, hanging out at the local library or singing karaoke on the weekend. I love the opportunities the Gold Coast provides, how welcoming the people are and the friends you can make just by walking down the street.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program really appeals to me because I personally wanted to learn about professionalism. As a high school student, I was so used to working with people either my age or younger and wanted an opportunity that allowed me to communicate with a variety of people. Personally, I want to learn more about the Gold Coast and how I can make a difference within the community. I want to build strong relationships with, and learn from, the experiences of the other Ambassadors and apply them to my life. When I graduate from high school I’d like to go to Griffith University and study International Business. I really enjoy the idea of working internationally in business and hope that passion continues through my studies.
Indra Choudry (India) – Medical Research PhD, Griffith University
I come from Asansol, West Bengal in India. Growing up was as usual as any nuclear family. Our locality Saradapally is a very small close-knit community with elders guiding us to do the right thing while also enjoying the usual fun activities that kids like to do. I am studying a PhD as part of a team doing research into Spinal Injury (SIPisHOPE) under the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research (CJCNSCR), Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) and Griffith University. Spinal cord injury is a lifelong debilitating disorder that effects more and more people every day so finding a cure is what motivated me to join this course and to undertake my PhD.
Studying on the Gold Coast, with its diverse student community, is very helpful. You always get to learn new things from other people - new cultures, new habits, etiquettes, ideas and language. The best thing about the Gold Coast is its beaches. On any given day whether you are happy or sad, if you go to the beach with the clear water at your feet and the awesome sunsets it makes you feel that all is well again. As a Mayor’s Student Ambassador I want to get to know the city and its students from a broader perspective, become active on social media, develop my communication skills and motivate school students to pursue a college degree while building bridges with industry to create more opportunities for skilled graduates.
Estela Carney (Australia) – Double Degree in Business and Commerce, Griffith University
The Gold Coast has been my home since I was born and throughout the years I’ve been lucky to experience all that the city has to offer, including the beautiful natural environment; the social aspects of the city's cafes, restaurants and nightlife; as well as embracing multicultural events and multilingual festivities. As a passionate and motivated Gold Coast student I took interest in becoming a Mayor’s Student Ambassador so that I could share my experiences through the incredible lifestyle and opportunities available to me on a global platform.
Living and studying on the Gold Coast is the ultimate dream. Each day is a new, exciting adventure and each and every day is filled with new opportunities to learn, make new connections and discover something new. The Gold Coast is not only my home, but my favourite place to be and I cannot recommend it more as the perfect place to visit, study and live.
I chose my degree because I want to use my business knowledge and skills to market projects which contribute to the common good and have the possibility to change the world for the better. This year, I am most looking forward to opening more doors in my life as a Gold Coast student while exploring each and every possibility fully, along with like-minded people and incredible mentors within the industry. One of my biggest personal goals, and what I would like to achieve most from participating in the program this year is to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself in everything I do. By challenging myself daily, I believe it will provide me with the best opportunity to grow my skillset and develop my capabilities.
Nayma Tarik (Bangladesh) – Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Griffith University
I was Bangladeshi raised in a busy and crowded Narayanganj city, which is just 40 minutes away from the capital city Dhaka. Growing up there was a blessing for me as I received a good quality education in an English Medium School which sparked my curiosity in science. However, the things that bugged me were the city’s overpopulation with no diversity, the precious time wasted on highways in traffic jams and the large number of high school graduates relentlessly competing for tertiary places in medicine and engineering. What I observed was the lack of researchers and scientists in our country and the high demand for modern sciences and technology, which made me decide to study abroad to pursue my career.
I heard about the Gold Coast from my relatives who currently reside here and when I did a bit of research about it everything just fell into place. Acknowledging the top universities and state-of-the-art research facilities in the city, it also bears many beautiful beaches with endless natural sites that were only in my imagination back in Bangladesh. Since arriving here, the major difference that embedded in my heart was how diverse the city is with people from different nationalities and how heart-warming and welcoming the people are in Australia.
The best things about studying on the Gold Coast are the countless services provided by the universities, from mental-health wellbeing to financial aid and top-class education provided by some of the best professors and convenors who are always eager to help students to ace their courses. I applied for the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program because of what it offers Gold Coast students – from developing both personal and professional growth to making proficient connections with the top leaders, with a wide range of career workshops and internship opportunities provided. I am truly honoured to be one of the Ambassadors for 2020 and am diligently hoping to gain more skills in communicating, having a stronger mindset in interpersonal qualities and develop my resilience in leadership skills from the professionals that are involved in this program.
Rose Olesen (Denmark) – Master of Marketing, Griffith University
Denmark is a pretty safe and cold country to grow up in. It’s a country that provides so many opportunities as we have free education and you even get paid to study, so you can study anything you want. I wanted to get out of the bubble I’d grown up in, but I had massive doubts about whether to go to the USA or Australia as I hadn’t been to either country and had no idea what it would be like to live there. I asked mentors, friends, family, etc… and everyone just seemed to recommend Australia. The next decision was where in Australia? I started to read articles from travellers and others studying abroad in Australia and I first heard about the Gold Coast when I was researching online for the right university. Griffith University had the Master’s degree I was looking for and I could see that it was close to the beach, so I took a leap of faith and here I am!
I’ve always dreamed about studying and living abroad in an English-speaking country to improve my English and to be surrounded by another culture than what I was raised with, so coming to the Gold Coast is certainly a dream come true. I was super surprised when I arrived to discover how beautiful this place is. You can go to the beach, you can see mountains in the far distance and the sunrise and sunset colours are some of the most amazing and most beautiful things I have ever, ever, EVER seen! The other aspect that’s really noticeable is that the people on the Gold Coast just seem to be way happier than most people around the world. The Gold Coast is really an amazing place where you can do anything you want – it’s so beautiful and inspiring and that’s one of the things I like most about living and studying here.
I always look for opportunities to grow as a person both professionally and personally, which is why I applied to become a Mayor’s Student Ambassador. I cannot express enough how much I seriously am in love with this city, so building a professional network here was a very important consideration for me. I want to become better at networking with people while also creating a bigger network here, but more than anything I want to grow as a person and extend myself in unfamiliar surroundings. Ideally, I’d like to start my own business one day, but first I want to know what it’s like to work full-time within a marketing role in a business here on the Gold Coast. Ultimately I want to inspire people to go for their dreams and travel the world.
Shreya Kulkarni (India) – Master of Marketing/ Master of International Tourism and Hospitality Management, Griffith University
I come from Pune which is very close to Mumbai, the financial capital of India. I pride myself on being a city girl. Growing up in a big city with high-rise buildings and constant traffic is certainly very different than the pace of life here on the Gold Coast which is more enjoyable and peaceful. My life back home was always very busy and somewhat chaotic. Since my undergrad, I have always been interested in marketing and realised my interest in hospitality through a summer school program at Vrije University in Amsterdam.
While applying to universities in Australia, I read a report about the Gold Coast being more affordable as a student city compared to places like Sydney and Brisbane. Most importantly, Griffith University was the only university offering a double master’s degree in the subjects I wanted to study. That pretty much cemented my decision to study here. The Gold Coast is more of a student city than Sydney and Melbourne so I knew I would fit in better here than in those big cities. My initial assumption of the Gold Coast was that it is a sleepy beach town with all the major hotel chains but I was really wrong. It’s a very vibrant and enjoyable place with world-class universities and educational institutions while being home to many great businesses.
The thing I appreciate the most about Gold Coast is how nice and helpful the people are. The transition of moving from another country was easier than I thought it would be and the support of my flatmates, friends, support staff at uni and my professors have made me more appreciative of this place. The beaches and the food are my second favourite part. I had heard a lot about the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program from previous Ambassadors and it appealed to me because I wanted to be a part of a wider community with students from many institutions and I wanted to discover this beautiful city I now call home.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program will help me to make the most of my student experience here on the Gold Coast. I hope to explore the city like never before and develop myself as a more independent person. Through the student community group Gen TM, I hope to meet and have better connections with people from my industry and I hope to support and help as many students as I can to the best of my ability through Youth Lab, which is also a great initiative. I’ve always been interested in creating digital content so after I complete my Master’s degree I intend to work in digital marketing in the hospitality industry. This way I can apply the knowledge I’ve gained from both my degrees and work in the fields I am most passionate about in the most optimum way possible.
Gauthier Fouques (France) – Certificate 3 in Carpentry, TAFE Ashmore
My hometown is Pézenas, a beautiful town with a lot of medieval history in the south of France. It’s a very festive place with a rich cultural heritage and an ancient castle that is part of the old city centre that draws lots of tourists. I felt like I needed a change in my life and wanted to learn new skills. I love working with my hands, preferably with wood and outdoors – where better to do that than the Gold Coast! With the extended three year post study working visa available to Gold Coast students this was very appealing to me. I also wanted to study in an Australian city that was big enough to provide me with employment opportunities when I graduated.
I really appreciate being close to the ocean and have started to learn how to surf and kite surf. One of my favourite things to do here is going for sunset walks at Burleigh and The Spit which always provide amazing photo opportunities with lovely shades of pink and blue. I also enjoy walking in the hinterland rainforests and visiting the farmers markets on the weekend. I love how close to nature this city is – it’s full of pleasant discoveries.
It’s hard to nominate one single aspect of the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program, there’s so much that I’m looking forward to this year. To be honest I’m a little impatient, so I just want to enjoy every single experience and make the most of this opportunity. Eventually I’d like to become a builder and start a business on the Gold Coast using my marketing and management skills from France, possibly creating a partnership with TAFE where I could develop a program to help international and domestic students studying a trade.
Mia Nyguen (Vietnam) – Master of International Tourism and Hotel Management, Southern Cross University
I grew up in Saigon and decided I wanted to study abroad when I was at secondary school. I was inspired to enter the tourism industry by my aunty, who is a former tour guide and I started my career when I was 19. After five years of working in the industry I wanted to enhance my career by developing my management skills while gaining knowledge about the hotel trade.
Studying abroad has always been my dream and I used to assume that it would be too costly to study in Australia until I found the Gold Coast. This beautiful coastal city is an ideal location for my study with reasonable living expenses, warm weather and pretty beaches with a safe and healthy lifestyle. When I arrived in the city and started to study I received an incredible amount of support from my university. I used to think that it would be very tough to live and study here, but the people on the Gold Coast and the city itself have changed my mind.
It takes me less than 10 minutes to walk to the beach and in my spare time I love to go swimming. With so many sunny days and a moderate temperature it’s ideal for a tropical girl like me – I really am living the dream here! Studying can be stressful sometimes, but you only have to step out into this beautiful environment to feel calm again.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program appealed to me because I want to learn more about local indigenous culture, help my fellow students and contribute to the local community. I would also like to improve and develop my communication skills. While studying tourism and marketing I joined the Gen TM student community, providing me with the opportunity to connect with like-minded students as I build my professional network.
Sky Stewart (Australia) – Year 11, Emmanuel College
We moved to the Gold Coast from Brisbane when I was about six years old. Our family had always made regular trips to the Gold Coast as our favourite holiday location, now I’m so lucky that I get to call this place home. I was extremely excited when I found out we were moving here because I loved the Gold Coast so much. It’s a wonderful community where I feel so loved and accepted. The Gold Coast holds such an incredible vibe too which I haven’t felt anywhere else. There are so many opportunities here to do everything I love, from the immense amount of sport and other clubs available to the wide range of activities and facilities accessible – like the theme parks, beaches and the natural environment.
The Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program is an opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than myself and it’s also a great way to give back to the community. I see the Ambassador’s role as a way to help build the Gold Coast’s reputation on the world stage while at the same time I can develop both personally and professionally. I want to become more confident in myself and my decision-making skills while taking on the challenges the program presents. I’m also looking forward to building my relationships and networks on the Gold Coast through the opportunities within the program.
After I graduate from school I would love to study psychology and then potentially delve deeper and study forensic psychology. I’m fascinated by brain functions and reactions, so these fields are of exceptional interest to me. My other aspiration is that I really want to help people, whether that involves becoming closer to my community or working in the wider world I’d love to know that I helped be the change in someone’s life.