Variety is the spice of life: here’s how Shali is making the most of his time at ACU

Shali Seneviratne always wanted a career that revolved around helping others. So, when it came time to enrol in a university degree, nursing felt like the obvious choice.

But Shali didn’t want to study in his home country, Sri Lanka. There, he says, nursing takes a more traditional path – “you just follow the doctor; you’re more like an attendant,” he says.

Instead, he’d heard that nurses in Australia were more autonomous, as well as being highly respected for their work.

“There was a ranking of the professions that showed that nursing is really very respected. I wanted to come to a country that actually recognised what I do,” he says.

During his search for an Australian nursing degree, he quickly came across ACU. The university is home to one of Australia’s leading nursing programs: graduates are highly regarded by employers and the program offers an extensive network of clinical placements to help students develop their skills.

When Shali received the ACU International Student Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship for commencing students that covers half of recipients’ full-time course fees, he knew he’d found his future university.

“Coming from a developing country, the financial side was a huge thing for me and my family,” he says.

Arriving in Australia, Shali made a conscious decision to throw himself into university life. The local culture was welcoming, he says, and at Orientation Week, he made a group of friends who are still his closest mates 2.5 years later.

He also started getting involved in as many campus activities as he could, including the Saint Patrick’s Student Association (SPSA), which provides advocacy and support services for ACU Melbourne students; the Track, which is home to social sports at ACU; and even PASS, a peer-led tutoring group where students can seek academic support. 

“I’ve been going to lots of events from the Track and SPSA, including the Beach Day Out and boat parties. It’s a good way to step away from studying sometimes,” he says.

“It’s also a good opportunity to have a social life. They’ve made these events free or very low cost, so it gives us incentive to go to them and experience new things.”

All these experiences have opened the door to a new life in Australia, which Shali now calls home. He wants other international students to know that even though moving to a new country can be intimidating, pushing yourself to try new things is an important first step.

“International students are often worried about their level of English and they’re very worried about how they’ll be judged, so sometimes they’re just very silent,” Shali says.

 “Australian culture is very multicultural; there’s no one Australian culture. Anyone can feel like an Australian.

“I feel like you should just step out of your comfort zone because there’s so much to experience and so many people to meet.”

Now almost at the end of his studies, Shali is working part-time at St Vincent’s Hospital as a registered undergraduate student of nursing. He found the job through his first clinical placement, which opened the door to opportunities he otherwise wouldn’t have heard about.

The ACU Nursing program has also helped him figure out what he’ll do next.

“I’ve actually applied for a graduate program, so next year I’ll start at the Alfred Hospital as a mental health graduate nurse,” he says.

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