2019 Academic Excellence: Schools Awards

While high school can be a challenging time for anyone, it can be even harder for international students who come to a new country, learn a new language and live away from their parents for the first time. The 2019 winners in the schools category have not only achieved strong academic success, but they’ve also dedicated themselves to helping their fellow international students settle into their new school communities. We invited them to share their stories.

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Winner: Yufei Xu from China

Studying: SACE at University Senior College

When Yufei chose to come to Adelaide to study, it meant turning down a non-fee-paying place at the top high school in her home city in China. She says she wanted to experience a different culture and explore the opportunities that studying abroad offers. During her SACE years, Yufei has excelled academically and discovered a passion for research which she’s using to be a voice for her fellow international students.

You received an A+ grade in your research project. What was it about?

My SACE research project was on the effect of music therapy in treating aphasia, a language disorder that affects the ability to communicate. From this project, I realised I could have a positive impact on others by doing my own research. This inspired me to undertake research around the challenges international high school students can face because of language barriers and cultural differences. Over the course of three months, I interviewed 15 international students and presented my suggestions for improvements to my school’s homestay program coordinator.

How have you supported your peers in Adelaide?

As an international student, I understand how challenging it is to move to a different country to study. For this reason, I see it as my privilege and responsibility to help fellow international students make the most out of their time in Australia. That is what prompted me to research the challenges students face and make suggestions to my school about how to better support international students. I think our teachers really want to know how international students are going in their new community, and I think my research has been received very well. After my recommendations, I think they have a better understanding of the students. I’m proud to have been a voice for international students.

How did you adapt to life in South Australia?

Over my two years living in Adelaide, I’ve actively engaged with South Australian culture by going to events, visiting the library and museum and exploring Adelaide whenever I find the time. I love to hang out with friends and enjoy my time in Adelaide. I really like how studying abroad has exposed me to more diverse opinions and social structures. By meeting people and telling my story as a Chinese student, I hope I have contributed to the diversity of the South Australian community. I feel fully integrated into South Australian society, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here.

What are your plans when you complete your SACE?

I’m aiming to study medicine next year and eventually to become a neurologist. I’m really interested in how the brain works. It’s a huge part of us, and if I can help people with neurological disorders, that would be a really fulfilling thing to do. I have a conditional offer from Flinders University, so I feel that my future has never been nearer. Adelaide has been the place where this dream has blossomed, and it is the place where I hope to practice as a physician.


Highly Commended: Eunah Joo from South Korea

Studying: SACE at Henley High School

Inspired by her late father who encouraged her to broaden her horizons, Eunah Joo always knew she wanted to study overseas. After a chance meeting with an Adelaide-based professor in a supermarket, she chose Australia and Adelaide as her destination. Although she already spoke English when she arrived, Eunah found it hard to achieve high grades due to the unfamiliar education system and way of learning. But her teachers at Henley High School helped and motivated her to overcome her limitations. She says the support the school gave to her as an international student improved her essay writing and helped her achieve A grades.

During her almost four years as a student in Adelaide, Eunah has become a recognised leader in her school community. She has organised welcome events for international students, joined the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Global Youth Forum, and shared her culture with recess classes about Korean language, food, and K-pop music. She has also explored her interest in dentistry by volunteering in a simulation patient program at the University of Adelaide Dental School, where she hopes to go after she completes high school.


Highly Commended: Yu (Amy) Shi from China

Studying: International Baccalaureate at Glenunga International High School

 Amy says her time studying in Adelaide has inspired her goal to become a maths teacher so she can make a contribution and help Adelaide become an even better place to study. As a student in Adelaide, Amy has participated in many mathematics competitions and workshops and achieved exceptional results in her maths studies. Amy says she wants to be a teacher because of how much her teachers have had a positive influence on her, not only through sharing knowledge and skills but also helping her to grow as a person.

As well as exploring her interests in maths, Amy has contributed to her community through a variety of fundraising events and was nominated by the Department for Education to take a key role as a voice of international students in the EAL learning conference. Amy says Adelaide is a city that embraces hundreds of cultures and says, “I cannot be more proud of my place of living and study. I am looking forward to the journey that South Australia and I will embark on in the future.”

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