2019 Academic Excellence: Undergraduate Awards

StudyAdelaide is pleased to announce dual winners and one highly commended student in this year’s undergraduate category. All three students are excelling in their chosen fields of study and immersing themselves in the many opportunities life in Adelaide provides. We invited them to share their stories.

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Winner: Thien Khoi (Richard) Tran from Vietnam

Studying: Bachelor of Laws (Honours), Bachelor of Business (Marketing) at the University of South Australia

Although English isn’t his first language, Richard loves studying the richness of the language and learning how it can be used to construct legal arguments.  As one of the few international law students, he’s worked hard for his exceptional results achieving a GPA of 7.0 and many high distinctions. Richard is an all-round achiever who has also contributed to the community in a variety of volunteering roles.

Are there any challenges in studying law in Australia compared to Vietnam?

I’m not an expert in Vietnamese law because I didn’t study it there, but there are differences between the two systems. Studying law here requires constant learning, not only of the legal content but also the rich English language. It can be hard in arguing to express what I want as the linguistic logic in Vietnamese and English are quite different. But I’m learning how Australians express opinions and have been observing people and networking with legal professionals to help. The challenges don’t deter me. Instead, they motivate me to work harder and achieve high results.

How have you found studying a course with mostly Australian students?

I guess I’m being biased, but I really like the University of South Australia Law School. The lecturers understand that English is not my first language and they’re very supportive. The students are also very nice. We have a lot of extracurricular activities, and they always encourage me to join in and make me feel comfortable.

Tell us about the competitions that law students use to develop practical legal skills.

We have mock trials and often get real judges to adjudicate our competitions and give us feedback on how to improve. We also have negotiating competitions where we have to negotiate a result for our ‘client’. And witness examinations where we have to extract facts from a ‘witness’ as if they were really on the stand. The competitions are great as they give us real practical experience. It’s good to practice against our fellow students.


Richard was also the co-winner in of the 2019 International Student of the Year.


Winner: Chenghan (Henry) Zhang from China

Studying: Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) (Honours) at Flinders University

Henry fell in love with Australia after watching a documentary on its nature, culture and lifestyle. Now he’s enjoying that lifestyle himself while studying for his dream engineering degree in Adelaide. Throughout his studies, Henry has worked hard to improve his results, achieving an effective GPA of 7.0 and has built valuable networks through his engineering work placement and various contributions to his university community.

How has completing work placements enhanced your skills and knowledge?

Part of what attracted me to Flinders University was their 20-week work placement. The internship is a wonderful opportunity to combine theoretical knowledge with real industry experiences. My placement was with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), where I learned a lot about engineering in the railway industry. As a result, I took up a short-term casual job with them, and my honours project is also connected to the ARTC. I am sure this work placement has enhanced my chances of getting a job in the railway industry in the future.

Why did you choose civil engineering?

My father is an electrical engineer, so I grew up with him showing me his drawings and teaching me basic engineering skills. It’s always been my dream to be an engineer in the civil construction and design field because I like structural analysis, and I’m quite good at physics.

Tell us about your role as the President of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Flinders University.

As the current President of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, I help our club to support over 500 international students on campus as they adapt to the Australian way of life and develop good study habits. We also organise social events such as a badminton tournament, BBQ festival and lantern festival to enrich student life.

Tell us what winning this award means to you.

I actually applied for the award last year but was unsuccessful. After that, I worked hard to prove to myself that I can do it. I’ve improved my grades and participated in a lot more volunteer activities. And also finished my internship and built connections across the university by contributing to campus activities. This year was my last chance to apply for the awards, so I’m very happy.


Highly Commended: Sulakshana Kumari Jayasekara from Sri Lanka

Studying: Bachelor of Laws (Honours), Bachelor of Business (Economics, Finance and Trade) at the University of South Australia

For as long as she can remember, Sulakshana has wanted to be a lawyer. She chose to pursue her dream in Adelaide due to the smaller size and ease of living. Since arriving, Sulakshana has achieved excellent marks receiving the Chancellor’s Letter of Commendation and an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honour Society. She was also proud to be awarded the Hawke EU Jean Monnet Ambassadorial Scholarship, which allowed her to attend the ‘Future4Europe’ European Summers School in Germany. There she learned about the European Union and International Law from experts in the field.

When she’s not busy with her studies, Sulakshana volunteers as a student mentor and has volunteered for various community organisations and charities. She says one of the best things she did during her studies was to participate in many events and activities organised around campus. Even if it was out of her comfort zone, she went so she could meet people and form friendships. She says her advice to international students is to, “Just do stuff. That’s the only way you’re going to immerse yourself. You come to another country for experience and exposure, and you won’t get that if you run back home after your lecture.” Once she graduates, Sulakshana hopes to get a clerkship in Adelaide and to complete her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.

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