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2020 International Student of the Year

The name Yu Shi means ‘helping people without asking for anything in return’, and Yu (Amy) Shi embodies her name as a natural leader with a strong sense of community and a desire to serve others. Amy is a well-rounded achiever who works tirelessly to help other people, all while maintaining exceptional academic results.

Her many achievements so impressed our judges, they've named her the 2020 winner of both the Academic Excellence: Schools category as well as the Community Engagement category. Amy is also the deserving winner of the 2020 International Student of the Year.

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Winner: Yu (Amy) Shi from China

Studying: International Baccalaureate at Glenunga International High School

As a student at Glenunga International High School (a South Australian Government School), Amy has excelled academically and as a student leader. She has also involved herself in many co-curricular activities such as playing Charlie Chaplin in a school film production. Amy’s school has acknowledged her many achievements with academic awards and by recognising her as an international mindedness champion.

As exceptional as her perfect academic scores are, perhaps Amy’s most significant achievements are in her extensive community service work. She’s volunteered more than 300 hours as a student leader in her school community and has participated in several fundraising activities to support local charities. But for Amy, supporting local charities doesn’t seem to be enough. She has also started a not-for-profit program, Languages and Life, offering free language tutoring to children and teens around the world. And as the youngest and only Australian delegate at the 2020 United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (UNESCAP) Forum to Empower Youth, she and her team founded a handmade soap business to provide a sustainable income to people living in a rural region of Thailand.

Tell us about the 2020 United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Forum to Empower Youth

In January 2020, I was one of 50 people selected from 1,000 to attend the forum in Bangkok, Thailand. I was put into a group with three other members from Korea, India and China to work together on our project. We spent time in Bang Sa Kae, a rural area with seven villages and one school. My first task was to present the English language, so I made hundreds of English flashcards and taught the children essential words and how to make easy sentence structures.

The people in Bang Sa Kae are mostly farmers and housewives, and after the harvesting season, they usually have no other income source. Our groups had to come up with an initiative to solve a problem for the people in the area. We wanted to invent some sort of commercial product for them to make more income.

We were living there for over a month, so we could experience ourselves what the local community was facing. We couldn’t shower during that time which is how we came up with the idea to make a body wash. But without technology, we didn’t know how. That’s when we decided to learn how to make handmade soaps from local honey and a fruit called pomelo.

How will your soap project help the community?

We taught the villagers how to make the soap and set up the business Po-Bee-Lo Soap. An online platform means they can ship the soap to other areas. We presented our project to UNESCAP in Bangkok, and they approved the project. When we left, we handed the project to the villagers so they can keep it running. Now the local markets are getting the products. The project will give the farmers a minimum wage after harvesting, provide hundreds of children better schooling and have an ongoing positive impact which will be measured by 2030.

How has studying in South Australia shaped you as a person?

My South Australian journey has been wonderful due to the welcoming community and a wide range of opportunities. My school promotes 21st century learning which focuses on communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. These skills connect with my planned future career, and the excellent curricular and co-curricular activities have made me a knowledgeable and open-minded international student.

My name, Yu Shi, means ‘helping people without asking for anything in return’. In Adelaide, I can demonstrate those values my parents want for me. South Australia has helped me grow into an adult who knows how to support other people when they really need help.

What do you plan to do next?

My future career goal is to be a social welfare worker in various non-profit organisations. I’m applying to different universities in Australia, the USA and the UK, so I’m not sure where I will be yet. Wherever I end up, I know I will always want to come back to Australia and Adelaide because it shaped me and is a turning point in my life.

Amy is also the winner of the 2020 Academic Excellence: Schools Award, and the 2020 Community Engagement Award. Learn more about Amy’s community work and her experiences as a student leader at Glenunga International High School.

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