Meet the Winners of the 2021 International Student Awards

The StudyAdelaide International Student Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of international students. StudyAdelaide’s International Student Awards are endorsed by Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia. 

Winners at the StudyAdelaide International Student Awards
Last Updated Wednesday 20th March, 2024

The awards are an opportunity for the international community, academic institutions, local community and businesses to honour the achievements of international students during their time in Adelaide. The award program, now in its eleventh year, is highly regarded and a valuable addition to the winning students’ resumes.


University Undergraduate

The winners in this year’s undergraduate category have worked hard to maintain excellent academic results while volunteering to help their fellow students and to inspire future generations of undergraduates in their respective fields.

Winner: Surraya Abdul Baseer from Pakistan

Studying: Bachelor of Clinical Sciences, Doctor of Medicine at Flinders University

Science always fascinated Surraya. She liked asking questions and learning more about the world. But she didn’t know what she wanted to do as a career until she accompanied her mother to an appointment with a cardiologist. Surraya was struck by how professional and caring he was and how doctors use their skills in science to help others. Meeting that doctor changed everything and set Surraya on a path that led to studying medicine in Adelaide.

Surraya’s dedication and hard work saw her achieving high distinctions in all subjects and receiving a Chancellor’s Letter of Commendation.

With a strong desire to contribute to student wellbeing, Surraya became a wellbeing ambassador at her university, running many activities to promote mental wellness for students and staff. She also volunteers as a student mentor, helping international students currently studying offshore.

Surraya hopes to become a pathologist and has volunteered in a research laboratory to hone her practical skills. She says her work volunteering, studying, and researching has taught her how to be a good leader even in the face of challenges.

Highly Commended: Sultan Al-Hammadi from Oman

Studying: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Electrical and Electronic) at The University of Adelaide

Growing up, Sultan spent a lot of time going out to the field with their big brother, an electrical engineer. Sultan also read many books about electrical systems and machines and developed a keen interest in learning programming languages. At 16, Sultan used Java to build a robot that could follow a black line autonomously.

After achieving top marks, Sultan was awarded a full scholarship from Petroleum Development Oman to study electrical engineering in Adelaide. Encouraged to work hard, Sultan achieved high distinctions in all courses and has won many academic awards, including the Executive Dean’s Recognition of Academic Excellence three years in a row.

Sultan has volunteered in many university activities, including being a student representative for their school, helping refugee families and promoting engineering and science to high school girls as part of the Robogals club.

University Postgraduate - Research

From exploring how our environmental past can help us better prepare for the future to improving workplace wellbeing through augmented reality and graphic design, the winners in the postgraduate research category are bursting with enthusiasm and inspiration as they undertake research to improve the world of tomorrow.

Winner: Meghan McAllister from Ireland

Studying: PhD in Geoarchaeology (Palaeoecology) at Flinders University

‘A generation which ignores history has no past – and no future.’ This Robert A. Heinlein quote sparked Meghan McAllister’s love for geology and set her on a path to exploring the dynamic history of our environment to better prepare for the future.

Meghan’s pursuit of knowledge has seen her achieve academic excellence in her studies back home in Ireland and here in Adelaide with her PhD. She currently has a paper under peer review for publication. Meghan’s also won several awards and scholarships and has been involved in geological research across Ireland, Scotland, Europe and Vietnam.

Meghan is a champion for making higher education in earth sciences accessible to all. As the first person to attend university in her family, Meghan is passionate about challenging stereotypes, promoting study to people from all backgrounds and making academic research easier to understand.

As a researcher and role model, Meghan works from the heart with enthusiasm inspired by her high school geography teacher, who challenged her to ‘dance with the sciences’ to better understand the history of our world.

Highly Commended: Aprille Chua Jia Qi from Singapore

Studying: PhD in Design Communication at the University of South Australia

Inspired by her previous teaching experience, Aprille is researching how designing for health and wellbeing can significantly contribute to better work-life experiences. Aprille’s research aims to support workplaces through investigations into how augmented environmental graphic design can improve employee wellbeing.

Aprille’s academic achievements are many and include presenting her research at the international Spaces of Welfare conference and winning an educational travel grant. Aprille has also immersed herself in student life, making many contributions as a mentor, board member and guest speaker.

As a valued member of the wider Adelaide community, Aprille volunteers her time and design expertise to help the work of the RSPCA and The Salvation Army.

University Postgraduate - Coursework

From working to empower people living with disabilities in Kenya to helping fight against cancer as a common cause of death in Sri Lanka, the winners in the 2021 postgraduate coursework category have selfless career goals that centre around improving the lives of others.

Winner: James Karanja from Kenya

Studying: Master of Disability Policy and Practice at Flinders University

With dreams of transforming the disability sector in Kenya, James came to Adelaide to learn knowledge and skills that will help him make a big difference. Though it had been 15 years since James last studied, he developed strategies to achieve academic excellence.

James has achieved impressive academic results and won a Golden Key Award along the way. And his enthusiasm has inspired student connections and enhanced study experiences for many of his peers.

As a new student from a culturally diverse background, James engaged in a peer support group of students from different academic disciplines and cultures to enrich his own educational and social experiences.

Knowing how much this support network helped him, James started a WhatsApp mentoring group for other disability policy students from Africa. He says this group helped keep everyone socially and intellectually engaged during semester breaks and COVID-19 restrictions.

James has participated in other student engagement initiatives, including being the founding treasurer of Flinders Friendship International (FFI), a club helping students from diverse backgrounds make new friends at Flinders University.

James is also the winner of the 2021 International Student of the Year Award.

Highly Commended: Lashika Weerakoon from Sri Lanka

Studying: Master of Biotechnology at Flinders University

Inspired by her compassion for people living with cancer, Lashika chose an Australian education in biotechnology. With both coursework and research components, Lashika has excelled in her studies achieving high distinctions in all subjects and her thesis and final seminar. The data from her project will be the foundation for a scientific publication, an impressive achievement for master’s level work.

Lashika says cancer is a common cause of death in Sri Lanka and is a vicious disease. Spending time with the patients and hearing their heartbreaking stories led Lashika to her path in biomedical research, where she hopes to enhance the lives of people affected by cancer.

Vocational Education and Training

From discovering a passion for cooking to change people’s lives to learning how to grow food more sustainably, the winners in the vocational education and training (VET) category are joyfully immersing themselves in their studies as they live and learn in Adelaide.

Winner: Sachiko Okamura from Japan

Studying: Diploma of Hospitality Management at Quality Training and Hospitality College

Sachiko’s passion and enthusiasm for cooking are infectious. She believes food is not just for living, but it’s part of an unforgettable life.

During her industrial placement, Sachiko rose to the challenge of being a guest chef at a vegan restaurant, despite having never cooked vegan Japanese dishes before. She worried about how to cook without her usual fish or chicken stocks. Through trial and error, Sachiko found a solution by drying Enoki mushrooms outdoors and using them to create her own Japanese-style vegan stock. With sold-out dishes, Sachiko was happy and relieved by her success.

Sachiko says overcoming the differences between Japan and Australia has helped improve both her cooking and communication skills. She is inspired to create beautiful food to change people’s lives. ‘What a wonderful, special and precious power it is. I want to be a magician to sprinkle happiness to everyone through my gift of cooking.’

Highly Commended: Pamela Araya from Chile

Studying: Diploma of Horticulture at TAFE SA

Though Pamela only started her VET studies at the start of this year, she has learned many new things in a short time. Pamela loves interacting with the outside world and is motivated by how horticulture can sustain and enrich our lives through nutritious food, diverse wildlife habitats and enhancing the beauty of our homes, communities and landscapes.

Since starting her horticulture studies, Pamela has immersed herself in many opportunities to support her learning and development. She has a job at a local organic farm where she’s using practical skills from her course lessons. She also volunteers at the Adelaide Sustainability Centre.

In her horticulture career, Pamela hopes to find new sustainable ways to grow plants for food and improve the way we use our natural resources.


The winners in the 2021 schools category have excelled in their academic pursuits and contributed much to their school and the wider South Australian community. Both are advocates and organisers helping their school support cultural diversity and wellbeing activities. All while achieving outstanding academic results, even during a global pandemic.

Winner: Chris Bui from Vietnam 

Studying: South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) at Unley High School

Chris began his overseas study journey in 2020 as a Year 11 student at Unley High School. But soon after he arrived, the global COVID-19 pandemic began. Though it’s been challenging, especially as he’s not been able to go home to visit his parents for more than two years, Chris says being away from home during the pandemic helped him realise how persistent, strong and resilient he is.

As a student, Chris excels with top marks and spends his spare time on academic reading to improve his English skills. Chris is focusing on preparing for his final Year 12 exams and working hard to get into the Bachelor of Paramedic Science at Flinders University.

When Chris arrived in Adelaide, he worried about making new friends and fitting into his school. However, with a warm welcome from staff and fellow students, Chris dove into life at Unley High, participating in activities including fundraising initiatives and the formal committee. He is also a senior head prefect and school wellbeing team leader who raises awareness for events such as Bullying No Way day.

Highly Commended: Shuhua (Krystal) Zhong from China

Studying: South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) at Unley High School

Having studied in Sweden since the age of 10, Krystal isn’t new to life as an international student. She says swapping a landscape of fluttering snowflakes for warm, dry beaches has been heaven for outdoors-loving Krystal.

Already fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin, Swedish and German, Krystal came to Adelaide for her final years of high school to improve her English skills. Though she says it was challenging to adjust to school in an English-speaking country, Krystal has excelled in her studies and been active in her school community through sport, student council and organising a Foreign Language Club for fellow students.

Krystal’s also involved in extra-curricular activities, including the Model UN Security Council competition, being an international student ambassador and volunteering as an English tutor for students studying offshore because of the pandemic.


Our 2021 Pathway award winners have excelled on their journeys to follow study dreams that stem from childhood passions. Despite the challenges of studying during a global pandemic, these students became valued members of their college cohort, even while studying offshore. With outstanding academic results, our winner and highly commended awardees have completed their pathway journeys and commenced their university studies.

Winner: Victoria Kwok Wing Tung from Hong Kong 

Studying: Foundation Studies at The University of Adelaide College

Victoria has studied her pathway Foundation Studies program entirely offshore from her home in Hong Kong. Despite being physically away from her peers and teachers, Victoria became a respected member of her class thanks to a passion that clearly demonstrates her community values.

As an ambassador, Victoria shared her remote learning experiences via videos and at an education expo. She also joined the college social club as the offshore engagement officer, hosting social activities via Zoom, and helping students with mental health wellbeing sessions, including giving a viola performance as part of her college’s R U OK Day event.

Having played the piano and viola since she was a small child, Victoria’s foundation program in musicianship is helping her realise her dream of becoming a music and English teacher. After her foundation pathway, Victoria looks forward to studying a Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary) with Bachelor of Music at the University of Adelaide. Victoria says being a music teacher will be a rewarding job where she hopes to spread happiness and positivity through music.

Highly Commended: Nghia Le Xuan from Vietnam

Studying: Foundation Studies at The University of Adelaide College

Nghia’s pathway journey at the University of Adelaide College has been via offshore study. Even though he was far away, Nghia found his time at the college rewarding, with top marks in four out of his five subjects and achieving Dux of his program. His outstanding academic results are a testament to his dedication to participate in his whole learning experience, despite the difficulties of distance.

Nghia actively participated in many remote social activities with his college and spoke highly about his remote South Australian experience at education seminars in Vietnam.

Nghia has successfully enrolled in a Bachelor of Architectural Design and received a University of Adelaide College High Achiever Progression Scholarship.

Highly Commended: Lee Guan Xue from Singapore

Studying: Degree Transfer Program at the University of Adelaide College

After graduating with a diploma in information technology back home in Singapore, Guan Xue realised his passion wasn’t in IT. Instead, he decided to follow his lifelong interest in virology via a degree transfer program at the University of Adelaide College.

Arriving in Adelaide in early 2020, Guan Xue faced being away from home in such an uncertain time by immersing himself in his new life in Adelaide. He became President of the University of Adelaide College Social Club, leading various programs to help onshore and offshore students connect and form supportive friendships.

Now studying for a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science), Guan Xue achieved high distinctions in all subjects for his first year. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has further inspired him in his quest to become an immunologist or virologist.

Community Engagement

The winners of the 2021 community engagement category have given tirelessly of their time and energy to help fellow international students and the wider Adelaide community. With so many applications in this category, it’s clear our Adelaide international student cohort are generous in giving back and helping others in times of need.

Winner: Jia En Sit from Malaysia

Studying: Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science at The University of Adelaide

Jia En spends an incredible number of hours volunteering to help international students enhance their social and academic success.

As an international peer mentor (IPM), she helps students settle into life in Adelaide. To enhance students’ social and cultural experiences, Jia En volunteers with Adelaide University Sports running lunchtime sporting activities for all university students to join. She also volunteers in a language and cultural engagement program.

As the international student office on her university’s student council, Jia En strongly advocates for international student voices. She ran an international student forum to allow peers to raise issues and bond as a community.

Jia En says one of her greatest achievements in volunteering was when she presented an idea to cook 40 meals for students in need last Christmas. The initiative ran through the Adelaide University Malaysian Student’s Association (AUMSA), where Jia En volunteers as the Welfare Director.

Despite many hours spent volunteering, Jia En balances her studies and achieves outstanding results, with high distinctions in all subjects.

Highly Commended: Kavita Bhandari from India

Studying: Master of Construction Management at The University of Adelaide

Kavita is a firm believer in helping people and volunteered in many activities to help the community. Her work with Hindu Youth of Australia included launching food and blanket drives during the first wave of COVID-19. She also volunteers as a retail assistant at the Red Cross and performed at a charity event, raising $13,000 to help COVID-stricken countries buy emergency equipment.

At university, Kavita supports her fellow students by volunteering as an international peer mentor, careers service ambassador, and ambassador for student health and well-being services.

Kavita has given back to the Adelaide community in many ways and says, ‘Community service has been my way of practising gratitude and mindfulness for the life I am given.’

Highly Commended: Aparna Nithyanand from India

Studying: Master of Engineering (Mechanical) at The University of Adelaide

Aparna has volunteered with the Adelaide University Rotaract Club since 2020, organising and participating in many community events and activities. Aparna’s volunteering roles and experiences are varied and include tree planting events, fundraising BBQs, cultural festivals, and Trash Hero clean ups, to name a few.

As the stage manager for the club’s Cultural Night 2021, South Australia’s largest youth-led multicultural event, Aparna managed many performers from diverse cultural community groups as they raised money for the No Barriers Education Foundation Inc.

As part of her volunteering work, Aparna has always encouraged others to get involved and helps other young people, especially international students, connect with their communities and build local networks through volunteering.

Special Commendation

With continuing travel restrictions in 2021, many international students could not return to Australia for their studies. Our Special Commendation awards category recognises three outstanding offshore students who have shown resilience, determination and drive to study from afar and join university life in remote but meaningful ways.

Winner: Xinyu (Cindy) Du from China

Studying: Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (Honours) at the University of South Australia

When Cindy had to continue her studies remotely, she found innovative ways to complete practical assignments and stay engaged with her student community.

Cindy’s study program involves significant practical training. One assessment required Cindy to observe children in a South Australian childcare setting. Using her initiative, Cindy negotiated with tutors to complete her assignment utilising a mix of online resources, learning from former students, and observing children at play in her hometown.

By finding ways to adapt her studies, Cindy overcame the challenges of offshore study and achieved high distinctions and distinctions in almost all courses. To help stay on track, Cindy held regular meetings with tutors to discuss any concerns about her studies.

Cindy also worked proactively to help fellow offshore students. She was South Australia’s student representative in an Australian Trade and Investment Commission campaign to inspire offshore students to stay motivated. Cindy also helped her peers by sharing online resources, speaking on behalf of offshore students in the media and volunteering in many workshops and offshore student support programs.

Highly Commended: Janageeth Logeswaran from Sri Lanka

Studying: Bachelor of Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence) (Honours) at Flinders University

Janageeth always wanted to study artificial intelligence to be part of the revolutionary way it’s transforming human lives. With excellent academic results from previous studies, Janageeth enrolled in his dream program at Flinders University as a proud recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s International Scholarship.

Despite starting at a new university while offshore, Janageeth achieved outstanding academic results in his first semester. He also won a Silver Award in the Flinders Horizon Award.

Janageeth volunteers as a student ambassador and mentor in several programs that help inspire his fellow students. He wants to show them ‘online education is not a barrier to shine.’ He’s also involved in university clubs and several social projects, including raising money for accident victims in Sri Lanka.

Highly Commended: Kelly Ko from Hong Kong

Studying: South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) at Immanuel College

When Kelly joined Immanuel in 2019, she became an active member of her boarding house. Though she’s been studying offshore since 2020, Kelly has continued to be a valued member of her boarding community, leading a range of sporting and academic events with distinction. In 2021, Kelly was elected House Vice Captain and became the only offshore member of the Boarding House Representative Council.

Kelly is a conscientious student who worried offshore study would cause a setback to her academic success. However, with hard work and dedication, Kelly won several subject awards and achieved consistent A and A+ grades.

To help fellow offshore students stay engaged with house activities, Kelly set up online meetings to make sure everyone felt their house spirit no matter where they were.

Peer Support

From lifting spirits, providing mentoring support and connecting through creativity to helping people meet their basic needs in a global pandemic, the winners in our Peer Support awards category have worked tirelessly to help their fellow students thrive.

Winner: Rubayat Sarwar from Bangladesh

Studying: Master of Business (Finance) at Flinders University

Rubayat’s surname, Sarwar, means chief or leader, and she has embodied her name by giving outstanding support to students during the challenging times of the global pandemic.

Rubayat found many ways to lift spirits, including initiating a ‘World tour through cooking’ which offered homesick students a chance to travel virtually by preparing international cuisine and sharing a video of their research and ‘travels’ through their chosen country.

As a passionate performer and artist, Rubayat organised free art workshops, an art exhibition and gave music performances for Eid and Lunar New Year. Rubayat says bonding with peers through creativity spreads positivity and delightful moments.

As an outstanding student, Rubayat shared her high distinction study strategies with other international students. She also mentored two offshore students unable to return due to travel restrictions. Realising these students were missing Adelaide, Rubayat took their e-mentoring chat onto the street. She shared stories and talked about their worries while allowing them to join life in Adelaide through her lens.

These examples only scratch the surface of the incredible support, empathy and kindness Rubayat has given. Through her tireless work, Rubayat has improved the mental, social and academic wellbeing of many students.

Highly Commended: Angelo Liang from China

Studying: Bachelor of Nursing (Pre-registration) at Flinders University

Angelo has undertaken extensive campus and community volunteering focused on improving international students’ engagement with local communities.

One of Angelo’s proudest achievements is his work with the Australian Red Cross (ARC), distributing emergency relief parcels to temporary visa holders during the global pandemic. He sent more than 3,000 parcels providing basic needs like food, masks and shampoo. Angelo’s focus on this target group received high commendation from the ARC and helped many people in need.

Angelo is also passionate about supporting students in their study and networking pursuits. As a student representative, he listens to student questions and works with college leaders to help create positive change. And Angelo’s AlumniTalk program links alumni with current students to help them establish industry networks and find employment.

Student Event/Initiative of the Year

While we usually give this award to a group or organisation, this year, we’re acknowledging the efforts of one student who’s using her innovation and drive to advocate for international students with disabilities.

Winner: Thi Minh Hieu Hoang

Event: Forum on Employment Opportunities for International Students with Disabilities

Supporting organisation: Flinders University Student Association (FUSA)

As a General Council member of the Flinders University Student Association (FUSA), Hieu advocates for the rights and wellbeing of international students with disabilities. Understanding the challenges students with disabilities face when looking for employment, she created the Forum on Employment Opportunities for International Students with Disabilities.

The event promotes access to employment and empowers international students with disabilities with knowledge about seeking work. At the event, attendees learned about employment legislation and programs that support people with disabilities. They also heard resume and interview tips and other information to help prepare them for employment. The students were able to speak up and share their own stories, challenges and experiences.

Hieu worked tirelessly to develop the forum plan, invite guest speakers and meet with international students with disabilities to understand their expectations and encourage participation. FUSA supported her with funding, administration, and marketing assistance which significantly contributed to the success of the forum.

As an emerging social worker in the disability space, Hieu has shown significant leadership and determination in organising this event to help fellow international students with disabilities on their path to employment.

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