The International Student Leadership and Ambassador Program: Building future leaders

Imagine with all your mind
Believe with all your heart
Achieve with all your might

I came to Australia as an International student hailing from Pakistan to chase my dreams. I have finished my second Masters Degree in Electronics Engineering and am currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Engineering at Macquarie. Sydney has been home to me for more than one and a half years now, and it has been an astounding journey so far. Moving here gave me an excellent opportunity to explore not only my research interests but also take part in many other fantastic opportunities Sydney offers.

I am motivated by a strong desire for excellence, a drive to succeed and a wish to give back to the community with an open heart and a wide smile. I consider myself an ambitious and competent individual with a strong drive to improve my professional knowledge and leadership skills. When I joined the GLP, I saw it as a good opportunity to develop these skills and expose myself to critical global issues.

Deputy Lord Mayor Professor Councillor Kerryn Phelps presenting the City of Sydney Pin to Arslan Kiyani

Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Professor Kerryn Phelps presenting the City of Sydney pin to Arslan. Photo: City of Sydney.

While at Macquarie, I have tried to get involved in as many extra-curricular activities as I could, including;

  • Serving as the Chair of IEEE Student Branch;
  • Serving as the Secretary of Women in Engineering (WIE)
  • Organising various events, such as keynote talks, sports days and social get-togethers, for both students and staff at the Department of Engineering;
  • Volunteering for the University Open Day 2015 and Physics and Astronomy Night 2016;
  • Organising the City of Sydney Lord Mayor’s Welcome to International Students 2016 with the International Student Leader and Ambassador (ISLA) volunteer team; and
  • Volunteering for I Need Helpers and Vivid Sydney.

Recently, I have successfully completed a Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program with NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet through StudyNSW. As part of this program, I undertook formal training through StudyNSW and TAFE NSW – Sydney Institute and volunteered at the International Student Welcome Desk at Sydney International Airport. On completion, I successfully progressed into the role of Team Leader. To acknowledge this service, The Hon. Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism & Major Events, Minister for Sport and the parliamentary secretary Jonathan O’Dea have awarded me with the Certificate of Appreciation at the NSW Parliament House.

Study NSW’s International Student Welcome Desk acknowledgement

Arslan receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from the parliamentary secretary, Jonathan O’Dea

While volunteering, a couple of friends told me about International Student Leadership and Ambassador (ISLA) program. Being Ambassadors themselves, they motivated me to apply for the Program. I was selected as successful from 125 applicants! The ISLA program is an excellent opportunity to develop my leadership and interpersonal skills and build strong connections with like-minded student leaders, whose aim is to improve the international student experience in Australia.

If you are interested in applying for ISLA, I would recommend doing some research into the ISLA and keep in mind what they are looking for in a candidate. Highlight those qualities in your application and try to put a new perspective on them. Be ambitious and demonstrate how unique you are. I believe my ISLA application stood out because I managed to critically address my previous achievements, future aspirations, what I hoped to learn and how this program is going to be beneficial for the International student community.

International welcome desk volunteers at the Lord Myor_s welcome to international students

International Welcome Desk volunteers at the Lord Mayor’s welcome to international students

Through these programs, I have had the opportunity of befriending many local and international students and various government officials as well. I have made great social connections, not only on the individual level but also with the broader community.  In addition, the ISLA will contribute to my GLP and open new doors to many future volunteering and job opportunities.

I would strongly suggest to all international students and young leaders out there to get involved in the vast array of extra-curricular activities. It is a fantastic way to make your resume stand out, have fun and make an impact in the world. Consider your interests; learn about your strengths, identify the new skills you would like to gain, challenge yourself, and develop the soft skills that are crucial to effective leadership. All the very best!

International student ambassadors group photo at the Town Hall.jpg

The 2016/18 City of Sydney International Student Ambassadors

How does Arslan balance his Ph.D., International Student Ambassador Role, and volunteering?

Read his suggestions for managing work and study below.

With all the hectic university work, things can get chaotic for any student! If you have an assignment to submit, a job to go to in the morning and a class presentation to attend in the evening, it can be stressful. I have a couple of tips for managing chaos;

  • Just smile and try not to panic when things get out of hand.
  • Take a moment to breathe, regroup yourself and tell yourself “I can do it”.
  • Write down the commitments you have in order of priority and put them into a timeline, with the deadlines for completion.

The ISLA Program aims to increase the positive experience of all international students through training student Ambassadors to actively participate in the city life and build Sydney’s reputation as a preferred destination to study.

The ISLA program offers free leadership, communication, public speaking, event management, community engagement training, workshops work integrated learning and volunteering opportunities to enhance international student leadership skills and experience, which become transferable to their future careers. 

Arslan Kiyani is a Postgraduate GLPer and has claimed his work as an International Student Ambassador for his Cross Cultural Practicum.


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