Prominent members of the University of Sydney’s alumni community are opening their doors to newly arrived international and regional students as part of the Welcome to Sydney program.
The program, which relaunched in August 2014, introduces students to each other at small group gatherings hosted by local University alumni at locations which give an insider’s glimpse into the best that Sydney has to offer.
So far, 160 students from 40 countries have participated in events hosted by alumni from 10 faculties across the University of Sydney, with activities including a tour of Customs house, a picnic at Observatory Hill and a visit to Manly beach.
Former NSW Premier and University of Sydney alumnus Nick Greiner AC (BEc (Hons) ’67) will host the next event at his house this Friday, taking a group of international students from China on a sunset walk to the Double Bay Sailing Club for a uniquely Australian experience.
“More than simply provide classes and strict academic experiences, the University of Sydney is trying to provide a broader social and cultural experience, and this program seemed like a good way of doing that,” said Mr Greiner.
The program is a far cry from his time as a graduate student at Harvard University in the late 1960s, where there were no organised cultural integration opportunities and international students remained isolated.
“Fortunately things have come a long way in half a century,” Mr Greiner said.
I think the program is a reflection of the way the world is going and I hope my participation in a small way improves the whole experience for the students.
“It’s good that the University has recognised that it’s playing in a genuinely global market, and part of the competiveness of the offering is the opportunity for the students to make relationships and friendships while getting a perspective of life in Sydney at its broadest.”
One of the first sessions this year saw ten students don aprons and hairnets with alumnus Rabbi Dr Dovid Slavin at his Bondi-based, non-denominational charitable organisation, Our Big Kitchen. Students cooked meals not only for their own dinner but also for the homeless and needy as part of Our Big Kitchen's vital work in the local community.
"I think it's very valuable as it gives overseas students an anchor in what can be a turbulent environment," said Rabbi Dr Slavin, who completed a PhD in the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish studies in 2013.
"It gives alumni a chance to reflect on their own studies as well as the chance to give back to the University by contributing to a more cohesive environment."
Manson Tam, a Master of Education (Management and Leadership) student from Hong Kong, said the Our Big Kitchen cook-off was a deeply inspiring experience.
"Giving a helping hand to people and communities in need is not a priority in my home city," he said.
"However, Rabbi Slavin reminded me everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count. His thoughts inspired me to rethink what makes a harmonious society and how to make the world a better place."
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