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My Australian life: Ravi Jayawardana from Sri Lanka

Posted: 13 December 2022

Sri Lanka, Experience, In Australia, Scholar,

Through our ‘My Australian life’ series, we are speaking to some current scholars and sharing their experiences in Australia. For this instalment, we spoke to Ravi Jayawardana, who is currently pursuing a Master of Policy Studies at the Australian National University (ANU) with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. However, this is not Ravi’s first taste of a world-class scholarship: he previously received both a Fulbright scholarship to study in the US and a UK Government-funded Chevening scholarship. Rarely do we encounter a scholar who has had the opportunity to reflect on his Australia Awards experience compared with two other scholarship programs.

Ravi believes his Australia Awards Scholarship will enable him to be a strong changemaker upon returning home.

“Australia Awards guides us through development of a linkages plan to prepare ourselves professionally,” says Ravi

“Furthermore, the Scholarship allows us to follow a course or attend seminars in our area of interest to broaden our knowledge outside our study areas. This will help us to learn new ideas,” Ravi says, adding that the opportunity to undertake an internship “allows us to gain practical experience in our respective areas of work” by allowing scholars to take the theoretical knowledge they have learnt and apply it in the real world.

In discussing his life in Australia, Ravi notes the duration of his course as a key difference between his Australia Awards Scholarship and his previous scholarships. “The Australia Awards Scholarship is a two-year program,” he says, adding that the longer period “helps students to understand the culture of Australia and allows them to make friends and connections with peers,” and that it also gives students the opportunity to travel around Australia—something he looks forward to doing himself.

Additionally, Ravi notes the support Australia Awards offers to scholars compared to other scholarship programs, including allowing families to accompany and experience life in Australia with the awardee whilst they are on scholarship.

“Australia Awards heavily encourages people with disability and other vulnerable groups to apply for a Scholarship, and the opportunity for these groups to be accompanied by a carer or a family member during their time in Australia is commendable,” he says. “The assistance Australia Awards provides to diverse groups of people is amazing.” Ravi is especially impressed by the support provided to a fellow Australia Awards scholar from his cohort who has a visual impairment: the scholar’s brother has accompanied him to Australia to provide assistance as a carer, with Australia Awards covering the brother’s expenses.

Ravi appreciates the way Australia Awards prepares scholars before their travel to Australia. “The Pre-Departure Briefing is a two-day session that helps students, and their spouses prepare for a new life in a foreign country. Since some students are travelling abroad for the first time, that guidance helps them adjust to the new environment,” Ravi says, adding that it was useful that spouses were invited to the briefing. Ravi welcomes the fact that Australia Awards puts a strong emphasis on preparing scholars prior to commencing their studies in Australia. This includes providing funded opportunities to improve their English language skills and preparing scholars to expand their professional networks.

Ravi (third from right) along with other scholars at the Australia Awards end of year event in Canberra.

This professional development includes a guide to creating branding on social networks such as LinkedIn, which Ravi found interesting and useful. “During our Introductory Academic Program (IAP), we were asked to activate our LinkedIn accounts and add relevant people to our network, which was helpful,” he says. The IAP and the pre-departure briefing sessions were also an excellent opportunity to interact with fellow scholars. “As a senior public official, I try to link with people and build relationships using every opportunity,” he adds.

By interacting with his fellow Australia Awards scholars, Ravi has been able to help other scholars and to learn from them too. Beyond the scholar cohort, Ravi has found people in Australia more widely to also be friendly, helpful and accommodating.

In September 2022, Ravi had the opportunity to represent the ANU Crawford School for Public Policy during a one-week visit to Canberra by a Sri Lankan delegation. During the visit, Ravi passed on some observations, drawing on the strengths of his Australia Awards experience. “I was able to share my thoughts,” he says, “and I suggested that attempts be made to keep that group together by doing regular joint activities and nurturing them as potential leaders.”