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Nelushika Hemachandra: gaining technical knowledge and thriving in a multicultural environment

Posted: 28 April 2023

Sri Lanka, Impact, Linkages, Scholar,

Nelushika Hemachandra is a Senior Economist at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. After studying at two top-ranked universities in Sri Lanka, Nelushika sought to continue her study overseas at a university that offered world-class education in the field of economics. Her dream of finding exceptional international education and growth opportunities was fulfilled when she received an Australia Awards Scholarship. Below, she shares aspects of her Scholarship experience so far, as well as the advice she has for potential Scholarship applicants.

What made you decide to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

Having graduated from two of the top-ranked universities in Sri Lanka, I was determined to pursue my higher studies in a world-renowned university abroad to have exposure to world-class education. Among numerous scholarships awarded to international students, I found the Australia Awards Scholarship to be the most comprehensive opportunity not only in terms of its all-inclusive package of financial support throughout the study period, but also in terms of the invaluable opportunities it offers to develop the skills of scholars to become transformational leaders. I was certain that an Australia Awards Scholarship was the best opportunity that would nurture me to become a better version of myself while pursuing my dreams.

The entire Scholarship process was well organised and systematic, throughout the application period and afterwards, especially the two-day Pre-Departure Briefing conducted by the Australia Awards – Sri Lanka team, which was very informative. This program provided useful insights about living and studying in Australia, including information on how to manage culture shock and prepare for the difference in climate. Most importantly, the experiences shared by Australia Awards alumni helped me to adapt to the new environment and settle quickly in Australia, so that I could focus on my academic activities successfully.

Where and what are you studying?

I am pursuing a Master of International and Development Economics at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

Nelushika with scholars from Mongolia and Bangladesh at the ANU library

How has your Australia Awards Scholarship contributed to your personal and professional growth so far?

With the Australia Awards Scholarship, I was able to pursue my postgraduate studies on international and development economics in the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, which is one of the leading public policy schools in the Asia-Pacific. Through the coursework of this program, I am acquiring technical knowledge on economic analysis while improving my analytical skills and research capabilities, which continuously add value to my profession as an economist. Moreover, I learn something new every day about practical implementation of economic and public policies by sharing experiences with my fellow colleagues from different parts of the world who are engaged in policymaking.

Also, I am immensely grateful to Australia Awards for giving me the opportunity to attend the Short Course on Foundational Skills for Change Agents, conducted virtually by the University of Queensland, before I departed for Australia. This course provided valuable insights into areas such as Australian academic culture, critical thinking, digital literacy and e-learning, developing professional networks (including social media etiquette), and strengthening quantitative and academic writing skills. The new knowledge I gathered from this course laid a strong foundation for my journey in Australia and helps me even now to grow as a person every passing day, by thinking differently, improving my networking capabilities and enhancing problem-solving skills.

Nelushika with other scholars from Sri Lanka

Can you share how you are growing your professional network during your Scholarship?

Australia Awards emphasises the importance of professional networks as a powerful source to help bring about positive changes in scholars’ home countries. In view of the this, Australia Awards organises various forums to provide a platform to connect with fellow scholars and other distinguished personalities representing various Australian institutions, whom we would not have the opportunity to reach out to otherwise. For example, I was able to participate in an Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia Scholars Workshop that brought together scholars from different countries studying in the Australian Capital Territory. This workshop enabled me to build up networks and lasting friendships with fellow scholars and provided the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. During this workshop, we were encouraged to connect with other scholars through LinkedIn so that we can continue to maintain our professional connections from wherever we are in the world. I look forward to participating in future networking events organised by Australia Awards during the remainder of my Scholarship period, as I could continue to utilise the professional relationships I build to benefit my country even after I leave Australia.

Can you tell us about your experience in Australia so far, beyond your academic studies?

So far, my journey in Australia has been a rewarding experience. I am overwhelmed by how this country embraces multiculturalism. The cultural diversity, friendly community, favourable climate and peaceful environment in Australia have allowed me to adjust quickly. While in Australia, I have been able to enjoy the high standard of living of an advanced economy. Because Australia strictly enforces its laws, I enjoy the freedom of a well-disciplined society and feel safe and secure. I also experience conveniences in day-to-day life thanks to the advanced technology and well-developed systems and infrastructure facilities in Australia.

Moreover, I will cherish the fun-filled experiences that I have been able to share with my friends at different cultural and entertainment events held in Canberra, such as the Lights on the Lake show at the shores of Lake Burley Griffin to mark Australia Day and the Enlighten Festival to mark Canberra Day. The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, where I was able to witness hot air balloons floating across the Canberra skyline at dawn. Also, by residing at ANU student accommodation, I have first-hand experience of living in a culturally diverse community, sharing and respecting each other’s values, traditions and beliefs while enjoying and learning about various cuisines and festivities around the world.

What do you hope to do in the future, particularly after your Scholarship experience?

As an economist by profession, I intend to utilise the technical knowledge on economic policymaking, research capabilities and leadership qualities that I have gained, and continue professional relationships I have built up throughout my stay in Australia, to give my utmost contribution to improve the economic and social wellbeing of Sri Lanka after returning home. Additionally, after completing the Scholarship, I look forward to becoming part of the Australia Global Alumni to continue to engage closely with a global network of leaders.

What advice would you give to potential Scholarship applicants?

An Australia Awards Scholarship is not merely an international scholarship that provides financial support to pursue postgraduate studies. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform your life and become a better person in every respect. The value it adds to your life is immeasurable. You should apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship not only because of the financial freedom or world class education it provides, but also due to the unlimited opportunities it unveils in terms of creating lasting connections and networks, developing leadership skills and building capacity. I say, ‘Once an Australia Awards scholar, always an Australia Awards scholar,’ because our Australia Awards Scholarships will not end with the completion of our studies in Australia but will continuously improve us throughout our lives, especially through alumni activities. It is a brand embedded to our life that we carry wherever we go in the world as ambassadors of our home country and of Australia. Therefore, if you are a passionate individual who strives to make a positive difference in yourself and your country, this is an opportunity that you should not miss.

Nelushika with scholars from Nepal and Bhutan at ANU