The Guild Election is still open for on-campus voting up until 4 pm today. Get to know who will be representing you for next year’s International Student Committee.
Iftekhar Wasiyu on the left and Sofia Gonzalez Torres on the right.
- Where are you from originally and what is the highlight of your time in Australia?
Sofia – I am from Santiago, Chile. Living in Australia is marvellous on so many levels. It is a safe country with great opportunities. Being able to access higher education has been the best part of my journey in Australia. I worked so hard to be able to have this education and I am enjoying every moment.
Iftekhar – I am a third-year international student from Bangladesh and the highlight would be getting international students that I have met across my six months in Perth, students who speak of their struggles but also the hope of their dreams.
- What are your career aspirations and plans after university?
Sofia – I’m planning to work as an Oncology or Mental Health nurse. I would like to gain Australian healthcare experience and then, I would love to come back to Curtin University for a higher degree. If the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled, I would like to apply for Doctors without borders and help impoverished and vulnerable communities around the world.
Iftekhar – I am a data-driven explorer who specializes in analytical skills, coding, managing complex projects, and transforming raw data into interactive dashboards with a year’s experience in computing and quantitative analysis. Conducting analysis, auditing, financial modelling, and visualization at KPMG and across projects, I aim to integrate my experience in the field of Data Analytics and offer diverse perspectives. I am passionate about understanding data and bringing together ideas and insights into business to drive efficiency and making the world a better planet!
- What experiences do you have in a leadership role?
Sofia – I have participated in committees to improve educational reforms for equity and accessibility to education in Chile. I also created and participated in non-profit organisations that provided mental health, educational and recreational support.
At Curtin University, I co-founded the Curtin Latin American Club as a Vice President. I am currently the PSC Vice President and acting in the role of ISC president.
There is a lot of leadership in a nursing career. Nursing has provided me with interpersonal skills to help others to accomplish their highest potential. My vision of leadership based on my experience is about unity. I believe that together we can build a better future for the next generations.
Iftekhar – I have manifested leadership through managing store and supervising crew at McDonald’s Corporation and leading Enactus Curtin projects as the Vice President. Doing this kind of volunteer work, I received the best education, where I learned the power of coming together as one people and what it can achieve.
- The pandemic has restricted travel which has greatly impacted international student’s wellbeing. How would you comment on this sentence?
Sofia – International students are facing significant financial, academic, and mental health issues. The COVID -19 pandemic has economically impacted international students’ families. Their financial situation restricts them from affording university fees. International students are in disadvantaged circumstances while attempting to balance their life, job, and study workload. This is impacting their mental health, and the access to counselling services has a 6-weeks waiting list.
Economic insecurity and lack of wellbeing support are impacting international students’ academic performance and their learning experience. There is a high academic pressure while International students are at a significant disadvantage. We deserve more support from education providers. We deserve better.
Iftekhar – International students have shown what history teaches us that a defining moment like this during a global pandemic, the change doesn’t come from Curtin, change comes to Curtin. Change comes to the International Students when we demand it and rise and insist on new ideas and new leadership. We cannot turn back not with so much work to be done and not with so many offshore international students not getting the facilities they were promised, not with so many onshore students who still feel that Curtin University doesn’t have a place for him/her and not when students are facing financial hardship and when so many students suffering mental health issue as they can’t go back home for the longest of time. We cannot turn back, we cannot walk alone at this moment, in this election we must pledge once more to merge into the future. I have proposed the No Student Left Behind Act to tackle this issue. The Act provides funds (up to $5,000) to overseas students for professional development, teaching materials, and resources to support educational programmes. Onshore students with disabilities can be exempted from the usual standardised tests.
- Adding on to the above, many offshore students are studying online and could not arrive in Australia due to border closure. What would be your advice to navigate online and offshore learning?
Sofia – My advice is to speak up, ask questions, and request as much assistance as you need.
Don’t be afraid to email academics and request assistance with your assignments. This is your education, your future, you deserve to have all the resources for success.
You can also email the guild for guidance and student support.
Contact your classmates by text messages, email, or social media, this will help you to connect with students that are facing the same learning experience.
Iftekhar – Online school is completely self-driven and reminding yourself why you started in the first place can boost your drive and help you achieve your goal!
- What is your top priority if you get elected?
Sofia – I want to fight for more economic support, financial arrangements, and scholarship for students. My International peers are not receiving the information regarding financial and guild student support. Many students are unaware of financial arrangements, wellbeing services, and academic support. I want them to know their rights so they can access a better quality of education.
Iftekhar – Passing the Acts that I have promised to my fellow committee including
- Covid Recovery and Financial Aid Act
- No Student Left Behind Act
- Equality and Awareness Act
- Move Forward and Employment Act
- How do you hope to create more awareness for international students in the guild?
Sofia – I am planning to create a solid social media strategy to share useful information with international students. Nowadays, students use electronic devices daily, a resource that can help inform in-campus and off-shore students, promoting their engagement with the guild to access information regarding student support services.
Iftekhar – Demonstrating what value, we can bring and changes we can make together via digital and physical marketing.
- What do you know about Grok and how would you help promote the affairs of Grok in promoting the voices of students?
Sofia – Grok is a very well-known magazine in Australia. I find it inspiring that it is run by students and for students. I am hoping to collaborate to create awareness of the international students’ issues. I am hoping that Grok can include the international student experience and promote their engagement in the student community.
Iftekhar – Grok is a media outlet in the form of a magazine produced by Curtin students. I would use social media platforms to promote the affairs of Grok.
- What differences can you make to the position you are campaigning for this year?
Sofia – I want to improve the Curtin University experience for international students and future generations by protecting their rights and interests. I am hoping to improve the access to economic support by requesting more scholarships for students. I will fight against unfair university expenses (parking fees).
I am hoping to promote a healthy learning environment by improving counselling service access. I will speak up about our issues and this year, we will fight for more academic assistance. International students should receive the education they are paying for, high-quality education and a supportive learning experience.
Iftekhar – I will make the position a platform for change. This will be the most progressive administration and passing policies that benefits not only financially or emotionally but creating lasting effects in students’ life. I have proposed Move Forward and Employment Act. This Act aims to increase opportunities in the workplace. Industry professionals will host networking events and seminars to increase awareness of Australia’s work policies, employment opportunities and enhance the employability skills of international students.
- What are your thoughts on the current Australian politics and government?
Sofia – The Australian government is abandoning the educational and research sector by continuously reducing funding. Universities are depending on international student fees and increasing their course fees. As borders remain closed, their reliance on international student fees is not sustainable anymore. Universities are reducing staff, academics, and educational resources. This critical issue is increasing unemployment rates and impacting the quality of education. Education should be considered a priority. Students are the future professionals of the country and the government should re-evaluate its funding plan.
Iftekhar – Australian Politics dominates the News Cycle in this country however culturally Australians don’t discuss Politics at home. This needs to change.
- What are your thoughts on Donald Trump?
Sofia – His campaign was unbelievably successful, despite his unethical proposals. His campaign against Latin Americans showed serious acts of racism.
Trump failed on his proposal to reduce large public education funding as Congress controls the funding grants. It was exemplary that Congress did not approve his proposal and protect the educational sector.
Iftekhar – Donald Trump has become a beacon that creates hate and division among people. His unending assault on civility, democracy, and the concept of morality itself. Constantly belittling anyone who didn’t give him unconditional support by endorsing his proposals or enabling his lies. Trump’s attacks on institutions — the press, the judiciary, the intelligence community — culminated in his war on voting. The Jan. 6 mayhem at the Capitol was a direct result and rightly led to a previously unimaginable second presidential impeachment. Instead of seeing the virus as a public health threat, he treated it as a threat to the economy and thus to his re-election — downplaying it even after it hit in full force in April. Trump doubled down on his refusal to accept that the United States must respond to the existential threat of climate change by promoting the idea that it is a myth.
This article is part of a Grok article series for the Guild Election this year.
Learn more about the elections
For more Guild Election information, visit the Guild website and follow @curtinguild on social media. Also, stay tuned for more election coverage on Grok!