Ishini is an international student from Sri Lanka who dreams of a career combining business, design and branding. She is currently studying a double degree in Business and Design, majoring in Marketing and Graphic Design at the Gold Coast Campus.
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What made you want to study abroad?
Having lived in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Vietnam throughout my school life with some travelling in between, wanting to complete my tertiary education in a different country was quite set in stone. However, this time it would be a different experience, as I would be living away from my family and close friends.
I wanted to study abroad for several reasons, but mostly to experience and live in an entirely new place with a fresh start on my own. Honestly, being able to study overseas, especially in Australia is a privilege. For that reason, I want to ensure that my time here is well spent, by gaining all the knowledge I can from studying here and making the most of the opportunities to help me become a better person.
Why did you choose Griffith University?
Figuring out which university can help achieve your goals is an overwhelming life decision, especially when you have never visited the city nor the country! Am I making a mistake? Is this enough research? Is it affordable? These were all questions I had to constantly ask myself. However, as soon as I came across Griffith University, I was drawn to the idea of pursuing my tertiary studies here.
Initially I wanted to pursue Business, and major in Marketing, so I chose a double degree – Bachelor of Design/Bachelor of Business. Therefore, reading about the career-focused and personal development opportunities, alongside a world-class education by the Griffith Business School immensely contributed to my decision to study at Griffith University. Being an international student, reading about positive, inspiring experiences from the current students and alumni reassured my decision to study at Griffith.
In addition to co-curricular and academics, Griffith’s Gold Coast campus was situated in an ideal location, conveniently located close to residential areas, public transport within an enclosed environment that is safe, spacious, and green. I have lost count of the number of times I spent admiring the campus photographs and navigating through the campus map online!
What do you love most about your life in Queensland?
The beaches, the sun, cool nights and (sunny) winters! South East Queensland is in my opinion the ideal area to live in. Easily accessible public transport, the combination of a small cityscape and greenery makes it ideal for both convenience and beautiful, picturesque views. I am yet to travel across Queensland, so I am looking forward to doing so sometime in the near future!
What was your biggest fear about starting your student journey?
Having to settle on my own without the help of my family living close to me was definitely the biggest challenge. Moving to a new country was something that I had become familiar with from my childhood, therefore I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness at the same time.
The idea of starting a new chapter in my life was exciting, but the process of moving in, settling at a new place, managing financially, interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds and learning how things work here were worries that I believe all international students can relate to.
How did you overcome your fear?
It was certainly a process of learning and adapting over time. As I wanted to make the most of my opportunity of being at Griffith University in Australia, I quickly adapted and created a close circle of friends that I can rely on and trust. I was also lucky enough to connect with my close friends who had already begun their university life, so whenever I was in a difficult position, I could always rely on them for advice and encouragement.
As I reached my second year at university, I began to step outside my comfort zone to expand my network, and proactively participate in co-curricular activities. This has enabled me to form not only new friendships, but also professional connections with academics. I have been fortunate enough to come across remarkable mentors who have been understanding and supportive of my academic achievements. as well as my personal professional development.
Griffith recognises their students’ differences and provides us with the resources to grow, connect and be part of the community. From personal experience, I highly recommend reaching out to the International Student Buddy Program. The program enabled me to connect with an existing Griffith student for weekly catch ups, which helped my transition to Griffith much easier.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Listen to understand, not respond.’
I unfortunately cannot recall where I have heard this from, but it is something that has remained with me. When we have conversations, sometimes we get so eager to make conversation and so, we respond in order to relate, problem-solve or debate. However, sometimes it’s best to just listen and simply understand where the other person is coming from, where their thoughts stem from and why they chose to share it, even if it’s not relatable to your experiences.
Who in your life has had the most influence on you?
Regarding both life and career choices, my parents have been my biggest influence. My parents have overcome numerous obstacles throughout their journey to bring my family to where we are now. Being able to pursue my studies in Australia was a reality because of the sacrifices and decisions they had made, to ensure that my sister and I received the best opportunities we could possibly get. Their values, open-mindedness, empathy, and perseverance are all traits that I admire and strive to instill in my life’s journey.
In relation to career and academic choices – the choice to pursue marketing and graphic design was motivated through the online education platform TheFutur. It was quite coincidental, but stumbling upon TheFutur’s channel was what clearly inspired my future pathway to integrate the world of business in design. I have always enjoyed crafting and visual arts at a very young age, and I was also interested in branding and research in marketing. However, the decision to integrate both areas became a sure decision when I understood the potential of integrating marketing and design through the online education platform, and the mind of Chris Do – whose goal is to teach one billion people how to do what they love.
What has been a key moment in your life as an international student?
Taking the step to engage in executive roles has been one of my key moments as an international student. Truthfully speaking, design and business fields do not include many international students in comparison to certain fields. Therefore, to see international students rise to taking on leadership roles has been really inspiring. I am grateful to Griffith for providing opportunities for all students from all walks of life to grow.
Being an executive leader of different societies has opened many pathways, that cultivates my development from a shy high school graduate who was unsure of herself and her purpose, to an industry-ready university graduate with goals and a long-term plan.
Additionally, I believe that we, as international students from various backgrounds and upbringings have a lot to offer. Whether it is in a classroom setting, or a professional environment, each of our unique stories and experiences inspires questions that may not have been discussed before, nor thought of.
What has been your overall experience studying at Griffith as an international student?
My experience as an international student has been positive throughout. Programs such as Griffith International, Griffith Mates, International Student Buddy Program and the recently formed QCA International Club, among many others, are amazing programs that bring together students from all backgrounds, allowing us all to be part of the Griffith community.
In addition, the open-minded, respectful, and accepting culture at Griffith University among students and academics provides a safe space for international students to be themselves, despite cultural differences. The support I have received from academics and my peers has immensely contributed to my overall experience and growth at Griffith University.
Do you do any volunteer or extra-curricular activities?
I am currently helping my close friend Thien Tran to establish the QCA International Club. The purpose of the club is to bring together Queensland College of Art international students to form a small community, and ease their transition from online to returning to campus.
Are you a member of any uni clubs?
In my first year, I signed up as a member of the Griffith Association of Marketing (GUAM), as I knew I wanted to major in Marketing. After focusing on academics, I was invited to be a member of the GBS Academic Excellence Society (ACES). Signing up to clubs at Griffith in your selected interests or course choices is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, form new friendships and partake in amazing events that benefit your professional development. As a member, I was able to reap the benefits of proactively participating in the club activities and events.
However, as an introvert, I was still very much in my safe place. I wanted to improve my leadership and interpersonal skills, and be part of the executive team that organises events. Therefore, I am now the Vice-President of GUAM, Gold Coast Team Leader for ACES and a BusinessPLUS ambassador. I have been fortunate enough to work alongside driven, hard-working and focused team members who share the same goals with one another. Being proactive in these roles has not only pushed me to constantly stay motivated, but also to develop time-management, responsibility, and communication skills.
The most recent event that took place in collaboration with ACES, GEHRMS and GUAM was the Trivia Night. It was the first event that our executive team put together within a short period of time in Trimester 3, 2021, and it turned out to be a great success! I was in charge of the branding of the event, and I designed the banners, social media templates and event marketing. It was a fun experience being able to integrate my design knowledge to create the branding for the Griffith Business School events, and seeing it all come together with the team effort on the day itself.
Where can we find you at the weekend?
Currently as I am completing Trimester 3 in my third year, weekends typically consist of getting through my to-do list, or planning for an upcoming event!
If not, then I am most likely catching up with a friend over a shopping, beach or a lunch date, or chatting away on a video call with my long-distance best friend, or my family residing overseas who I am missing very much. Sometimes, you may even find me at the nearest Heeretea enjoying a delicious bubble milk tea (although my pocket is not very happy about that).
What are your dreams after graduating?
My short-term goal is to build my career by either by working with a Marketing/Design agency, or taking on a Digital Marketing role that incorporates both of my marketing and design skills. I will continue to develop my design skills, experimenting in typography, illustration, and perhaps even website development.
In the long-term, I hope to see myself as a Creative Director with my own marketing and design agency. I am sure I will encounter several obstacles, but I really hope to get there one day.
What is your favorite quote?
‘The only one that truly holds you back from doing what you want and being who you want to be, is yourself.’
LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/ishinitennakoon/
HUMANS OF GRIFFITH INTERNATIONAL
At Griffith University, we celebrate diversity and difference. Our community is made up of students from around the globe, all with a unique story to tell.
In this Humans of Griffith series, a selection of our international students have chosen to share their experiences, unedited in their own words – from the challenges of studying abroad, to building community and independence, and their dreams after graduation and beyond.
No matter who you are, or where you are in the world, whatever your study journey, Griffith University is with you all the way. Find out more at griffith.edu.au/international.
Interested in sharing your story? DM us on Instagram @griffithinternational.
View more Humans of Griffith student stories here.