Thanks to a scholarship from Destination Australia, international student Adriana Meneses is enjoying her new life in Australia while she works towards her dream career in hospitality management.
After packing up her life in Ecuador to study at TAFE Queensland's Cairns campus, Adriana has greatly enjoyed living and studying in the regional centre.
"Being a TAFE student has been a great honour. Thanks to TAFE I have the opportunity to come here and learn about this marvellous city surrounded by Aboriginal culture, eco-tourism, and fine dining — definitely a fantastic place to study hospitality," Adriana said.
After feeling a little nervous when she first arrived in Cairns, Adriana was relieved to discover there was plenty of support services to help her get on her feet.
"All the support and advice from the International Student Advisor was so useful in terms of getting to know about accommodation, buses, or living in Cairns," she said.
Just when she was starting to feel at home, the pandemic posed further challenges for Adriana, where she faced an uncertain time without the support of her friends and family back home. But Adriana soon found that she had plenty of support right here.
"All the people in TAFE — teachers, administrations staff, students — are so special to me. In all this pandemic time, TAFE was my primary support," Adriana said.
"Being far from my family in these challenging times, without TAFE I couldn’t image myself alone here. TAFE become like family to me and I have so much gratitude for them being part of my life journey," she said.
Throughout her studies, her fellow classmates were also a big support for Adriana — both with her studies and on a personal level.
"The students here are so eclectic; I love that I had the opportunity to know locals and internationals with different ages, motivations, and dreams. This particular experience helps me a lot to have empathy and resilience — particularly in this pandemic, having another point of view to share was very interesting," Adriana said.
"Plus, the support of my classmates with helping me with some words or definitions that I don’t know in English or my pronunciation was crucial to improving my language skills," she said.
Studying at TAFE Queensland also opened up other unexpected opportunities for Adriana.
"This year particularly with COVID-19, I had the opportunity to support activities to benefit international students in Queensland. Thanks to TAFE I was nominated as an International Student Ambassador for Cairns, and later as a member of the Queensland Student Advisory Panel representing Cairns and TAFE Queensland," she said.
Adriana also gained valuable work experience throughout her studies, connecting with the local community and putting her new skills into practice.
"I had the opportunity to apply my studies about business plans and budgets in a real study case with the African community in Cairns concerning opening an African restaurant," she said.
This experience has been invaluable for Adriana as she plans on using her new qualification to help other themed cafes and restaurants.
"In the future, I see myself supporting business plans of themed cafes. Also, I would love to help Ecuadorian or Latin American franchises such as restaurants and bars in Australia," Adriana said.
"There are a lot of opportunities in hospitality here or overseas, and being prepared with knowledge and experience will ready me for any challenge," she said.
Adriana also plans on using her TAFE Queensland qualification as a stepping stone to further studies at university.
"Thanks to TAFE and their connections with universities, I will use my diploma as an entry requirement for higher studies," she said.
Looking back on her studies, Adriana would recommend studying with TAFE Queensland to other international students.
"For immigrants or people who are new in Australia, TAFE is the best school to understand Australian culture and gain more confidence in a learning environment," Adriana said.
"For people who are not interested in studying long years at university and are more practical, TAFE has excellent options — I wish I could have had these options in Ecuador in my twenties!"
"I think Australia is a place where dreams come true for a lot of people. Australia is so unique and special, and I appreciate my learning time here," she said.
The Destination Australia Program is designed to attract and support international and domestic students to study in regional Australia, to grow and develop regional Australian tertiary education providers and offer students a high-quality learning experience.
TAFE Queensland is one of 35 tertiary education providers across 84 locations around Australia that has been successful in the 2020 round of the Destination Australia Program.
Scholarships are valued at $15,000 and will go towards some or all of the course tuition fees and will be available for students undertaking a certificate IV or diploma program at a number of regional TAFE Queensland campuses including Cairns, Townsville, Whitsundays, and Toowoomba.
For more information about the Destination Australia scholarships program, visit education.gov.au/destination-australia.