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Scholar Reflections: Radhika

Posted: 27 September 2019

Nepal, Scholar,

Australia Awards scholar Radhika is currently undertaking a Master of Environment with specialisation in Integrated Water Catchment Management at the University of Melbourne, through an Australia Awards Scholarship. She is expected to complete her studies and return home to Nepal at the end of 2019. Before receiving her Australia Awards Scholarship, she was working as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for WWF Nepal. From her early school days, Radhika says she was concerned about different environmental issues, and she strongly believes that everyone has a role to play in making the world a better place to live.

Radhika was featured as the “face of” the Australia Awards – Nepal promotions for study commencing in 2020. Through her reflections below, we uncover the story behind these promotional images and get an insight into her Australia Awards experience.

What motivated you to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

After I studied Environmental Science for my Bachelors degree and my Masters degree in Nepal, I have been working—in one way or another—in knowing and caring about the environment. As I began my work and got the chance to meet colleagues from other countries (the United States, Australia), I was moved by their way of thinking and analysing a situation through a multi-disciplinary approach. Since then, I have craved an international degree or an international learning experience, to broaden my academic knowledge and attain an international perspective on different environmental issues.

As I was looking for international learning opportunities, I explored several scholarship programs —then a friend recommended Australia Awards. I began to research about Australia Awards and the application process. It was the prestige of Australia Awards—recognised as one of the best scholarships offered in Nepal—that motivated me the most. Apart from the opportunity to study in one of Australia’s best universities, I was attracted by other benefits such as networking opportunities with academics and colleagues from across the globe which I believed would enhance my leadership and problem-solving abilities. Accordingly, it is both the prestige associated with the Scholarship and the opportunity to be part of this intellectual network that motivated me to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship.

What was the application process like?

For me, one of the best parts of the Australia Awards Scholarship application process was the information session. Following my friend’s suggestion, I attended an information session in Kathmandu, and that helped me a lot to understand and evaluate the Dos and Don’ts for the application process. Had I not attended the session, I would have just thought that the Scholarship is mostly for Government employees (which it isn’t) and not even applied for it. The information provided on the website was also simple and clear. Overall, it was the information seminar that I would say implanted the positivity that I could go through the entire application process and get it done.

The Scholarship application, in itself, is a challenging task that requires seriousness and commitment. While working, I had to set out some time for the application. I printed the requirements list and I gave myself a deadline each Sunday to finish one of the requirements. Once done, I would go back to the list and tick it off. Selecting the university was another tough task. But having the criteria of “what to study” and “where to study” helped me narrow down two universities offering the course of my interest.

Do you have any tips for new applicants?

Some of the tips from my experience would be:

  • Attend an information session; they are helpful.
  • Make sure you have ticked all the requirements that apply to you.
  • Be genuine in your application.
  • The Australia Awards alumni network is growing bigger. If you can, get connected with previous scholars. Their experience will help you in your task.
  • There might be times when you think, “it is so time-consuming”, “I don’t think I’m on track” or even “I can’t do it”. DO NOT GIVE UP. Three months is quite enough to get all things done. So, START EARLY and just believe that you can do it.
  • Don’t wait until the day of the deadline to finish.

How was the guidance you received from Australia Awards throughout the process?

After the first round of selections, I was in regular touch with the Australia Awards team. I felt that they made everything systematic. Following the selection, there was an orientation session to shed light on the next steps and visa application. The information disseminated in the session was helpful to proceed further in the application. Australia Awards was proactive in processing our applications well before time, so we did not have to panic about getting a visa on time. The pre-departure briefing is something that I still remember and relate to at times, which was helpful in so many ways to understand that my life was going to change! The team ensured our safe travel to Australia, and once in Melbourne, the Australia Awards team was waiting to accompany us. Australia Awards put in a lot of effort to ensure that everything worked as planned and I really appreciate the entire process.

What is your experience in Australia like?

My journey in Australia has been adventurous. Leaving behind my professional hat, getting back to the students’ seats and doing assignments was difficult in the first semester. I remember our pre-departure briefing where we were told to, “Expect a lot of procrastination”. I feel that is so true. But as the semester progressed, I started feeling more comfortable and confident.

Apart from study, there were several things to enjoy, like sitting on the lawn with a new friend, discussing their history and culture, and sharing the experience of living in Melbourne. The Australia Awards club in my university arranged trips to different parts of Melbourne, almost every month. It felt great and fulfilling to travel to new places and meet new people—they were nice, compassionate and easy to get along with. Every day, there was something new and exciting to learn.

Radhika with fellow Australia Awards scholars Bonika and Mahanand from Nepal

What was your biggest achievements or highlights so far?

The best part for me in Australia is my learning experience. It feels great to be studying in one of the top universities in Australia, and there are some subjects that I really like and received good grades in. Coming from a different learning culture, adapting to a new teaching style and yet being able to get a Distinction — I perceive that as a significant achievement. In addition, throughout my course, I have gathered both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, including the skill of observing and analysing situations. For example, different tutorials, accompanied by field trips, enabled me to understand the different aspects of water resource management.

Making lifelong friends and knowing different teaching faculty and academics, researchers, professionals and colleagues from different countries is another achievement. I am committed to remaining in touch with them, even after I return home to Nepal, to brainstorm ideas regarding how to solve different environmental issues.

How do you plan to use the knowledge and experience you gain in Australia to contribute towards the development of Nepal?

From my experience in Australia, I realise that there is still some room for improvement regarding environment-related knowledge generation in my country. In Nepal, I want to engage in research to support knowledge generation on different environmental issues, especially on water resources and their management. Furthermore, I plan to share the knowledge I gained in Australia to contribute to better planning and management of water resources in my country. I intend to utilise and expand on the current network of academics, researchers, policymakers and professionals working on the environment and water sector in Nepal to build synergies with them for betterment of the sector through research-based and informed policy reforms.

Do you have any final thoughts on Australia Awards?

Australia Awards has become the turning point of my life. It has been the best opportunity to explore the international arena and a great learning experience. I feel more confident and empowered. At the same time, I feel more responsible as well as motivated to contribute to addressing environmental challenges and thereby make a difference.