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Yajaswi Rai: Studying sustainability to build a resilient community in Nepal

Posted: 27 April 2023

Nepal, Experience, Impact, In Australia, Scholar,

Before receiving an Australia Awards Scholarship, Yajaswi Rai worked in the development sector in Nepal, prioritising gender equality and economic development. Once she has completed her studies, Yajaswi aims to use the knowledge she gains about sustainable development to expand her business and contribute to community and economic development in her home country.

Yajaswi was featured as ‘the face of’ the Australia Awards – Nepal promotions for study commencing in 2024. Through her responses to our questions below, she shares insights into her Australia Awards experience and advice for prospective Scholarship applicants.

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

After I completed my Bachelor of Development Studies, I worked for seven years in the development sector, especially in the fields of gender equality and economic development. I realised any community or country needs to have a holistic approach to development in order to prosper. I decided to study for a Master of Sustainability. The prime goal of my education is to gain knowledge, skills and networks I can use for the development of my country.

I value the fact that the Australia Awards Scholarship application process asked me about the vision and plan that I have after completing my master’s degree. Even before receiving my Scholarship, I had a roadmap of where I am going with this journey and how I will use my master’s degree to contribute back to the community that I have come from.

Yajaswi with other scholars from South Asia and Mongolia at the 2023 Scholars Forum in Canberra

Where and what are you studying?

I am currently studying a Master of Sustainability at the University of Sydney in New South Wales. The University of Sydney is the oldest university in Australia and ranks third in the world for the Master of Sustainability.

I see the university as a living museum and a live example of sustainability. The historic buildings, First Nations representations and structures on the walls, parts of thousand-year-old trees, and the university’s sustainability strategy to become a net zero emitter—all of these elements give me a chance to learn from every part of the university.

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

My Australia Awards Scholarship is an opportunity beyond education. The lectures are so intriguing and the classes, which consist of people from so many different countries, have equipped me with a broad perspective and knowledge. The knowledge about the economy, society and environment that I have gained already is far beyond what I had learnt before. I can say I have gained enough knowledge and tools to take my entrepreneurship journey and develop my community a step forward.

The teaching process in classes is so new that it took me the first couple of months just to learn the methodology to understand and adapt to it. But I have learnt to read, write and comprehend better. I am learning life skills and values, and to be in a multicultural setting—this is the most valuable thing I have learnt so far.

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

Firstly, I have become part of a strong Nepali community of people who have received the Scholarship; people who have contributed to diverse fields of private, governmental and nongovernmental services.

This semester, I am working as a Student Life Ambassador at the University of Sydney, where I work with the team who support the university’s sustainability strategy. Through that, I have been able to connect with people with the same academic background and interests as me. We are now working further on a few potential projects on sustainability at our university.

I was also part of the Australia Awards Scholars Forum 2023, as a participant and as a speaker providing the concluding remarks, where I met 56 scholars from 10 different countries. I also met senior officials from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and development experts in various fields. We all discussed how the networks we built throughout the journey could be beneficial to create a positive impact and influence in our countries.

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

I would say Australia has been salty so far: oceans, sweat and tears.

I come from Nepal, a landlocked country, where going beyond the ocean means exploring the unknown but realising new potential. Here in Australia, I have loved the ocean so far, although my surfing teacher has almost given up on me now. Ha ha!

Sweat, because I know I am here to work hard. I have only one and a half years to do my best and get as much knowledge and experience as possible. However, the best thing about this is that I know I am not alone in this journey. I have other scholars, classmates, friends I’ve made outside of university, who are as passionate about their studies as I am.

Tears, because I miss home and the people back there sometimes. But I am also on a journey to finding new communities where I feel at home. I have been to Canberra five times in the past eight months, which everyone is surprised about. But I love the powerful yet calm Canberra and my friends there, who I now call family.

I also love Melbourne, and I am looking forward to exploring more of Aboriginal culture and traditions.

Yajaswi with other Nepali scholars at the 2023 Scholars Forum

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

I am planning on two major projects after my Scholarship. Firstly, I will work on expanding my enterprise Leklekk: The Green Wave. I will explore more indigenous and traditional activities, knowledge and products to foster the economic advancement of indigenous communities, while also preserving the intangible heritage that we have in Nepal. There will be more research, connecting with people and institutions and fostering the economy of the people.

Secondly, I would like to contribute to building a resilient community with the knowledge I gain on sustainability. I look forward to working with the local representatives and planning department to come up with local and national stances on sustainability and climate change.

What advice would you give to potential Scholarship applicants?

The effort you put into your application is a representation of how much you really value your goals in your life. Be true to yourself while applying, searching for courses and planning your project. Seek help from others when required. There are always the right places and people to help you throughout the journey with your Australia Awards Scholarship.