#InThisTogether with Destina Winarti from the University of Canberra
Once in a lifetime
I'm originally from East Java in Indonesia and came here to
Australia on a very competitive scholarship in 2016 - the
- to study my PhD at the University of Canberra.
I didn't have a lot of confidence in myself at the time so it's
crazy to me that I even applied for it. Thousands of students apply
and only a small number are accepted each year. I was really
excited, I couldn't believe it when I was told I was accepted!
Before I came to Australia, I was working as a math's teacher in
Indonesia and was interested in learning more about how we could
help students further develop their math's skills. This became the
focus of my PhD and a personal passion project.
A world of opportunities
Ever since arriving at the University of Canberra, I have felt so
For many international student applicants applying for the
Australia Awards scholarship, the chance to study abroad is
something most just can't afford unless you are coming from a
wealthy family. Studying abroad also allows us to study in English
which can be very challenging as a non-native speaker, especially
in academic writing. But there are so many benefits of learning
English and the University of Canberra was very supportive and
provided tools and services to help us through our studies.
The opportunities given by the Australia Awards scholarship are
huge. It has given me the chance to do different kinds of
workshops, learn new skills and even provided me the opportunity to
meet important people from the Australian Government here in
Canberra. Sometimes, when there is a program at Parliament House,
we're also invited along to attend with people from University of
The University of Canberra is very supportive because it's a small
This was beneficial for me as a PhD student because I get more
personalised attention. Any time I needed their help or assistance,
people in the university actually recognised me and were happy to
help. They always said, "oh Destina, you're in the faculty of
education, your supervisor is so-and-so".
As a result, the bond felt very personal. Something that you
probably wouldn't get or experience in a large university. It's
like a family and that felt so good.
matters in education
The personalised attention has been particularly good during the
recent challenging times of COVID-19. Due to the campus closure, we
cannot access our office anymore and have limited access to
printing, textbooks, and the on-campus internet. This has hindered
me as I'm writing my thesis report.
Having access to 24/7 online study and
writing support has really helped me get the assistance I needed
for my thesis. It has helped me to keep my work consistent and
boosted my confidence as well.
Because I'm not a native English speaker, those little grammatical
things can be my biggest hurdle when it comes to academic writing.
Knowing that the university offers help with this anytime is a real
Thankfully, both of my supervisors were always available during
this uncertain time. We have regular meetings which is really
helping me to keep up.
I live in Canberra alone and my family is back home in Indonesia.
The cases of COVID-19 there are a lot worse than in Australia, so I
often think about that and what I will do back home after I finish
my thesis. When you have so many things going on in your head,
sometimes it becomes such a jumble that you can't create anything.
The support from my supervisors have really helped me with that.
Our university has something in place called the COVID-19 scheme.
This allows students to apply for leave or extensions on
assignments and also seek financial, physical and mental health
support. At the moment I'm working hard to finish up my thesis
report so that I can complete it in Australia before I go back to
Hopefully, I'll take what I've studied and learnt here and see how
it can be implemented back in my math's classroom at my old job in
Tips for other international students
Never feel ashamed or shy to ask for help! As international
students, we need to shout out if we need support.
At my university I found people to be really helpful and
supportive. There are also a range of academic support services
available anytime so just ask.
Be positive in these unprecedented times! It's easy to feel stressed
about what's happening and, as someone living alone, it's easy to feel
down about that. You've got to have a positive frame of mind and be
realistic with your goals. Focus on your study and remember why you're