Peterson Anson, the only person from the Federated States of Micronesia now studying at a university in Australia, was one of 26 international students at the University of New England who celebrated their academic achievements during a farewell ceremony last Friday.
Speaking to the students on that occasion, UNE’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, said the University was proud of their success. “It’s not easy to come to an unfamiliar country and succeed,” Professor Barber said, adding that he believed their countries would benefit from the knowledge and skills they would be taking home with them.
Mr Anson (pictured here), who is graduating from UNE with a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Science, is GIS Manager for his Government in Micronesia, where his newly-acquired skills will contribute to the management of the nation’s limited resources and to planning for the impact of climate change. “Some of Micronesia’s islands are already facing problems through the destruction of crops and the loss of fresh water for drinking,” he said, “and people are migrating to the larger islands or other countries.”
The 26 students farewelled will return to their home countries – Cambodia, China, Micronesia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Thailand – within the next couple of months. They are among about 700 students from 52 countries currently studying on the UNE campus.
Last week’s ceremony was one of two annual Farewell Celebrations at UNE for international students who are about to return home after the completion of their studies but before their formal graduation date.
Professor Barber paid tribute to the students’ young families who had accompanied them to Armidale, had supported them through their studies, and were present at the celebration. For one couple it was a double celebration: Hassan Rashidi from Saudia Arabia and his wife Taghreed Khawjah both received Certificates of Participation after finishing their Master’s programs – he in Commerce and she in Biotechnology.
Dr Vernon Crew, UNE’s Director of English Language and International Services, thanked the students for their gift to the University community of fresh perspectives and deeper understanding. “We really appreciate what our international students bring to us,” he said.
It was Peterson Anson who responded on behalf of the students. He recalled his arrival in Armidale, when he was treated “not just like an international student but more like a friend”, and his continuing acquisition of “so many friends” during the course of the year. He said that the sense of safety within the UNE and Armidale communities contributed to making this University an ideal place for study – one that he would recommend at home. And he acknowledged the “extra time and effort” that lecturers and other staff members put in for the students’ benefit.
“Today we’re celebrating the beginning of a new phase of our lives,” he concluded.