Gracia Ngoy urges international students to embrace studying at Wollongong. Picture: GREG TOTMAN It was a long way from war-torn Congo to the lush lawns of the University of Wollongong campus for Gracia Ngoy.
Yesterday, the former refugee used her story of triumph to help inspire Wollongong’s latest crop of international students at an official welcome to the city in Crown Street Mall.
Ms Ngoy, who arrived in Australia with her family seven years ago, told students she understood the fears and nerves they might have coming to a new country and studying in a different language.
But she urged them to embrace the challenge, saying they would find help every step of the way.
‘‘I know you may be struggling with how difficult it is coming to a new place, but my advice to you is make the most of this opportunity,’’ she said.
‘‘There are so many opportunities around. You just need to find and pick the right ones, and there will be help in front of you.’’
Ms Ngoy, 20, also asked Australian students to extend the hand of friendship to their international compatriots.
‘‘You need to open up your circles and invite international students in,’’ she said.
Ms Ngoy is studying a double degree in commerce and communications at UOW and hopes to work for the United Nations once her studies are complete.
She was joined yesterday by Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery in welcoming the new students, who will attend UOW and Wollongong TAFE this semester.
Cr Bradbery said the civic reception celebrated the diversity of students coming to study in the city.
‘‘Welcome to Wollongong is all about embracing other cultures and sharing the wonderful things that Wollongong has to offer,’’ he said.
A UOW spokeswoman said the university had 1228 new students starting this semester.
Just under half of them were from China.
The remaining students are from the United States, Thailand, Germany, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iran and India.
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