At only 4-5 minutes each, the short film series International Student Stories  (created by StudyNSW and the ABC) offers a fantastic snapshot into the daily lives and experiences of some very inspiring international students studying in New South Wales, Australia.

Uttam Kumar


Uttam Kumar, from India, enjoys spending his mornings strolling the crystal clear Coogee to Bondi coastline.

“There are so many beautiful beaches in Sydney,” says Kumar, “We don’t have any beaches in North India, so after I came here it was a really amazing experience for me.”

In 2013, Kumar was one out of 37,000 candidates chosen as a winner of the ‘Win Your Future Unlimited’ scholarship, affording him the opportunity to study in Australia. Kumar has since been studying his PhD at Sydney’s University of New South Wales (UNSW), specialising in the area of waste recycling, environmental sustainability, and Materials Science.

“Waste recycling and environmental pollution, it’s a big problem, and it directly affects the quality of life of the people,” says Kumar, “After I finish my PhD, I would like to work somewhere where they make policies related to environmental management, so that I can have a bigger impact on environment in my home country.”

When he’s not studying, Kumar enjoys immersing himself in Australian culture by exploring Sydney, attending Australian festivals, connecting with local families and barracking for the Sydney Swans at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Dunya Alruhaimi – Caring for Community


Dunya Alruhaimi, from Iraq, came with her family to Australia to study a Master of Education at the University of New England (UNE) in regional Armidale, NSW. In 2015, she was awarded an International Student Award.

Alruhaimi’s decisions to study hard and become an active member of her community were mostly inspired by her late mother.

“Even though she was an illiterate woman – she could not read or write properly – she was always focusing on the importance of education for all of us, especially for me and my sisters,” Alruhaimi said, “she believed… education is just like a passport to good job opportunities.”

Since coming to study in Australia, Alruhaimi has made the most of volunteering, carrying out invaluable charity work running community groups combating loneliness and/or homesickness by welcoming Iraqi women – and their families – into the greater local Armidale community. She also volunteers as an English to Arabic translator.

“I feel very happy whenever I felt that I did something that makes some difference for anyone,” says Alruhaimi, “or makes some difference for my community or any other community.”

Ika Lestari Damanyanti – Storyteller


Ika Lestari Damanyanti, from Indonesia, always dreamed of living by the seaside.

“I always told my mum that I really want to have a house near the beach, and my mum said that ‘it’s impossible, because we live in mountainous area’, and the beach is quite far from our city,” said Damanyanti, “Now, I live near [the] beach. My kids love to play with the sand.”

Driven by a passion for education, Damanyanti and her family made the big move to Wollongong, where Damanyanti is currently completing her PhD and studying English language teaching for young children. In her story, she explains just what it’s like to study as a PhD student, describes her everyday work environment and points out exactly why studying language and storytelling is so important to her.

“Through storytelling, we cannot only entertain the listener or the readers but through the stories, we can also educate people,” says Damanyanti, “and in this case, in my case, it’s young people.”

Damanyanti also volunteers as a cultural exchange ambassador, visiting Australian high schools to share Indonesian culture with Australian students.

After completing her PhD, Damanyanti wishes to apply what she has learned in Australia to her future studies back home.

“Right now I have this opportunity to do my PhD research,” Damanyanti said, “so I would like to explore how storytelling can work better in my context, in Indonesia.”

Want to catch more International Student Stories?

Check out the entire International Student Stories series streaming online at ABC iView and follow the stories of Shoaib (Pakistan), Joanne (Papua New Guinea), Zaki (Afghanistan) and Alex (Hong Kong).