Vice President of the International Students Association club at La Trobe University, Jose Villarreal-Diaz, sat down with Jessica Micallef and spoke about his experiences being a part of a club, as well as being an international student. Jose also recently won the 2018 LTSU International Student Award!
The International Student Association (ISA) is a non-political student organisation that represents the interests of all international students enrolled at La Trobe University. Its main aim and objectives are to promote and assist the welfare, social, education and cultural activities of international students and to promote goodwill and understanding amongst Australians and international students.
Wise ASSC blog was lucky enough to meet with Jose Villarreal-Diaz, to talk about his role in the ISA group and how the group helps to benefit and support international students within the La Trobe University community.
Jose joined ISA as a volunteer before he started to study his Masters in Nanotechnology and was eventually promoted to be the cultural and events officer for the ISA where he was able to have a lot more responsibility within the group.
“It was amazing. You need to be in charge of pretty much all the trips we have throughout the year, we have seminars, we have local events,” Jose said.
Jose explains that one of the many benefits that the ISA offers is the ability to give international students information on the many services that La Trobe University offers and to help international students settle down in their new home. Jose agrees that while there are lots of services within the university community, international students are not as aware as what local students may be to them.
“[We aim] to engage these [international] students to use these services,” Jose said.
Jose was asked to be the vice president of the ISA this year and while he agrees it can be quite demanding with event organisation, Jose enjoys the small perks that comes along with being the vice president of the ISA.
“Even though it’s volunteering, we have lots of activities to cover along the year, between trips and La Trobe Got Talent … it’s very good learning for students,” he said.
“It’s an amazing experience because you have a staff card, this is going to sound silly but you can open rooms, [it’s] like power in some sense. You can print for free with a staff card and you’re also helping students which has always been my goal since I arrived.”
The ISA has cultures that expand all the way to China, Singapore, India, Bangladesh and South America, with the club representing a small percentage of the high number of international students enrolled at La Trobe University. the campus investing a lot of time and money in ensuring their international students feel welcome, one thing that Jose appreciates.
“I really consider that La Trobe University is very international,” Jose said.
“I have friends studying at Monash University, Melbourne University, and they are very good universities in terms of academic stuff, which is something that is not under discussion, but I do believe that La Trobe University invests a lot of money making the international students feel comfortable.”
“We have free barbeque every week, free breakfast every week, which are like silly things but in the end, international students, they see these kind of things because when you are at home doing nothing, maybe feeling alone and you see on La Trobe’s website there is something happening at La Trobe, we say ‘let’s go to the university’.”
Having a high number of international staff employed at the university helps to make the international students have people to turn to that might understand their position or even speak their own language.
“La Trobe University has a lot of international staff which is something very good. They are international, they understand,” Jose said.
Jose is also very passionate about being in a club. He believes that being in a club is “very important for all students, local and international”, with clubs providing skills that class time cannot give.
“You can actually be consumed in [studies] and I don’t find that very good,” he said.
Every year, La Trobe hold their multicultural festival. This gives international students a chance to showcase their country, whether it be through a dance, food or information.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival for Jose was learning to acknowledge the Aboriginal land and getting to try unique cuisines.
“We have one day that is just for the Aboriginal culture, something that is being very well appreciated in Australia and even more at La Trobe University,” he said.
“I find it very valuable that every event that we have at La Trobe, they have to do the acknowledgement of the land at the beginning.”
“We had a barbeque. We did it with the Aboriginals and Indigenous department and they prepared the meat in the way that the Indigenous people used to do it before. This year we ate kangaroo, wallaby, we ate crocodile, which was quite chewy, but it was good.”
Jose is forever grateful for La Trobe University and is glad he ended up at a campus that prides themselves on ensuring that all their students, local and international are made welcome and would without a doubt, always choose La Trobe University.
“I have to thank La Trobe for what I have and where I have lived. It’s important for me to feel La Trobe University is a second home … La Trobe University has a different level of social engagement,” he said.
“If I could go back and choose university, I would choose La Trobe University again. There is no comparison.”
Jose Villarreal-Diaz is a Master of Nanotechnology student and Vice President of the International Students Assoication. You can follow him on Twitter @jojavilldiaz