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In Sanskrit, the name ‘Manisha’ means ‘intelligent’ or ‘desire’. It’s quite fitting for someone of an erudite nature with a strong desire to help their fellow international students. Manisha Shrestha from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is exactly this person. From a science-graduate background in Nepal, to her current role as a Student Promotional Representative at UTS, Manisha is arguably better positioned than anyone to understand the joys and challenges of the modern globetrotting scholar. For this reason, Manisha is the latest focus for our Student Success Stories. From the City of Temples to the Harbour City, this is her journey.

Getting Started

Hi Manisha, how did your journey from Kathmandu to Sydney begin?

I completed my undergraduate degree in Nepal and planned to pursue further studies. However, due to limited universities and opportunities there, I decided to study abroad. After some research, I found Australia promising, so I dug deeper and found that Sydney has top universities.

Had you previously heard of IDP prior to pursuing international education?

I only knew IDP as the place where we go for the IELTS exam. I had just randomly heard my IELTS teacher talking to someone about taking the exam at IDP. After my own exam, I started visiting some international education organisations to consult about studying abroad. However, none of them convinced me. After that, I googled international educational advisors in Kathmandu, and IDP Education popped up. I then found out IDP also provides study abroad counselling as well. Without wasting time, I ran to IDP and found it to be one of the most popular and reliable consulting agencies.

Australia is becoming increasingly popular amongst Nepalese students. Why did you ultimately choose Australia?

There’s limited universities and course structures in Nepal. I always wanted to pursue a clinical/medical research career as a clinical microbiologist with the fusion of advanced technology. So, I started researching different countries and came across Australia. After some research and with the help of counsellors, I found that Australia is a safe country with top-ranking universities, a wide range of courses, affordable fees, scholarship options, job opportunities and security. My sister was also in Australia, which made my decision easier as I would not feel homesick and would have emotional support whenever I needed it.

Undertaking Studies

How helpful were the IDP counsellors in Kathmandu with helping you choose a course and university?

I initially did not achieve the ideal IELTS score, so I visited top consulting agencies, hoping to get answers to my questions. However, they suggested I sit for another IELTS exam, but I was not ready to do so again. So, I booked an appointment with IDP counsellors with the same hope, thinking that I would give it a go. Unexpectedly, they surpassed my expectations. They assured me of my IELTS score and provided the detailed information I sought, showcasing their excellent professionalism in a friendly environment. I mentioned to them what kind of course I wanted to do, and they explained to me in detail the features of every university, the courses they offer, and courses that are relevant to my undergraduate degree. After choosing the course and university, they started preparing my application without wasting time, as I had little time left for my autumn intake. They guided me in everything from lodging the admission application to accepting offers and lodging the visa application. Since then, I have been recommending IDP to whoever asks me about education counsellors.

Why did you want to undertake Medical Biotechnology at UTS?

The unique course structure of UTS impressed me. Master of Medical Biotechnology immediately grabbed my attention as it offered the perfect combination of natural sciences, which my undergraduate degree was based on, with biotechnology. This course also offered the option to do honours and/or research internships without needing to pursue another research degree. I was always intrigued by research, so this was the cherry on top for me. Apart from this, I also received a scholarship, which is one of the reasons I chose UTS as my educational institute.

Settling In

What was your first big “culture shock” moment after arriving in Australia?

I have experienced many culture shocks and am still experiencing them. The first culture shock I was exposed to was shopping malls closing too early. I also found a significant difference in the education system compared to Nepal. In terms of exams, Nepal mostly has paper-based exams, whereas in Australia they are all submitted online. I was also shocked when I heard my colleagues call our professors by their first names, which is considered rude in Nepal. But all these things have changed my life and taught me new things, and I am excited to see more.

How did IDP and UTS help you settle into your new destination?

Apart from helping me choose the right course and assisting with visa grants, IDP also guided me on what I needed to do after arriving in Australia, such as enrolling in the subjects and getting an ID card even though it was not part of their job. They also advised me to attend the orientation class. I remember asking them many unnecessary questions while in Nepal and even after coming to Australia, but they helped me without being bothered.

As for UTS, I could not attend an orientation session, so I was completely unaware of what I needed to know, and I panicked because I was having technical problems with enrolment. Thankfully, I came across Julia Shelley, an International Development Manager. She explained every detail, helped me enrol in the required subjects, provided information about UTS's help and support, and even gave me a mini-campus tour. She is a gem. She was always there whenever I needed help or guidance, and I will forever be in debt to her.

Similarly, all the members of UTS were approachable, helpful, and supportive. The university also hosts peer networking, talkfests, and social events. These have been a great way to learn about Australia, and I have made many new friends.

Tell us about your weekends – what do you like to do during your downtime?

I go out with my sister and sometimes my friends to explore Sydney's beautiful beaches, suburbs, and coffee culture (which I am obsessed with). I had never experienced beaches in my life as Nepal is a landlocked country, so for the first few months I used to go to different beaches to feel the beautiful breeze.

Helping Fellow Students

You were at a student ambassador at UTS and also recently began helping with Science ‘Drop In’ sessions. What inspired you to start helping and supporting your fellow international students?

When I started my degree, I struggled with missing my orientation, understanding how the system works, and overcoming the language barrier. I was fortunate enough to get help when I sought it. However, many international students still suffer because they are not confident enough to seek assistance. When I started working as a student ambassador, I had the opportunity to learn about the resources that students can benefit from, which I would not have known as a student. When I got the offer to work in a drop-in session organised primarily for commencing international students to help them settle at UTS, I saw the opportunity to share this knowledge with them. During the first session, I found most students as confused and nervous as I was when I was about to start my journey. We explained everything, from what subjects they needed to enrol in to where they could go for help and what resources they could utilise. They were delighted to receive this information and expressed a willingness to come back for another drop-in session. This made me so happy, and I wanted to help them even more.

What’s been the best part about undertaking your education in Australia, specifically Sydney?

The opportunities I have encountered, especially in my academic life. I have made good connections with my peers, tutors, and others. Also, I fell in love with Sydney's beaches, infrastructure, and ways of living.

Do you have any words of advice for prospective international students who aren’t sure where or how to start their journey?

Firstly, try to figure out what you are interested in and then do some research. Then seek counselling with educational counsellors as they can represent the universities better than anyone. I would suggest visiting your local IDP office, as they have answers to every question, suggest the best course or university, and help you with the start of your journey. Also, be mentally prepared to embrace a new life as an international student, as you might experience culture shock or feel homesick. Lastly, I wish all my fellow international students the best of luck.

This interview was part of our ongoing series, ‘Student Success Stories’. Check out our previous entries below:

Vincent Dwyer
Vincent Dwyer16 April 2024