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Profile: Peter Gatbonton
International Student Advisor, QUT
 
Peter Gatbonton, works at QUT's International Student Services department where he plans and takes care of foreign students' needs. Few realise that Australian universities spare no effort in assisting international students with their preparation for the 'big' move to study overseas. Monster.com had a chat with Peter, where he gives us an insight into his operations and what students can expect as part of their orientation to a foreign university.

What is a Venture Capitalist? What are your responsibilities as an International Student Adviser?
My task here is to see to the welfare & well-being of international students at Queensland University of Technology. Our international student services department looks at supporting our foreign students in every way possible so that they achieve their academic & personal goals.

How do you and your department help overseas students settle in to a foreign study environment?
We prepare foreign students for what to expect during their stay and study in Australia. We achieve this by conducting pre-departure briefings, sending out publications, corresponding with them either physically, by email or other means. In short, we try to address the anxiety and pre arrival jitters, uncertainties & insecurities all students face
International student services conducts a comprehensive orientation program that deals with issues they're likely to encounter here either on a social, personal or academic level.

Could you give us a rough idea of what sort of a background your students come from?
Our student intake is much more international than it was several years ago. The majority still arrive from South East Asia, although a growing number of Scandinavians (Norway, Sweden) have come across and are actually the 2nd largest group of international students. This in fact, has introduced a very different dynamics to the perception of "International Student".

On one extreme you have the young highly technological, very global, affluent student and on the other you have students from developing countries who have earned a scholarship or, more likely, their parents are financing their education through a massive debt.

As expected the majority are young students, with a significant number of the international student populatio being mature aged, upgrading their qualifications or finally having to chance to seek academic qualifications.

What does your department do to be sensitive to the cultural and social needs of students?
We employ a number of staff from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. We encourage staff exchanges with other universities. For example, a staff from study aboard in Norway came to work at QUT for 6 months. He was valuable in giving all staff information the background/ profile of Norwegian students, and we have used this information to take better care of our incoming students. ISS also nurtures and maintain very close relationship with our International student groups & associations.

What level of support and assistance can students expect when they study at an overseas university?
QUT has a very comprehensive accommodation service that operates on a personal level. The whole process of settling into QUT and Brisbane has been broken down to small digestible bits, providing the information when its needed. This way, we try to pre-empt students needs, and yet keep our introduction flexible so that we can cater to students needs. This process does not stop, when they begin their study at QUT in fact, we conduct post-study workshops to prepare students for reverse culture shock, when they head home after a few years in Australia.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of pursuing their studies in Australia?
Keep an open mind, be adventurous and make the most of your time.

     

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