Danu Ransarani is on her lunch break in Rosalind Park. It’s a place she retreats to most days for the peace and quiet and sense of community; a little microcosm of everything she’s come to love about Bendigo.
The graduate accountant from Sri Lanka was studying and living in Melbourne, having quit her job in banking and moved overseas to get a degree and further her career. She says she quickly became part of a big community of Sri Lankan ex-pats in Melbourne, however struggled to find the Australian experience she hoped to. Until a move to our regional campus.
“I really wanted a change because I thought if I want to experience what Australian life is I need to interact with Australians,” she says, adding sticking to socialising with people of her own nationality meant her English skills weren’t improving.
“My husband and I came to Bendigo for a day and roamed around the city. We went to Woolies and the cashier was exceptionally good and greeted us with a lovely smile. We had never experienced that in Melbourne and we were shocked. We thought people really were different in this place.”
So Danu transferred to Bendigo to study a Bachelor of Business (Accounting). She says the small class sizes and individual attention from lecturers was also a bonus. “They knew my name, which was exceptional to me.”
Danu became involved with the campus international student group, meeting people from other cultures alongside the locals. “I realised I didn’t have to be with my own community when I could make friends in the local community,” she says.
“The way I think is different now. The way I see the world is different now. I look at the bigger picture. I can see things through both cultures, Sri Lankan and Australian, and I take positives from both.”
Danu’s ability to embrace opportunity led to seeking out and completing several work placements during her degree, including working with a bookkeeper in Melbourne and with the Grampians Shire Council. Both placements were found on La Trobe’s Career Hub. As was the full-time job she started in December.
She’s working in the heart of Bendigo, an easy stroll to gorgeous Rosalind Park, in the auditing department of one of the city’s biggest accounting firms. “Last year I applied to the same firm but I was not selected as my Visa only allowed me to work 20 hours a week and they wanted someone full time, but I still had an interview so when I applied for this position they remembered my application,” she says, crediting her work placements as giving her an edge on her resume. “Everything is new but I’m getting the support I need from my mentors. It’s a really great company actually.”
Danu is now on a two-year working Visa, which she hopes to extend. “As international students we have limits but if you try your best you can find jobs,” she says. “Right now my plan is to get as much experience as I can and if I can stay in Australia I want to stay in Bendigo.”
Danu’s advice to other international students hoping to work in Australia is to be pro-active and put themselves forward for positions. Also to use their degrees to further their careers, rather than settle for roles they may have fallen into in the past.