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My Australian life: Sharmin Akther of Bangladesh

Posted: 8 September 2023

Bangladesh, Bangladesh, Impact, Scholar,

An Australia Awards Scholarship is not just an opportunity for an Australian education. Scholars also have the chance to build their networks and experiences beyond their formal studies, including through volunteer work. Volunteering can be rewarding and achieved in many aspects of one’s life. Australia Awards scholar Sharmin Akther of Bangladesh, who is undertaking a Master of Management (Advanced) at the Australian National University (ANU), has engaged with multiple volunteer opportunities while in Australia and took the time to share her experience with us in her own words:

I started my Master of Management (Advanced) in July 2022 at ANU. After my arrival, I started missing my own Bangladeshi community engagement a lot and wanted to extend support to everyone whenever needed. I learned of the ANU Bangladesh Student Association but was frustrated by its limited engagement opportunities. Motivated by my desire to work more for my community, I expressed my interest in becoming President of the Bangladesh Student Association and was pleased to be voted in by the Bangladeshi undergraduate, postgraduate, and PhD students at ANU.

In my role as President, I support my team and make event-related decisions to welcome new undergraduate students and build the community of our members and their families. I have also successfully recruited new members for our association. I support new students and existing students by sharing solutions to accommodation-related issues, and providing other administrative information whenever needed. Sometimes, our ANU students use my details as their referee when submitting job or rental applications.

Sharmin at a volunteer activity at the Australian National University thrift market.

The elected Secretary of our panel is also an Australia Awards scholar named Mohammad Shahrukh Rahman. He too plays a vital role in the ANU Bangladesh Student Association. Additionally, we recently began the process of recruiting welfare officers, social officers, and event coordinators, and hope to fill these positions soon.

Through our association, we are involved in many events. Beyond participating in the Market Day, we have organised a welcome event, a Mother Language Day Walk for the International Mother Language Movement, two Iftar events (one sponsored by Bangladesh Australia Association Canberra and the other by the Bangladeshi community from Canberra Wolves Cricket Club), a Mehedi night before Eid, an Eid-ul-Fitr reunion and an Eid-ul-Adha reunion. The welcome event in particular was a huge success with 45 participants; we welcomed new students and their families with a barbecue, raffle draws, and exciting games. Since new students tend to be more homesick, this small community engagement event on the ANU campus helped to alleviate their stress. Recently we had an Eid-ul-Adha reunion and potluck dinner, which was sponsored by BD Dine restaurant.

Sharmin and Mohammad Shahrukh Rahman at an ANU Bangladesh Student Association event.

My volunteering roles vary; I am actively working with ANU Bangladesh Student Association as President, and with ANU Vinnies as a volunteer, so I enjoy more and more of these community engagements. The ANU Bangladesh Student Association represents Bangladeshi culture and traditions through our Market Day participation, where we additionally attract new members. We also welcome people from other cultures at our events, so the enjoyment is shared.

Managing multiple volunteering roles can be difficult, but I can balance my study with these commitments and have maintained successful grades in my course. For the past two semesters, my mother supported me by helping care for my children, but she has returned to Bangladesh now so my husband is playing a vital role.

I think other scholars also need to come forward with their talented contributions to expand our community engagement as far as possible. As my academic results reflect, volunteering is not an obstacle to achieving grades if one is highly committed and hard-working. My commitment to my community gives me power to work with more passion and push myself to support them. Representing Bangladesh in Australia and working as a volunteer-cum-changemaker is my passion and where my dedication lies.