Higher Education Finalists

2021 NSW International Student of the Year Award

The winners of the 2021 NSW International Student Awards were announced at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks, Sydney on Friday 12 November.

Kavika Photo

Kavika SINGHAL (India)

Western Sydney University, Parramatta

Kavika is an emerging global leader and highly capable Cyber Security and Behaviour student at Western Sydney University.  Her passion for her field expands beyond academia as she volunteers her time for many initiatives. Since coming to Australia in 2019, she has excelled academically, bringing a rational and reasoned perspective to classroom debate and consistently achieving high marks.

As President of the Cyber Security Association at Western Sydney University, she organises professional development sessions with industry and government, building capacity amongst those who would not otherwise be engaged with cyber security issues.

In 2020, when the Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) & Imagine Cup was launched in Australia, Kavika worked extensively to gain traction for the event and establish it as a major student initiative within reputable universities across Australia, playing a pivotal role for the program. Through her leadership, Western Sydney University became the university with the second highest student participation. Now the WSU Microsoft Accelerator leader, she encourages and coordinates 1500 students through the digital skills program.

She does this all the while achieving excellent grades, winning hackathons and think tanks, doing countless workshops with high school students and teachers, and volunteering with English language learning.

Kavika has tirelessly worked to increase the awareness of cybersecurity amongst all echelons of society, from her peers to high school students through events such as Fast Forward. Kavika volunteers with the Indian Support Centre and the Be Connected program to increase digital literacy, with a focus on older community members. In her spare time, Kavika also teaches Indian classical dance to children.

Kavika has also been recognised for her advocacy as a Young Women of the West 2021 finalist, semi-finalist for the 7News Young Achievers Awards in 2021 and nominee for the Women in Security: Best Security Student Award.

She has been advocating about the importance of women representation in STEM and cybersecurity, writing blogs and articles, and being invited on podcasts on the matter. She hopes to continue building cyber security skills in the broader community and encourage safe online behaviours.

Joshua Photo

Ho Yin (Joshua) WAN (Hong Kong)

The University of Sydney, Camperdown

Joshua has balanced his physiotherapy studies at the University of Sydney with dedicating time to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those around him, particularly international students.

Arriving from Hong Kong in 2019, Joshua has long been an advocate for the wellbeing of fellow students. This became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Joshua volunteered to join the University of Sydney Peer Health Education Program.

During this program, Joshua provided much-needed international student input and co-designed programs aiming to reduce mental health stigma and encourage help-seeking. One key strategy Joshua planned and implemented was the “Share the Journey” video series, in which he and other students shared their own mental health experiences. As a male international student, he played a large role in reducing stigma around mental health by sharing his story and reached thousands of people via social media.

Joshua is also a strong believer in building and maintaining intergenerational links. He has been an integral part of the Gold Soul Companionship Program (GSCP) at Scalabrini Village Bexley. This program enables students to live in the aged-care facility with residents and connect with them, hear about their life experience, and deepen relationships, contributing to building a family environment between residents and students.

One of Joshua’s more recent volunteering ventures is supporting the establishment of a disability support club, as an official student club within the University of Sydney Union (USU). This is the first student club connecting people with and without disabilities, promoting inclusivity, and providing a platform for mutual learning and understanding.

Joshua’s latest project is the “GrannyTell’ initiative, a collaborative effort driven by students capturing older adults’ life stories. With more than 150 questions received from students so far, the final product will include an exhibition and a physical book compiling questions from the younger generation, and responses from the older generation.

Joshua demonstrates resilience, care and generosity through his consistent volunteering efforts.

Santha Sophie photo

Santha (Sophie) YADANA (Myanmar)

UNSW Sydney, Randwick

Santha (Sophie) Yadana is an outstanding graduate from UNSW Sydney. She has been at the forefront of MedTech development, as a budding entrepreneur with a deep understanding of biomedical engineering.

Born in Myanmar, Sophie moved to Perth in 2015 before later moving to Sydney. She enrolled at UNSW Sydney to study biomedical engineering, and then focused her efforts on developing materials and components for medical devices and instrumentation.

Sophie is passionate about developing innovative solutions to solve issues affecting human health. This passion led her to be co-founding IG-SENS – a start-up focusing on the design of an implantable glucose sensor for diabetics – before working at another start-up, MiniEpi, to devise strategies for future growth, regulatory approval and obtaining funding. Currently, at Signature Orthopaedics, she’s had a successful track record in product development and obtaining regulatory approvals for orthopaedic implants in Australian and global markets.

Sophie has continued to share her entrepreneurial spirit with students around her, leading clubs and societies. As President of the UNSW Society of Medical Innovation, she managed an executive team of 18 and inspired more than 240 active society members by organising hackathons, skill-building, networking and educational events to foster the most crucial skills needed for effective innovation.

Sophie is passionate about volunteering and using her knowledge to help others. She has volunteered as a peer mentor for the UNSW School of Material Science & Engineering, UNSW Women in Engineering, and as a promoter for Caretakers Cottage to raise awareness for homeless children in NSW. Through the UNSW Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and Engineering World Health, she spent three months in rural hospitals of Cambodia as a voluntary medical equipment technician, diagnosing equipment and training local staff.

During the Myanmar political crisis of 2021, she diligently worked to raise awareness and encourage effective actions from Australia in response to the military coup. In her free time, she also organised a food fundraiser in the Burmese community via social media by selling Tofu Nway, a traditional Burmese dish.

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