Making a difference away from home

We’re interviewing…

Tio Rina Sawan

tio rina sawanBy Danielle Ringgit

WHEN Tio Rina Sawan first decided to move to Australia to pursue her education, she knew that this would the next stepping stone for her and a major change in her life.


She was not wrong: she got elected as the 2014 Council of Australian Postgraduate Association (CAPA) Western Regional Secretary at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia in which she will represent all Western Australia postgraduates to CAPA.


Founded in 1979, CAPA is a membership based non-profit organisation representing the interests of more than 320,000 Australian postgraduate students. Its member organisations include 33 postgraduate associations and the National Indigenous Postgraduate Association Aboriginal Corporation (NIPAAC).


Seriously, how many Sarawakian women do you know get to be a representative of an association in a university from another country?


Tell us about yourself.

I’m 31 years old, I’m an Iban girl, from Sibu, raised in Miri. I have three siblings, two older sisters, one living in the US and the other in Kuala Lumpur and a younger brother living in Australia. I have an undergraduate Degree in Information Technology (IT) majoring in Network Engineering, and am currently pursuing a Masters Degree in International Business.


How or why did you move to Australia?

After working for a few years in Kuala Lumpur, I decided that I needed a major change of scenery to add some substance to what I already knew; I decided to further my education with a post graduate degree. I decided that Australia would be a big challenge for me to face and it would be the next stage in my life. After many months of contemplating, I finally convinced myself and my parents that this is something I must do before it’s too late.


Why did you choose International Business as your course of study?

The course offers me an opportunity to learn about business in Australia and China. It also allows me to further specialise in the career path that I foresee myself in.


Do you have any personal projects going on right now?

At the moment, I’m involved with a national student body, I will be supporting international and female students across Australia through a few initiatives that are currently in planning within the postgraduate cohort. I am a big fan of the welfare of women and international students and I believe that these are the people who will play the larger part in society’s future.


What is your favourite thing to do while in Australia?

I’m actually enjoying myself volunteering! I feel that this is something that most Malaysians don’t have the privilege or opportunity to do and I had never done this during my previous uni experience. It gives me a chance to open up my eyes and do things I never imagined myself doing.

Volunteering can play a very big role in anyone’s life and I suggest that people at home in Malaysia should consider setting some time aside and volunteer, without expecting anything in return. No vested interest please! It brings out the humanity in you, the faith in others and provides a few surprises as well.


What type of volunteering work are you involved in?

I currently am volunteering as a student representative for the postgraduate cohort in uni. Most of the volunteer work that I do is advocating for the general welfare of students which include international parents and the support they need, especially in child care, mental health and a support in education. I’m also responsible for writing the strategic plan for our annual multidisciplinary conference that allows all researchers from all the schools across Murdoch University to present their work. As a General Committee Member, I assist in the planning, logistics and organising events.


I also volunteer as an office bearer in which  I represent all the postgraduates in Western Australia for CAPA. As the national voice on postgraduate issues, CAPA communicates the interests and perspectives of postgraduate students to the Federal Government, Federal Opposition and minor parties, and higher education peak bodies.


Aside from volunteering, do you have any other favourite pastimes or passions?

I love visiting different types of restaurants, especially in Australia as there is a wide range of cultures intermingled in each city. I also have a passion for music, I can play a little bit of guitar and the piano. The sort of music I listen to varies from jazz, big bands and the blues, mostly influenced by my father who is an avid musician as well.


What is your favourite restaurant in Australia?

I don’t have a particular restaurant that I like, but I love the wide variety of produce that Australia has. From fruits, fresh meats and vegetables and dairy products, cheese!


What do you miss most about Sarawak or your hometown while in Australia?

I miss Sarawak a lot in the whole. Being at home with my parents especially and being surrounded by different tribes, the food, and the fresh air and of course, the trees, that sadly is slowly disappearing because of development.

Having been away from Sarawak, working in West Malaysia for a long time, has taught me to appreciate my roots, my home and my culture. I could however be home anytime I want to, but I am determined to pursue my long term goals and if the journey requires me to be far away from home, so be it. I will always be in touch with home as I am surrounded by people who have brought Sarawak to Perth as well as carrying a little of it within me.


Are there many Sarawakian studying there?

At the moment, I do know that there are quite a number of Sarawakians studying here, mostly undergraduates. I have met many of them but not all as yet.


When will you be completing your studies and what are your plans for the future?

I will be completing the course hopefully in 2015, depending on whether I decide to change to writing a dissertation in the area or field I am interested in. Before I graduate, I plan to actively apply for work and internships. That would be my short term goal.


What would your advice be for students who are looking to study abroad?

Think about where you want to end up. Never do it for the sake of being somewhere. Make sure it is really going to be worth your time and money and provide you with what you want out of the degree you intend to take.


Plan your finances wisely making sure you can make it up after at least after five years of graduating.

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