The PIE: When did you take your current position with CISA?
Ahmed Ademoglu: It was in July 2019. I have been in CISA for about three years now. I was the national vice president in 2017/18, and last year I was the Western Australia chairperson. We have established the state committee and this year I was elected president.
The PIE: What made you want to go for that?
AA: It’s quite interesting, actually. I’m doing nursing and a lot of the time I get this question – why are you involved in management advocacy and politics. I chose nursing and health as a passion to help others and change things around me. So same with CISA, I started as a student mentor in my local college and became a student representative in the university afterwards.
“When I first attended the CISA conference in Canberra, I just felt like I was home”
And I got to know about CISA. And when I first attended the CISA conference in Canberra, I just felt like I was home. That was that feeling where I felt like I knew all those 300 delegates for years. I felt connected.
The PIE: Does the whole experience make you feel more connected to Australia as a host country?
AA: It does because the first conference that I attended, we had the indigenous acknowledgements on the first day, and that was really good because we had some traditional custodians coming and then we have met them. So we have actually built that international culture with the indigenous culture. And that was a very, very good aspect of the conference.
We have also domestic students coming to our conference. It was an idea that I said to my committee, you know, we should get some domestic students. So we had some in Cairns in 2018 and from my records that’s the first one to host domestic students. And we just kept going.
So this year in Perth, we had the conference in July and we had more domestic students coming as well. I’m hoping that will increase and there will be this connectedness and engagement between these two different groups.
The PIE: Tell me about your decision to study in Australia in the first place.
AA: I’m from Turkey, and usually – for example, most of my friends – went to Europe for either for Erasmus for exchange programs or for studying in those countries. But Australia… it was an absurd option for me. And most of my friends said, ‘what, Australia, what are you going to do there?’ They said it’s like the end of the world.
The PIE: Did you have any friends who had already been here?
AA: I had some relatives who had been to Australia and they were championing the idea. So they have influenced my family and parents. Given that I’m the only son and the eldest child, it was quite difficult for them to send me off. But they were thinking about my future and education.
The PIE: And was part of your decision influenced by the post-study work rights?
AA: Definitely. Because it’s a big investment. When we take the average, you’re paying around $100,000-130,000 for your tertiary education. And you do want to see some return of investment and there’s a variety of economic situations.
Some students are coming with higher socioeconomic levels, so they might be okay to just finish up and go back home. But a lot of the people that I’ve met, they do want to get that return on investment. Because of the currency exchange, the money you earn in Australia is much higher than back home. That is very important because if you work back home, that investment, you probably gonna make that money in maybe 10 years. But here you can make that in like, two or three years.
The PIE: And is your plan then to go straight into working as a nurse?
AA: I am planning to. There are different options that I’m considering. So one of them is, you know, the international education sector and the other one is nursing and health. And it’s good to have options, but I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.
The PIE: Tell me about your English language level when you arrived in Australia.
AA: I was sitting there next to this Australian guy who was trying to talk to me, and he was really nice, but I wasn’t able to understand [much]. I had the grammar and I had written [English] and I was able to read as well. But I didn’t understand the accent and I wasn’t able to speak well because in high school we learned English, but it’s just grammar – reading and writing.
Speaking and listening was just outrageous. I was going like, how am I gonna survive here? Then I started English at school – that helped a lot.
The PIE: Where did you start? Where were you studying?
AA: I was in Navitas English. It was a very good atmosphere because it was a diverse multicultural group. So you had friends from all over the world, which was perfect for me. And everybody was like, oh, you should come and visit me and I could come to this country. Please let me know. That was just beautiful. And even now, we’re still in touch.
Having friends and ambassadors in different countries is just perfect. But then it wasn’t just one-off – you learn English and that’s it. It was like a learning curve, and I had to continue learning every day, even after I finished English school.
The PIE: And then did you do a pathway?
AA: I did a foundation. It was for six months in college. The college was on the campus, so I felt like I was a university student at Curtin College. Similarly, that was a good atmosphere as well. I had some mentors who orientated me around the campus. And it was really good so after that, I became a student mentor as well and started walking people around the campus in introducing the university life to them. And that’s when I started becoming a student ambassador.
The PIE: And what do you want to achieve in your CISA presidency?
AA: My presidency speech involved a lot of governance reforms in the organisation. I talked about business sustainability. I started the project two years ago and still continuing now. It’s almost about to end. We are getting a secretary of support for the organisation where the student ambassadors will be able to focus on advocacy rather than administration because we are full-time students due to visa issues. And because of that, we can’t do part-time study.
So we are maintaining part-time work, full-time study and then full CISA work as well as helping other students, which can be quite burdening. And then there’s all these e-mails and government submissions and agendas. It’s just a lot. So hopefully with these projects, we will have some stakeholders who are funding the project and we will be able to maintain stability in the organisation because the quick turnover of the executives is just one year.
And you have this knowledge deficit – executives coming, experiencing, getting to know things and then they are leaving after a year makes it difficult for the stability. And hopefully, this will change it.
We are also launching individual membership this year. We will keep the democratic leadership through the affiliation of associations in guilds and student associations in institutions. But then this year we are launching the individual membership where we will build a community of thousands of students.
The PIE: And they can be members even when they have graduated?
AA: They can be part of alumni and we are trying to get the organisation as gift recipient status. So the membership fee will be tax-deductible. So it’ll will be free. But then it’ll be a donation to the organizations as well. We are self-funded, not support funded by the government.
[When CISA was established] the government offered funding through strategic grants. But it was given as a project, not sort of like for just money to spend. Even now we still apply for grants in strategic projects that we deliver the project in terms of the priorities and strategies of the national government. But as a sort of organizational structure, it was always self-funded through membership.
“I feel like there is so much more that could be done”
I feel like there is so much more that could be done. And I think that’s the struggle of this work. It’s sort of like a clear ceiling that there is no end to what you could do. There’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of work that could be done. But it’s also maintaining your level of mental health and as well as your own goals.
The PIE: And do you feel like you would have the same opportunity to be so committed as a student advocate in any other country, as an international student?
AA: Oh, it’s a very good question. I don’t know. I just feel like the pattern of actions that led me here – like I wasn’t aware of CISA until I became a student president in Curtin University. And I wasn’t aware of the Curtin University presidency until I became a student mentor.
I don’t think there is this strong body in any other country, like CISA. I just do some research as well, but I think I was lucky to have some sort of support to enable me to go and out there and adventure. But yeah, I think Australia has that advantage.