The New Oasis –the first months

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Awesome!  I love this place!  Love everything!  Great kitchen area!  Everything smiley!  Nice staff and manager! (Thanks!)  Been waiting so long.  Love that new smell!  Very beautiful and homey – love it!  Our second home!  Wow!

I’m reading off a whiteboard we’ve left out for comments during the first two months since moving in.

There have also been many magic moments – like when Lisa was showing a female Muslim student the new prayer rooms – when Lisa opened the door, she just stood there and wept in gratitude for how her religious needs had been recognized.

Like the day I had three lunches!

Three women students from Bangladesh cooked us one of their typical cultural dishes to say ‘thanks’ to Oasis. Then I was invited to share homemade Roti and vegetables with a student we have been helping to break his coffee addiction, linked to the pressure he feels about his studies. Then my turn, providing a lunch of rice and vegetables for a group of visiting Indians who work with the poor in Kolcuta, hosted by the School of Education.

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Mr Mukerji (left) with Oasis Muslim Chaplain, Dr Farooque, who was born in Kolcuta

As we were eating I pointed out to Mr Mukerji, who had worked closely with Mother Theresa, a little moment that was happening. The anxious body language of a new young female student from East Africa attracted the attention of the Indian man who had brought me lunch to share. He moved over and sat next to her and began a healing conversation to help her feel more at home – a Hindu encouraging a Muslim! Later in the day a Cambodian student showed her where she could get help from the Student Learning Centre. These are the magic moments of Oasis in action!

But the Oasis culture of hospitality not only provides a nurturing context for student-to-student support, but also for student initiatives.

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In January, a small group of International students, got together to think about how they could begin to solve a big problem for international students – learning colloquial Australian language and understanding Australian culture. The university is quite good at teaching the technical language of each field of study, but it’s the vernacular that seems to create the most difficulty in everyday conversation, and particularly when students have to undertake external ‘placements’.

They talked with International Student Support who then connected with Oasis and soon a new ‘Club’ was formed, Cultural Connections, finding a home in Oasis. They are in the process of linking international students, on a one-to-one basis, with ‘local’ volunteers.

In a recent email, Henry from Cultural Conversations wrote:

…we have got much more international students signing up for our program. So we have to work even harder to get more volunteers and do the interviews and matching, which are a huge work load for our team.

Can I get support from you in the following issues:

Share our volunteer recruitment information to staff members and students in our school. (see flyers attached)

Link one or two social work students to our program so that they can involve in our marketing, interviewing, matching and evaluation process.

Discuss plans and strategies for future development of our program.

If you’d like to be a ‘local’ volunteer, let us know!

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Alan Larkin, Oasis Team member, and some of the Oasis Social Work students.

A four year conversation with the School of Social Work about international social work student issues has now resulted in five Masters of Social Work students undertaking their placement in Oasis, supervised by a member of Social Work staff. These students are making a big impact within Oasis and are potential supporters of Cultural Conversations and other initiatives.

In the meantime, Verity Kingsmill in Careers has been dreaming of a Cultural Café that encourages local students to broaden their cultural horizons by engaging with international students – they will, after all, graduate into a global market!

Hence the potential that these two ‘dreams’ could come together from opposite directions – the need of international students to understand local culture and its language, and the needs of local students to experience other cultures.

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At the same time, Oasis Team member Alan Larkin has been talking with Rotary International, which has a long track record of support for international students and perhaps, being a service organisation, might provide further inter-cultural opportunities for  Flinders postgraduate students.

If you would like to find out more about supporting ‘Cultural Conversations’, look for cultualconnections.flinders on Facebook, or email culturalconnections.flinders@gmail.com

Or to follow or support any of these intercultural developments, contact Oasis.

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