Sydney University Chinese Students’ Association (SUCSA) has expanded its membership from 350 to 1200 in the last two years. The increase mirrors the recent rise in the number of Chinese students at Sydney, but it also reflects the popularity of the association’s activities, says its president Yinghui Liu.
Yinghui has just been involved in organising two successful events with her SUCSA colleagues: a harbour cruise to welcome all new Chinese students to Sydney University; and helping Yimou Zhang, China’s most famous film maker, arrange his film-turned-ballet show ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ in Sydney’s Capitol Theatre.
“We are trying to act as a bridge between Chinese students and Australian society, and further, a bridge between Oriental culture and Australia’s mainstream culture,” Yinghui says.
Yinghui joined SUCSA in 2004 when she began work on her PhD in the Faculty of Economics and Business. Before coming to Sydney she was a research economist in China, and she has now got a faculty scholarship to carry out research into foreign direct investment in China. She was also elected SUCSA president in 2004, a role she has held ever since.
In 2004 the University had 2458 Chinese overseas students and 350 SUCSA members. Two years later, the number of Chinese overseas students is around 3000, but SUCSA’s membership has exploded to 1200.
“In the last three years, we have been working on improving our management structure, and strengthening our services,” Yinghui says. “SUCSA is becoming more popular and welcomed by the students.”
SUCSA is run by a committee of more than 20 volunteers who include PhD, masters and undergraduate students. It has established a comprehensive email administration system which can provide useful information to all members quickly, and has also set up its own website which has become a window for the University’s Chinese overseas students to communicate with each other and the association.
“It is sometimes difficult for overseas students to study and live in another country,” Yinghui says, “especially for Chinese students who mostly come from a different cultural background.” Thus SUCSA provides its members with information on accommodation, and organises seminars on overseas life, immigration and job opportunities. SUCSA has also built relationships with sponsors including the National Bank of Australia and Optus Mobile, who give discounts and special offers to members.
But Yinghui says Chinese students also have much to offer Australian society and she is keen to use the association to promote greater awareness of the contribution they can make.
The organisation has already helped to bring Chinese cultural exhibitions and shows to Sydney. It helps improve the reputation of Chinese culture in Australia, and provide opportunities for SUCSA members to get work experience. “By participating in these events and communicating with Australia’s mainstream society, Chinese students can gradually strengthen their cultural confidence – which is crucial for living overseas,” says Yinghui.
SUCSA has also built bridges between Chinese students and various University departments such as the International Student Support Unit and the International Office.
Like many Australian student organisations, SUCSA is now facing serious financial problems caused by the introduction of voluntary student unionism. Yinghui acknowledges the difficulties, but says the association is determined to survive and continue to serve its members.(Source: The University of Syney, By Claudia Liu)