AAS IAP: The Library’s role in preparing AAS students for Australian academic life

2019 IAP students group photo

The following overview of Curtin University Library’s Australia Awards Scholarships (AAS) Intensive Academic Program (IAP) is written by Grace Conti. Grace is an Academic Skills Advisor at Curtin University Library who has worked closely on the IAP as tutor and coordinator for close to two decades.

The Australia Awards Scholarships (AAS) are Australian government funded scholarships awarded to students from developing countries. Gaining one of these prestigious and competitive scholarships means that a student can undertake a degree at an Australian university of their choice. Since 1988, there has been 1,275 new AAS students at Curtin University.

To equip AAS students for study in Australia, the completion of an Intensive Academic Program (IAP) is compulsory (Australia Awards Scholarships, DFAT, 2022). This program has been in existence for over 70 years, beginning as the Colombo Program, before changing to the AusAID program and now the AAS IAP. Curtin University Library has been delivering the AAS IAP since 2017. I have had the privilege and the joy of working closely on the IAP as tutor and coordinator for close to two decades.

Grace at the farewell event for graduating students of the AAS IAP program, held in July 2022

Whilst the IAP is rigorous in teaching writing, digital and library skills, to ensure that students feel comfortable and confident in participating, and feel prepared to undertake their degree, a concerted effort is put into the ‘little things’ which turn out to have a ‘big impact’. The IAP coordinators are available to chat at the start and end of each day and over morning tea (a simple one with a provided hot drink, biscuits and fruit). Making space to talk freely and share tips and concerns with us and their peers is invaluable to each student feeling ‘at home’.

Curtin University Library recognises that diverse skills are important for a successful transition into university life, so including diverse ways of learning, time management, goal setting and self-reflection are a critical part of the IAP. Invited guest speakers from Curtin Volunteers, Curtin’s Safer Community Team, students and Alumni also provide invaluable insights for our students. Satrya Wibawa, (IAP 2016) aptly sums it up like this, “…for me as an international student, this program is like a melting pot of a great curriculum, the best teaching staff and priceless memories”. Sanyu Leowalu (IAP 2017) goes on to explain the experience in this way “AAS IAP is pretty much everything that helped me get through my first days in Australia. It provided us assistance not just in academics but also networking and mental health. The IAP team treated us as family and it helped me to see Australia as my new home”. To continue to enhance mental well-being with our current AAS IAP, co-coordinated with my colleague Karen Miller, Coordinator, Learning Success, we have utilised the Library’s Makerspace as our workshops and meeting base. This is proving to be very successful for the students to be in a warm, inviting, creative and relaxing space.

There are countless stories, but one that lives in my heart and memory to this day is of Netty Muharni from Banda Aceh. Only months after the disastrous 2004 tsunami which took the lives of Netty’s two children whilst in school, Netty arrived to undertake the IAP for her Masters in Urban and Regional Development. Netty searched for purpose and found it by applying these skills to assist in rebuilding Aceh. Netty has served her country tirelessly and has become Assistant Deputy Minister for Regional and Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation in Indonesia.

IAP programs like this foreground the idea of ‘student partnership’ so we all benefit and grow in such an environment. This includes not only students, tutors, and our university, but also Australia and nations in our region.

If you would like to read more about AAS, visit https://www.dfat.gov.au/sites/default/files/australia-awards-statistical-profile.pdf . I also recommend the New Colombo Plan, where Australian undergraduate students have the opportunity of internships in developing countries of our region: https://www.dfat.gov.au/people-to-people/new-colombo-plan

Written By:
Grace Conti, Academic Skills Advisor
Curtin University Library

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