From Fiji to Rockhampton – how the Australia Awards Scholarship changed my life

Updated July 2021

Hi, my name is Shivaali Vanshika. I was born and brought up in Rakiraki, Fiji. In 2018 I was awarded the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarship to study a Bachelor of Podiatry Practice (Honours) at CQUniversity.

Where I come from: Rakiraki, Fiji. Credit:

The reason I chose to apply for this scholarship is because it was my personal desire to become a podiatrist after seeing my maternal grandfather go through foot amputation due to diabetes and poor foot management practices. However, a challenge was that none of the universities in Fiji offered this course.

After discussing this with my parents and family, I was advised to search for podiatry courses as well as scholarships overseas.

At the same time, I had to prepare for my final external examinations. I worked hard to meet the scholarship requirements, and at the end, I was rewarded by being awarded the Australia Awards Scholarship.

I’m so grateful to the generosity of the Australian Government and its people for funding this merit-based, developmental scholarship. Coming from a rural background and being awarded such a prestigious scholarship has been a life changing experience for me, both personally and professionally.

I got a chance to go abroad — Australia of all places! — to pursue a fully funded, internationally accredited programme.

The CQUniversity Rockhampton campus’ podiatry program is one of the best in Australia and since beginning my studies, I have pushed myself to develop my skills in a variety of areas such as research, public speaking, critical thinking and working to a high level of academic performance.

The podiatry program is accredited with the Australian and New Zealand Accreditation Council, so successful completion will allow me to become a registered podiatrist in both Australia and New Zealand. This is a big motivation for me to do well.                                   

Additionally, the scholarship has also allowed me to experience the wonderful Australian culture. From the wonderful sandy beaches of the Gold Coast to the beautiful scenery, which never fails to amaze me.

The diversity of people in Rockhampton is amazing and therefore, affords a rich cultural exchange. I have made friends from Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

I also volunteer as an AIME mentor (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) at a high school. I am thankful that I made the initiative to integrate with the local community and if there is one bit of advice that I can give to fellow students who wish to pursue their tertiary studies in Australia, then it is highly recommended to integrate with the local community. 

Where am I now? July 2021 update

The Australia Awards Scholarship has been such a rewarding experience for me. It feels like that I have been on a life changing journey. I still vividly remember the day I left Fiji for Rockhampton, for the most part excited about this new adventure, but also harbouring some lingering doubts and worries – mainly because it was the first time for me to hear about a far far away place called Rockhampton. 

However, I learnt quickly that all my doubts were of no value because I had an incredibly supportive team – from Australia Awards and CQUniversity – who made me feel so welcomed right from the first day in Australia.

Now, having lived here for the last three years, all I can say is that this has been the most rewarding time of my life. I have made so many friends over the last three years, experienced so many different things, and had the lovely opportunity to integrate in the local community and experience the true Aussie sense of humour and hospitability. In the process of exploring and having fun, I am also on the cusp of gaining world class qualification and becoming a podiatrist.

My experiences so far have been very rewarding. I have made sure to balance my time between studies and exploring new places and in the process, I have visited so many different places in Australia. By far, my best place has to be Airlie Beach.

While my course is challenging, I have this supportive team of lecturers and clinical supervisors who do their best to help support me in studies.

The best part about my course is that it allows me to apply my theoretical knowledge to real-life practice through clinical placement. I find this to be rewarding as it gives me holistic insight into how I can apply these skills as a podiatrist.

The University and the academics from the Podiatry team have been incredibly supportive in providing quality academic and pastoral care. This is something that I greatly value as it has helped me provide a sense of stability in these very uncertain times, especially in the era of COVID-19. My scholarship support officer has also been very generous with time to provide specific mobility support related to the scholarship.

I think the most important thing that I will take back with me to Fiji will be of course my qualifications, but also memories of my time spent in Australia. The journey has allowed me to develop my own independence and I now know for sure, that I can do my level best in contributing towards the health sector in Fiji.

The one thing out of the many things that I will remember the most will be the times that I went out on trips and holidays to different places – seeing various kinds of animals at the zoo, learning cool facts about crocodiles at the crocodile farm, spending time at the beautiful Yeppoon beach and watching the mesmerising sunset.

I would like to actively encourage applicants to apply for this scholarship. It will change your life for the better.

Find out more about our international scholarships.

Enjoyed Shivaali’s story? You might enjoy Bikesh from Nepal’s journey who is studying engineering and is a Social Innovation Change Champion Ambassador at our Sydney campus.

You might also enjoy Sara from Albania’s story who is studying accounting and is an International Student Ambassador at our Melbourne campus.

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