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1. Full name / age / nationality.
Natasha Shakira Agaki / 28 / Bruneian
2. If you are working, who is your current employer and what is your role?
I currently work for the Australian High Commission in Bandar Seri Begawan as both Public Affairs Officer and Personal Assistant to the High Commissioner. As Public Affairs Officer, I support the execution of the Australian government's public diplomacy strategy in Brunei by engaging and collaborating with local entities in government, private business, non-profit organisations and the general public to advance mutual interests and strengthen the relationship between both countries. As Personal Assistant to the High Commissioner, I organise his schedule and support the execution of his duties as the representational head of the Australian government in Brunei.
I've also been involved in a number of freelance projects in publishing and production, including hosting a travel documentary for Royal Brunei Airlines.
3. Why did you choose Monash Malaysia?
I found in Monash Malaysia the opportunity to access a high standard of education while still being close to home and living in a region where travel is easy and relatively affordable. The university also offers the Journalism major, which I was decidedly keen to enrol in, led by dynamic, inspiring and socially active lecturers. I previously lived and studied in Australia where I developed a very special bond with the country; and although I would have been equally as thrilled to study at the Monash Melbourne campus, I was very keen to explore the complex issues surrounding media freedom in a country closer to that of mine in culture, language and history.
By having a Malaysian experience through an Australian education system, I felt that I was exposed to the best both had to offer.
4. While at Monash, what type of opportunities did you participate in?
In my final year, I secured an internship placement with Ogilvy Public Relations (Malaysia) under the newly introduced Faculty of Arts Workplace Learning unit. The opportunity to gain practical workplace experience at an international Public Relations firm and integrate that with the theoretical knowledge gained through my degree was more valuable than I realised at the time.
I think most people agree that, in the professional sense, receiving close mentorship from highly-skilled practitioners is invaluable and that's what this unit allows students the chance to gain. It also allows us to test the waters so to speak, in an industry or profession that we are considering pursuing.
5. How has your degree and learning at Monash contributed to your work and where you are today?
I think Monash University's reputation in academic excellence probably helped me get my foot in the door with this job! I can't take credit for that.
Part of my role at the High Commission involves promoting Australian education, and having studied at an Australian university myself certainly lends credibility in my undertaking this task.
Also, the skills I developed in the areas of Journalism and Writing, as well as the practical experience gained through my internship in corporate communications, are directly applicable to my role as Public Affairs Officer with the Australian High Commission. I'm required to engage with press, write reports, press releases and organise all kinds of events, which involves close collaboration with individuals and organisations from various industries and backgrounds.
On a more personal level, I grew up in a country with an absolute Monarchy and have no direct experience of being involved in formal political democratic processes. I was interested in studying Journalism at Monash Malaysia because I wanted to get an insight into the complexities surrounding the implementation of democratic systems in a society that is relatively new to democracy. Although the knowledge and skills gained in negotiating these complexities is not directly applicable in Brunei, the nature of diplomacy that they have fostered is applicable. In my current job, I represent the interests of a western democratic government in my absolute Monarchic home country, so possessing diplomatic skills is crucial.
6. What did you love most about your student life at Monash?
I was previously studying at a very large campus in Queensland before enrolling in Monash Malaysia. Although I loved my experience there, the campus was noticeably more impersonal than the smaller, close-knit community that was so obvious to me at Monash Malaysia. I was able to enjoy closer relationships and stronger bonds with my peers, lecturers and tutors, and that was an important part of student life for me.
I also loved the quirky eccentricities of the Arts department! There is a creative, exploratory atmosphere in the School of Arts and Social Sciences and a lot of inspiring (and dare I say- whacky!) characters that really shaped an exciting learning space for me.
7. If you were an international student, how did you adapt to life in Monash Malaysia and Malaysia in general? Were there any particular pleasant experiences or challenges?
I adapted to life in Malaysia quite easily as I already had a fair understanding of the country and culture before moving there. To me, it's a country with an exciting level of chaos, where the urban youth possess a great energy, sense of purpose and inspiration for progressive change. The buzz is contagious and was probably my favourite part about life there.
Oh, and the food! There's everything from a huge variety of international cuisine to – my favourite part of the culinary culture – the authentic hawker experience, kopitiams and late night mamak hangouts. Subang Jaya has all of this as a growing vibrant city with a great multicultural student atmosphere.
8. As an international student, how did you find the support networks here? Would you have some tips for other international students, especially from your country, intending to study in Monash Malaysia?
I was so enticed by the outside life of studying in Malaysia that I regretfully didn't participate in campus life enough. But that still makes me qualified to advise that current and future students do! Make full use of the student services and free counselling opportunities. The strongest support network that I personally benefited from, during my time at Monash, was support provided by my lecturers, tutors and academic advisers.
9. What is your goal/dream in life, where are you headed to in the future?
Some people might call me fickle. I've possessed a million dreams in the last three years and have explored paths in three different countries since I graduated. I'm fortunate that the strength of my Monash education has meant that loads of doors are open to me and I can afford to dream big and take risks. Now, working in a diplomatic mission, I have been inspired by strong professional figures to embark on a career path of diplomacy as a way of connecting governments and people by bridging cultural gaps.
But equally as important as my commitment to professional growth is my dedication to pursue my passions. One of these passions revolves around environmental connection and the recognition of indigenous cultures and belief systems as crucial elements to addressing modern crises on the social, economic, political and environmental levels. I dream of arming myself with the tools of self-sufficiency through the concept of Permaculture and I dream of continuing my Yoga journey to a point where I'm equipped to share the practice with others.
At Monash Malaysia I received an education that taught me to educate myself. Armed with this tool I can dare to dream that I will achieve all of these things!
10. What is your advice to current Monash Malaysia students?
University life, especially as an international student, is an exciting time of learning, exploration, growth and discovery, in both the personal and academic spheres. Strike a healthy balance between pursuing academic rigour and embarking on a cultural adventure.
I found that my lecturers and tutors were always willing to lend support, encouragement and guidance in all manner of pleas for help and I would recommend that students make full use of this kindness capital. Career counselling, job fairs, student support groups – take every opportunity available to you to get a clearer understanding of what you want out of life and how to pursue it. It's not easy to come by academically stimulating environments that simultaneously offer to inspire creativity, nurture talents, refine characters, answer the big questions and carve professional paths. This is the beauty of University life. Embrace it!