Studying in a different country and having to adapt to a new environment and new cultures can be quite a daunting experience – but it doesn’t have to be. Karla Mortel shares her own relatable experience as an international student joining the UNSW community.
“I can clearly remember this very moment – many unfamiliar faces, different cultures and personalities. I was so excited but also felt a bit daunted to live in a different country studying in a prestigious university. Let me tell you now that it's definitely normal to feel that way and that you're not alone.”
Mortel emphasised the importance of not only adjusting but also adapting to one's culture. She reassured students that trusting this process can help them go along the way. “To set yourself up for success, you need to have a deeper understanding of who you are and what you want to be recognised and known for.”
Mortel is a firm advocate of networking and making new connections. Within her first few weeks at UNSW, she proactively embraced different cultures and immersed herself in Sydney – Australia’s financial hub.
“I took advantage of all the events that UNSW provided us. What really helped me a lot was having a growth mindset. In addition to study, I worked part-time, and this helped me break into the Australian culture which I wasn't familiar with.”
Mortel joined the UNSW ‘Career Accelerator: Essentials’ program. Through the Career Accelerator journey, students have access to opportunities for internships, mentoring, networking as well as short-term courses overseas, study tours and Student Exchange. The Career Accelerator program also paves the way for students to connect with the UNSW alumni community and the wider industry.
As part of the Career Accelerator program, Mortel enrolled in Australian Business Essentials – which helped her improve on her workplace communication skills, become aware of employer expectations as well as the recruitment process that most companies adopt in Australia.
The program educates students on the importance of building one’s personal brand on LinkedIn in addition to providing hands-on experience through a 50-hour practical work placement within the UNSW campus. This program ultimately prepared Mortel for one of the most sought-after internships at Big 4 firm KPMG.
“I focused on improving my networking skills as I was about to enter the real world. Through the mentoring opportunities that the Career Accelerator program provided, I was able to meet different people, peers and industry players.”
Mortel’s proactive participation in various UNSW programs ultimately equipped her with the required experience, skills and knowledge to excel in a leading recruitment firm.
“What I would advise you to do is to be proactive – even in class discussions and networking events, as this will benefit you a lot. I wouldn't have realised the importance of all that I’ve learned at UNSW without having taken advantage of the professional programs provided by the university.”
Mortel graduated with Distinction in early 2019 with a master's degree in International Business specialising in Management and Human Resources. She now works for global recruitment firm Hays as a consultant and specialises in placing IT infrastructure professionals within the financial services sector.