The seven ambassadors are from six different countries and are currently studying in Adelaide.
The brainchild of Education Adelaide, the ambassadors will use social media networks, friends and family from their home countries to highlight what Adelaide has to offer.
They will receive media training, a small wage and run student-focused events such as the Lord Mayors’ Welcome, which recently hosted 900 of South Australia’s newest international students.
Export earnings gained from international students studying in Adelaide is set to break the $1 billion mark this year, previously only achieved in 2009/10.
Last year almost 27,000 international students chose to study in Adelaide contributing $924 million in export earnings to the local economy.
“Education is South Australia’s sixth largest export, behind wheat, wine, iron ore, copper ore and copper, and is the state’s biggest services export,’’ Acting chief executive of Education Adelaide Greg Marshall said.
“International education has bounced back to previous growth levels and looks set to hit the billion dollar mark this year.’’
“We define export earnings as the total spending on fees, goods and services in South Australia and the benefit of this to our economy is felt in our wider community and crosses over into tourism, hospitality and retail spending.’’
“After seven consecutive semesters of decline, student numbers are on the way up. According to the March figures, the number of new or commencing international students rose 22% when compared to the same time last year.’’
Mr Marshall said word of mouth recommendations are a very powerful marketing tool.
“We find that most students who choose Adelaide have received a personal endorsement of the city from someone they know,’’ he said.
“The ambassador team members study at Adelaide’s three public universities and TAFE SA. Most list Facebook as their major social media platform while WeChat is favoured by our Chinese ambassador. The potential reach from their activities is immense as our Filipino ambassador has 1200 Facebook friends, all of whom have their own friendship networks.’’
This builds on Education Adelaide’s social media presence of more than 1,000,000 followers on Chinese Weibo and more than 30,000 Facebook followers.
The ambassadors are: Sachin Aggarwal from India, Cathy Zhang (China), Lily Nguyen (Vietnam), Muhammad Azrol Abd Hamid (Malaysia), Sophia Bengco (Philippines), Charles Chiam (Malaysia) and Camila Bigolin from Brazil.
“March figures show an increase in new arrivals from three of South Australia’s top five source countries for international students – there were 29% more new students from China, 22% more new students from India and 36% more Vietnamese students. New students for Brazil increased by 71%, noting that Brazil is a niche market for SA with smaller baseline figures,’’ Mr Marshall said.
“In another positive sign we’ve also seen a 56% increase in students arriving to study English language courses. This is good news because many students undertake further courses after first perfecting their English skills.’’
Ambassador Camila Bigolin, 24, from Brazil is currently studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Adelaide.
“I am using Facebook, Instagram and other social media to share my experiences in Adelaide with my friends back home,’’ she said.
“It is helping other people who were thinking about studying overseas to consider Adelaide and what is can offer as a destination.
“There are similarities between Brazil and Adelaide such as the weather and the cultural mix, also both have a lot of cultural festivals.
“But there is also a uniqueness about Adelaide. For me I was surprised to find bicycle lanes in the city and dog parks around the suburbs. We don’t have those things in Brazil.
“I enjoy riding my bike and just with the bike lanes it makes my life so much more enjoyable. These are the real life experiences I am having which I’m communicating back to potential students in Brazil.’’
“I think what is important for new students is that there is someone here willing and able to help them make that first step, somebody they can count on and share information with.’’
Sachin Aggarwal, 29, is studying a Masters in Accounting and Finance and will be spreading the word to come to Adelaide in his home country of India.
“Potential students in India need to know Adelaide in itself is a fantastic city to live in,’’ he said.
“It is an affordable city for a student, rents are not too high and there is part time employment readily available for students who need to work.’’
He said the ability to find part time work was a crucial selling point.
“It is often the first question people ask me, can I get work there?’’
“Many students, like myself, have their parents helping pay towards the education costs,’’ he said. “But they cannot afford all of it. Many students have to be able to find work so they can contribute to their fees and pay rent and feed and entertain themselves.
“I am lucky enough to be able to work 20 hours a week at a McDonald’s restaurant.’’
He said South Australian universities were superior compared to those in India.
“The quality in India is small and almost all work is theory-based, there is nothing practical and students need that in the real world.’’
“The reason I chose to come to Adelaide was because my friends, who had been here themselves, talked me into it. They convinced me it would be a great place for me. Now I’m trying to pass that same message on.’’
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