University of Wollongong student Devinda Perera is one of six finalists in the NSW International Student of the Year Awards, to be announced tonight at the Sydney Opera House.
The awards recognise international students and celebrate their contribution to their community and educational sector.
Finishing off a PhD in electrical engineering this year, Mr Perera is investigating the power quality of renewable energy generators.
Mr Perera came from Sri Lanka three years ago after receiving a scholarship from the University of Wollongong. His motivation for being involved in the community is mostly altruistic but also serves him well: ‘‘As a human being I need to help other people, that’s my one major motivation. On the other hand it gives me the benefit of meeting local people and improving my English.
‘‘I was very surprised, then I was happy when I found out about the award nomination,’’ he said. ‘‘It gives me recognition for what I do.’’
Nominated by his peers for the Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning Award in 2012, Mr Perera is also a member of the Illawarra Committee of International Students.
He has advocated for international students, provided mentoring support and worked as a volunteer, promoting the Windang Community Garden to help local residents engage with indigenous communities.
One of the judges and Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, Patricia Forsythe, said the selection process was quite extensive.
‘‘Essentially what we are looking for are students who are demonstrating a commitment, not only to their studies, but to their broader community by showing leadership. Also by integrating into the local community and taking advantage of all the opportunities that come with being a student in NSW,’’ she said.
The criteria include demonstrating an achivement or contribution that adds value to the community.