How on earth can I limit my experiences to one article? That was my immediate thought when I was approached to make a contribution. So much has transpired, since then – in terms of work, life, personal growth, and unique experiences. So, I will try to simmer it down to the bits I think are most useful to you, in the hopes that it would assist you in your own personal journey.
Having grown up a shy and quiet introvert, I flew in from Sri Lanka, to Deakin University Geelong in the winter of 2015 to pursue a Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering (Hons). I came with as many fears as I had dreams, and you can read more about it here. But this is about what happened after. So, let me lead you in.
In hindsight, I believe the most defining period of my life was during my final year of the degree. This was when I was able to secure an internship in research, had my engineering final year project looming ahead, was stretched to a near-breaking point with other demanding projects and units, while trying to effectively maintain my extracurricular engagements.
This may not sound appealing at first but let me tell you – it was during this year that I had to stretch beyond my capacity, beyond my comfort zones, try new things which led me to also develop an awareness of myself that I previously not had. I am most definitely thankful to my lecturers and academic supervisors who helped my journey immensely in every step of the way, and the student counsellors, and even the laboratory technicians who I found were the most encouraging. They provided me with timely access to numerous resources, and state-of-the-art facilities such as the 3D printing, mechatronics, and mechanical labs, which were crucial for my final year project and the sumo robot project. The vast campus library, and remote access tools such as Deakin Sync were also an incredible added support on my student journey.
By the time I graduated, I had contributed to a project in swarm robotics, co-authored a conference paper, successfully built a robotic proof of concept for my final year project, and won the sumo-robot competition. And even though it had not always felt easy, it finally felt incredibly rewarding. I had also learnt in the process that engineering was more than understanding mathematics and physical phenomena and designing things. It is also learning how to manage stakeholders, industriously approach tasks, be adaptable and dependable while also being able to organise well and meet deadlines. I need to mention that the previous was on top of working part time, being a member of Rotaract (Barwon) and being a part of a productions crew as a lighting tech. Having full days and weekends seemed almost second nature to me.
What did I gain from all of this? A lot. It was these experiences that propelled me to being involved in projects like the ‘Cadillac Personal Autonomous Vehicle Concept’ (if you read my previous article, this was a dream of mine), which one of my previous employers was a part of. This was also how I was immediately able to secure a position as a researcher at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on a project involving an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and an underwater wireless communication project, when I had to fly back to Sri Lanka to attend to a few personal matters. This was also what helped me to secure the position of Mathematics Specialist and Consultant, during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, where I was able to work from home for a reputable international company and education provider for students in the UK and the US. So, do I have regrets? None, and I am truly thankful for having chosen Deakin University.
As a final note, I would like to leave you with a word of advice. By the time of reading, you may be a student just out of school and at odds on what path to take, may be an enrolled international student studying online while you prepare to travel overseas, or even one who has finally arrived. I would like you to know that Australia is a vibrant, inclusive, and amazing place to learn to stand on your own two feet, and the Deakin journey will help you build the groundwork for it. So, make sure to explore what you can at every opportunity: the food, the numerous cultures, landmarks, shopping malls (Chadstone is a go-to in Victoria), concerts and sports events, and even go skiing maybe at Mt. Buller or if not, simply camping in the bush where you might spot a wild kangaroo. Is that all? Not really. But I would leave it here for you to fill in stuff of your own, because at the end of your journey, graduate or undergraduate, I am certain you would be wiser for it.