Programmes open doors

A nervous Shamanthi Jayawardena came from Sri Lanka to do her Masters at Victoria University and quickly found her feet

About Shamanthi

Name: Shamanthi Jayawardena
Age: 25
School/institution: Studied a Master of Global Marketing at Victoria University of Wellington  
Home city and country: Colombo, Sri Lanka  

Find out how Shamanthi has found her time in Wellington:

I chose to study in Wellington because the city’s personality resonated with mine. It’s the creative capital where wacky and fabulous go hand-in-hand and wearing fun socks to work is actually a good thing. 

As most international students, arriving in a foreign land for the first time to spend the next few years studying, I was nervous, excited, and confused. Having spent a little more than a year in this beautiful city, I can now look back with pride on my journey and the person I’ve become. Much of that pride stems from the continuous engagement I had with WellingtonNZ.

Two weeks after I arrived in Wellington, I joined the Work Ready in Wellington Programme. It is a five-week workshop series that helps international students and graduates to get accustomed to the NZ work culture and its job scene. This programme made me realise the importance of fine-tuning my Sri Lankan style CV to one that sits well with Wellington employers and provided tips on facing interviews and my job-search approach. It also opened the doors for me to apply for an internship with the Study in Wellington team to organize the Annual International Student Welcome, which attracts 500+ international students across the Wellington region. Although the event didn’t proceed due to the pandemic, it was a great opportunity for me to get first-hand experience working in a Wellington organisation in project management.  

After my short stint at WellingtonNZ, I signed up for the Alumni Connect Programme, which helps international students to connect with international alumni of similar backgrounds, so that they can learn and grow from the alumni experiences. I got matched with Len Yu from WellingtonNZ, who guided me in building a career in NZ. We are good friends now and he still mentors me on what I need to do to make it in Wellington.  

My continuous engagement with WellingtonNZ also led me to be featured in their new Study in Wellington student guidebook and its promo video. However, the best experience through it all was being invited to lead the debut Employer Connect Programme by the Study in Wellington team. It is a series of networking sessions, in which international students get to meet local professionals in their place of work, in an area the student aspires to build their career in.  As the project coordinator and facilitator, I got the chance to meet people from diverse backgrounds, understand their requirements and help design a programme that benefits both the international students and community of local organisations. This was a period of self-awareness and growth, and it was an eye-opening experience for me in terms of how I organize work. 

There’s no silver bullet to making it in Wellington (or New Zealand), but the right attitude can go a long way. Be open to change, to be challenged and be comfortable in being uncomfortable. For a girl who barely did anything outside of work in Sri Lanka, I found myself becoming a social butterfly in Wellington. Go out there – make new friends. There are tons of free programmes that help international students to find their way. If you have the power of will, you can be anyone who you want to be in this beautiful region. 

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