ISLA – My newfound family in Sydney

Written by The Bug

‘ISLA – My newfound family in Sydney’, by Krystal LY

As an international student living and studying in Sydney, there may be more or less of a chance of feeling lonely and disoriented. So did I.

However, upon joining ISLA, I realized that sometimes, people may face greater tribulations . I met a young Saudi Arabian man who lost his whole left arm 7 years ago and had to learn to use his right hand when he is left-handed. He strived to maintain a positive attitude to his life, as if his arm was still there, or when I got to know of a 19 year-old Afghanistan asylum seeker having to escape from the Taliban, he had to drift on sea for 4 days on the way to Australia as the boat was broken. He used all his survival skills to successfully secure a visa and a full scholarship in a college. Or even a young single mother having to leave her toddler behind in pursuit of a better future for her daughter, resonating the challenges single mothers face, being away from the love of their life, and the choices they make to pursue a higher standard of living. Yet 32 more stories exist within ISLA, 32 more stories that need sharing, 32 more stories that distinguishes each ISLA graduate.


1Krystal LY

So what is ISLA?

ISLA is the abbreviation of International Student Leadership and Ambassadors. It is a community programme of the City of Sydney, tailored for international students in New South Wales to engage and integrate the various demographics within the Sydney community.

As one of the 36 ambassadors chosen by Susana Ng – the Community Programmes Senior Officer of the City of Sydney to be part of this wonderful program, I knew that 2015 would indeed be a year to remember, a year that would bring better things my way. I was, optimistic!

Sydney was still new to me! I had only arrived 4 months prior to joining ISLA. Therefore, my understanding towards this vibrant city was, then, limited.


Until I participated in the Chinese Twilight Parade, I did not know how attractive Sydney actually was. Sydney- siders and tourists gathered in the thousands on George Street, waiting for hours to witness the biggest Chinese New Year Celebration outside of China. I was surprised at the effectiveness of the organising committee to work as a team and deliver the much anticipated annual event. Since I was part of the procession, we had to do 5 rehearsals before we officially performed in the parade.



Until I took part in Betty Makin Youth Awards promotional activities, I was unaware as to how the government recognised and appreciated the integral contributions of youths to the development of our societies.

Until I was a part of the Living in Harmony festival in Redfern, I was unaware of the efforts by the City of Sydney to recognize the Aboriginal community by promoting the original inhabitant’s cultures through different activities such as workshops, traditional performances and stories.



In addition, Sports Day within the National Youth Week taught me much about the need for sports and recreation. It is not only a sport event for participants to debate and win trophies, it also a lesson for me to understand the difficulties of disabled people by playing basketball on wheelchairs and learn to adapt to challenges.


Thanks to this amazing program, I not only made friends with other international students and now understand more about the Australian cultures and beauties, but also can gain motivation to overcome challenges that like everyone else, I will have my share of.

If someone asks me what makes me love Sydney? I would like to answer the beauty of Sydney’s attractions, the friendly people and my lovely classmates who always take the pressure from university. It will, however, be insufficient if I do not mention ISLA.

It is a beautiful time that we live in and therefore, we must embrace the opportunity to hold close to heart what we love most and let our values guide us home!


To find out more about ISLA, visit ISLA website:

City of Sydney Lord Mayor International Students Welcome 2015:

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