News Article

A sit-down chat with Richard Ha, UMSU International's new President

With the UMSU International elections complete, Farrago writer and subeditor Rico Sulamet sat down with the organisation's newly elected President Richard Ha to ask some questions about his plans for the year ahead.


With the UMSU International elections complete, Farrago writer and subeditor Rico Sulamet sat down with the organisation's newly elected President Richard Ha to ask some questions about his plans for the year ahead.

Rico: So tell me a bit about yourself—what are you currently studying? Any fun facts or hidden talents? A favourite campus area?

Richard: I would describe myself in five words as tenacious, intuitive, opportunistic, adaptive, and inquisitive. It probably varies in intensity every day but yeah that about sums it up. Currently I am undertaking a Bachelor of Science majoring in Data Science. I switched from engineering last semester, so it’s been pretty fun and challenging.

I don’t have any hidden talents to speak of unfortunately, but some hobbies I have that I do like to do in my free time would be sewing, because I alter my clothes myself and I am working on personal projects related to that. A fun fact about me—even though it is a bit embarrassing—is that I was featured on an interview on Channel 10’s The Project. It's up on YouTube if you search up my name. 

[On favourite campus areas]: It’s quite hard to pick because despite being a STEM student, one of my main hobbies is appreciating really good design in every medium that it can be presented in. So, it’s either going to have to be the Melbourne School of Design area, or the New Student Precinct. They have the checklists of everything I like in a nice campus space: good ambience, ample facilities, and lively activity. I also appreciate the cafes in these two areas because they fuel my mornings.

Being at a university that’s abundant with cultural diversity and a community of students coming from over 150 different nationalities, tell us a bit about your cultural background and nationality. How has your university experience been as an international student?

I’m Vietnamese, but having said that, I spent a majority of my childhood split between the U.S. and Vietnam, and in my teenage years Australia was also added into the mix. It’s odd because although I don’t fully identify with any one location, I feel like I’ve been afforded an opportunity to have unique cultural nuances from all around the world.

[On the international student experience]: There’s definitely ups and downs, but that’s just with anyone right? I’ve been really lucky to find friend groups and interests that help me develop my social network, but I feel like this is pretty hard for international students in general.

As you mentioned, developing a social network can be tough for international students. What are some tips or things you would recommend to help them overcome this?

A tip that I’d recommend to international students is to put yourself out there. Our university community is quite diverse, so whatever your background or 

interests, I’m sure there is a group out there for you. It may be very intimidating, but that initial push will allow you to enjoy uni life a lot more. You don’t have to wait for life to happen to you, you just need to make it happen yourself.

Being the President of UMSU International is a considerable responsibility, advocating for and representing the welfare and community of international students. What made you decide to go for the position?

I wouldn’t say I wanted to become president per se. Originally I was planning not to, because handling a STEM degree full-time and part-time work is already hard enough. However, seeing the impact of the outgoing President Sanskar Agarwal, I fully realized that my unique experiences and voice can have an impact on representing this diverse group of students and advocate for tangible improvements on issues that even I’ve personally dealt with before. So, I guess you could say I saw an opportunity to really uphold the beliefs that define me as a person, and represent my community to the best of my abilities.

Continuing on the topic of impact, what are you hoping to deliver to students through your position and the UMSU International team?

I think UMSU International’s impact can be very multifaceted. One of the key issues we will definitely coordinate on is the cost-of-living crisis, because international students have no governmental support that alleviates their financial struggles, as well as organizational inefficiencies that make life harder for us. We aim to build atop of initiatives that we laid this past year such as the UMSU International Welfare Brekkie.

Another key issue is advocating for international graduate employability, because despite us typically putting in much more effort to land the same jobs, we’re automatically disqualified purely because some jobs are reserved for PR and Australian Citizens. In a hyper-connected world, it’s more important than ever to have diverse viewpoints and backgrounds to approach increasingly complex problems, so it’s really disappointing to see very outdated and static attitudes arise in this space.

What else is in store? Are there any big events planned? Where can we find or reach out to UMSU International?

I’ve been harping on about a lot of advocacy stuff, but we do have, as always, a plethora of fun and exciting events on the horizon very soon. I don’t want to spoil anything (to keep the element of surprise, of course) so please follow us on Instagram @umsuintl to stay up to date on all our upcoming events, big and small.

UMSU International is on Level 1 of the 168 Building, between the ERC and Arts and Cultural. We hold events very often so please do come through whenever you’re free. People can also stay up to date on our upcoming events on Instagram, we post very often leading up to all of our events and anything that may interest our international students.













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