When Sri Lankan medical student Reynal Adrien Jayatilake Tennakoon Mudiyanselage arrived to study at Flinders University after COVID-19 international border restrictions lifted, he felt excited but also concerned about how he would cope in such an unfamiliar environment.
“It was such a cultural shock – not only being in a different country with different customs, but also adjusting to the amount of independence I had,” says Reynal.
To establish a new network of friends and community of contacts, Reynal revitalised the Sri Lankan Students Association at Flinders University, which had folded after the onset of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Rather than shrink from the challenge, Reynal felt compelled to take positive action and formed an important new student club that has helped build a stronger community of international students and won the 2022 Best New Club award from the Flinders University Student Association.
This work – along with maintaining a GPA of 7.00 in his Clinical Sciences studies – also led Reynal to be named the Academic Undergraduate Winner at StudyAdelaide’s 2022 International Student Awards.
Reynal, who is studying a Doctor of Medicine, having completed his Bachelor of Clinical Sciences in 2022, says the inclusive environment at Flinders has made a big difference to his outlook and development.
“I found there was a great need among international students to connect with each other, so the club became very popular. It soon expanded beyond Sri Lankans to include students from a lot of other cultures as well.”
“Through sharing, everyone in the club realised that there were many close links between the different cultures of people attached to the club.”
“We are all trying to find our role and our purpose, and through our discussions in a social environment, we came to see all of our similarities rather than our differences.”
Reynal’s energetic involvement with the student community is tied to his aim of becoming a doctor. Upset that many doctors in Sri Lanka see themselves as elites, Reynal is determined to become a clinician who provides services for the benefit of all people.
“I have a great passion for making a difference,” says Reynal. “My education will enable me to do this, but also – to my surprise – I have learned so much about myself during my time at Flinders.”
“My great misconception was that I would have to change myself to fit into a more developed country – but now I realise that I undervalued my own contribution of what I could bring to Flinders University.”
“My thoughts and feelings never changed, but the way that I address them is different. I am making a difference.”