All about the Engaging Melbourne Program: An interview with Mehak Sheikh

Engaging Melbourne is a program designed to allow international and local students to develop friendships as well as exploring Melbourne, developing professional skills and broadening social networks. Study Melbourne is supporting this initiative created by the Melbourne Football Club, which is broken into five main activities; intercultural training, city dash, hands on football, match day and a leadership seminar.

We spoke with program alumni, Mehak Sheikh, to find out more about all the great opportunities that Engaging Melbourne offered.

 Why did you get involved with Engaging Melbourne?

I like to think of myself as a very proactive and involved person, which is usually why I sign up to try different things all the time. Quite similarly with this program, I approached it because I didn’t know much about AFL and thought this would be a quick condensed way of learning about it and trying something different. However, I quickly realised that it was more than just sport and a great way to meet people from different walks of life but also develop personal/professional skills that can be applied elsewhere in the world.

 What does the program involve?

It involved a series of events ranging from cultural awareness and leadership seminars to hands-on/physical activities such as the City Dash. It provides a space for local and international students to engage with one another and work collaboratively on various tasks, all while being entertaining.

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How does the program connect international students with local students?

Because local and international students are allocated in groups, they are given the opportunity to get to know one another, engage in tasks and activities and build relationships. In addition to meeting people in the smaller allocated groups, we are given the chance to network before and after the events.

 What was your favourite event in the program and why?

My favourite event was the cultural awareness seminar. It’s something that I am quite passionate about even away from the university. I believe the idea of understanding other cultures and being open to multiculturalism is so important in today’s day and age, particularly in Melbourne. It’s so common for us to meet people from different parts of the nation and world and knowing how to approach those situations is vital when building relationships.

 What did the program teach you about Melbourne and Australian culture?

I learnt how to get my way around the MCG, thanks to the City Dash that was hosted there, haha. But I also understand how footy of any sport in Australia is more than just the physical aspect. It’s the reason people come together and a platform to share experiences. Just by looking at the group from last year, the multiculturalism of Australia sank deeper. Melbourne itself is so diverse and has so much to offer to people regardless of where they come from.

 What were the biggest lessons you learnt from the program?

The biggest lesson I learnt was the importance of exposure to individuals from different walks of life. It has made me a more accepting and open person and more confident in developing relationships with someone I wouldn’t usually connect with. Interestingly, I learnt more about myself and how I act in certain situations or tasks and it’s something I can once again use in a context other than Engaging Melbourne.

What were the most valuable things you got out of the program?

The experience. An opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. Now I can say, I’ve tried footy and met people from Spain without having to leave my own town! I also got invited to be part of the Student Leadership committee that will help with the planning and implementation of the program, which is huge tick in my books!

Why should other international students register for this year’s program?

Because not only is it fun, free and flexible, it’s also a great way to meet people similar and dissimilar to yourself, hence broadens your network.

For international students wanting to make local friends, get involved in Melbourne culture and learn more about Australia’s favourite sport – AFL, this is the perfect program. To read more about all the activities or to sign up, check out the Engaging Melbourne website here.