Student Spotlight: Meet Sophie from France!

Completing her undergraduate at Monash University and postgraduate at University of Melbourne, France’s Sophie Bigaignon shares her insights about life in Melbourne as a student and working for the Committee for Melbourne, the first organisation worldwide committed to making Melbourne the best place to live, work and do business.

Why did you choose Melbourne?

I studied in French schools and intended to study in France. However, when I started investigating courses available I found a course that appealed to me at Monash University. I then started researching Australia’s Group of Eight universities and was impressed by their academic reputation and global ranking.

I had also heard from friends of mine who came to study in Melbourne that they had had a good time so that tipped the balance in favour of Melbourne!

What did you study?

I did a Bachelor of Arts (Global) at Monash University, one of the course requirements was to spend a semester in a university overseas and I was given the opportunity to study for a semester at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris (Sciences Po Paris).  I am currently finishing my Executive Master of Arts (EMA) at the University of Melbourne.  The EMA is one of Melbourne Uni’s recent Masters courses so people often ask me what it is. Basically, it combines traditional Arts strengths in analysis, ethics and critical thinking with a business  and management skill set which prepares us to take on leadership roles.

What are your favourite things to do in Melbourne?

I enjoy going out for brunches and coffee with friends, shopping at Chadstone and in the city, going to concerts but I also really enjoy going to the big international events that take place in Melbourne like the F1 Grand prix and the Australian Open for example. Something that I’ve started to really enjoy recently is discovering Victoria and so far I’ve enjoyed going to the wineries in the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula.

What should other students know about Melbourne?

–              When you first arrive, winters are colder than expected

–              There is always a something on and lots to do

–              Whatever it is you like or want to do, there are great opportunities everywhere!

You’re working with the Committee for Melbourne, can you tell us what it is and what makes it unique?

I work part-time at the Committee for Melbourne in a communications role. The Committee is a membership-based organisation whose mission is  to make Melbourne the best place to live, work and do business. Our CEO often says that ‘great cities don’t happen by chance’ and the Committee works on tackling big city-shaping issues to help positively influence Melbourne’s growth and development.  Basically, we work on issues that affect Melbourne’s liveability and prosperity, such as transport, infrastructure, urban development and our future economic drivers.

Two key things make us different to other organisations – we are apolitical so we aren’t constrained by the political cycle and our membership is very broad, which gives us a unique perspective.

The Committee also has a two-year business leadership program that helps develop the leadership skills of our future leaders by getting them to work on  projects that will make a real, positive difference to the city. The program actually counts Open House Melbourne and the City Circle tram as its successes!

Committee for Melbourne was the first organisation of its kind worldwide and many cities around Australia have since adopted a similar model, such as Sydney, Perth and the newly-formed Committee for Cairns. In fact, the Committee model is going global with a potential Committee for Chile in the works!

Who is involved in the Committee?

We work with our members, which range from large global corporations (BHP Billiton, EY, KPMG), SMEs (HASSELL), Universities (University of Melbourne, Monash), arts and sporting organisations (Tennis Australia, ACMI, Opera Australia), government entities (Victorian WorkCover Authority) to genuine not-for-profits (The Big Issue).

Our CEO and Board Members come from a cross section of industries and organisations with decades of experience and expertise in their fields.

What is your favourite project to work on right now?

We are constantly re-evaluating how we do things to get the best outcomes for our members and for the long-term future of Greater Melbourne. I’m getting to experience and apply the skills I learned at University and it’s very interesting to sit in on strategy sessions to see how those type of big advertising, marketing and PR firms work.

As part of that process, we’re currently doing the groundwork for our new website and I’m learning a lot working with web development and graphic design companies.

I’m also working on a side project for the Committee’s 30 year celebrations and Annual Dinner. I’m going through 30 years’ worth of archives to piece  together our story and the Committee’s achievements throughout the years. It’s fascinating to go through these old documents some of which were written by Pamela Myer Warrender, founder of the Committee and member of the Melbourne Myer dynasty – an inspiring and pioneering woman!

Any other tips/advice for students?

– Although studies are a priority don’t be so focused on that that you miss out on the other aspects of living in Melbourne – get involved at your institution and make the most of the city but also Victoria and travel to other states if you can

– Try to organise accommodation that’s close to where you will be studying

-Make sure you check out the Student Welcome Desk at the airport when you arrive. You will get important information about studying in Melbourne and the city itself.



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