Community Connections

Members of the community connect with international students

Local Dan Wilkinson and international student Frans Hafeni are great companions thanks to the cross cultural friendship program Community Connections at the University of Newcastle, which links volunteers from the local community with international students from all levels of study.

Frans Hafeni travelled to Newcastle in January from Namibia, in southern Africa, to pursue a Masters in Leadership and Management in Education.

As soon as he arrived Frans knew he needed help to understand the culture.

“From the moment I landed and saw how different it was to Namibia, I had a lot of questions. I knew an Australian friend could help me,” Frans said.

Enter Dan Wilkinson who has worked in over 20 countries in pharmaceutical exports, including many in Africa, and has met various influential people and learned about a lot of different cultures.

Dan heard about the Community Connections program on ABC radio and knew his knowledge and experience could benefit international students in understanding the Australian culture.

“I can imagine it could be quite lonely for a student in a new country. To learn more about the culture via a local I think is a great help,” Dan said.

Since they were introduced via the program, Dan and Frans have met up every few weeks to go out for dinner, coffee and even to a rugby league game. One of the most memorable experiences for Frans was when Dan took him up to his opal mine at Lightning Ridge. It was extremely beneficial for Frans, who will be able to take some of the advances in our mining technology back home to his village and hopefully improve the way they mine precious stones.

Connecting with a local like Dan also helped Frans academically.

“The program helped me not go crazy concentrating on study. Meeting Dan gave me courage and I didn’t feel alone,” Frans said.

Frans has loved his time in Newcastle and would like to come back with his wife and two children in April next year for his graduation.

Dan and Frans are just one example of many success stories from the Community Connections program and there are always students looking for new connections.

If you would like to help a student in need and learn more about other cultures by becoming a local volunteer for Community Connections, please call (02) 4921 6236 or email
You will be responded to by staff dedicated to getting to know each student and volunteer individually so the best possible match is made.

Find out more at the Community Connections program website.

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