Dr Paula Durance is one of our lead advisors for International Student Success. She has been working in the field of international education since 1992. Her experience includes teaching, research, curriculum development, managing international student support programs, project management, quality assurance, international education management, and policy development. She has degrees in Arts and Education, and a Master of Education. Her PhD thesis investigated the experiences of international students in the City of Melbourne, Australia.
Paula has dedicated recent years to the professional development of those working with international students and to supporting students themselves in universities, schools and representative organisations. She is part of the content design team for ISANA New Zealand’s Capability Protect Programme in partnership with Education New Zealand, an online resource hub for international education practitioners. Between 2004-2013, Paula led the development and delivery of the online Education Agent Training Course (EATC), The Diploma of International Education Services and the International Student Leadership Program (ISLP) for the Council of International Students Australia. She has been a member of ISANA (International Education Association) since 1994, was its national President and was awarded ISANA life membership in 2006.
What do you consider your career highlights?
Working in the international education field has been so interesting, there are many highlights. I think this is because the sector has grown very rapidly, and the rate of change to universities, as well as to schools, communities and cities, has been remarkable. In Australia, growth and change has created significant opportunities for business activity and has quite profoundly led to social and cultural change. As diversity has increased, so have the skills and knowledge we have acquired. Starting as a secondary and university teacher decades ago, a major highlight has been my involvement in developing and managing the first accredited Diploma of International Services, as well as the Education Agent Training Course and an International Student Leadership Program, all vanguard online programs initiated by International Education Services Ltd. in Brisbane, Australia. The programs have contributed to the professionalisation of people employed across all education-related sectors in Australia and in many other countries.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Epigeum on International Student Success?
I was attracted to the ISS as it is innovative and very timely, offering students guided support, particularly given the challenges and uncertainties faced by new students during the COVID pandemic. I also think Epigeum has produced very interesting and valuable programs, which are current and understand their audiences. Working on the program has been a great opportunity to help shape resources and information which support international students at the beginning of their student journey. I have always believed that well-prepared students will find the adjustment to studying overseas easier. Providing reliable, easily-accessible material supports not only students but also their enrolling institutions.
What was the most satisfying part of working on International Student Success?
I have enjoyed seeing the ISS develop from the planning, writing and then final stages becoming a refined product. The process has been [was?] deliberate and meticulous, so I’ve enjoyed being part of this, especially the guidance and care provided by Naomi and Katie. Seeing the content form through the work of the writers shows, to me, their expertise and their understanding of international students’ experience emerging in the modules. The online workshop sessions have been fun, too. I will continue to look forward to the program rolled out by universities, as a meaningful and effective way to support and inform their prospective and commencing students.
What are you currently working on outside of Epigeum?
I maintain a resources-based website for people working in international education and work with education groups to review and develop professional capacities. This is very rewarding work and offers professional staff coming into international education a base from which to build up knowledge and skills. A significant project I’m currently involved in as a content designer is the Capability Protect Project, led by ISANA NZ and funded by the New Zealand Government. This project is building substantial online resources that will support professional development. I’m greatly enjoying the teamwork involved and sharing experiences with my New Zealand colleagues.
What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy being busy. I like to be writing something, reading something, growing something, going somewhere, playing with grandchildren, tinkering with music, enjoying food with family and friends, or creating a general mess by starting several tasks at once. Most enjoyable is gardening, a bit of knitting, or learning a new (simple) piano piece – or being immersed in a good novel. I try to learn, and improve, things I might have started as a younger person, so that the teachers of my past haven’t, in the end, wasted their time! I love to travel overseas, but having been living with clipped wings for a while, local travelling has still been a pleasure when it’s been possible.
Made up of four clear and concise modules, International Student Success will equip undergraduate and postgraduate international students with the knowledge, skills, and understanding that are central to preparing for, and adjusting to, university life in Australia.
Packed full of practical tips, real student voices, and “myth-busting” exercises, this holistic programme will address a range of key concerns and issues, including culture shock, effective communication, and finding support away from home – using a rich array of dynamic, interactive content to deliver core information, manage expectations, and build confidence.