International Student Story - Wathnak Vy

Wathnak Vy portrait

Wathnak Vy was recently awarded Young Citizen of the Year by the City of Adelaide, and the 2021 Australia Day Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures. 

From Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Wathnak has recently graduated from a Bachelor of Social Sciences with a Bachelor of International Development. While he was completing his degree, Wathnak used his interest in counselling and psychotherapy to guide his studies in anthropology. He has worked as a case manager and counsellor with PEACE Multicultural Services at Relationships South Australia, and helped the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through his work with mental health support services. 


Tell us about your recent achievements.

The University of Adelaide has encouraged me to ‘think global.' I wanted to show my strengths in leadership and connect this to the community. 

Fortunately enough, I got a job with PEACE Multicultural Services at Relationships Australia, South Australia as a case manager and counsellor. I have worked to empower young people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities to get involved in the mental health sector. A result of this has been the work I've done to assist in the launch of a new program called ‘ASK PEACE’. ASK PEACE is a virtual mental health service for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, living in South Australia, who have been impacted by COVID-19. The ASK PEACE team works collaboratively with a network of mental health support services that have been established by SA Health to address the needs of people dealing with the many challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Being a registered counsellor with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), I knew I had to do more. I started working towards this goal by launching the University club ‘Cambodian Students of Adelaide’, where I spent 2 to 3 hours a day providing e-counselling support free of charge to members. The news started to spread amongst domestic students, international students onshore and offshore, and scholarship students. In total, I have assisted more than 230 students from March until December in 2020. 


Wathnak Vy speaking

Wathnak delivering his 2021 Australia Day Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures acceptance speech at the ground of Government House

What is your goal once you have completed your degree?

The two degrees both work excellently together for me. They have empowered me to continue developing the knowledge and skills to approach challenges by drawing on expertise from development geographers, political scientists, resource economists and development practitioners. I would sincerely like to thank Dr. Alison Dundon and Professor Andrew Skuse for their endorsement and guidance in the fields of community development and anthropology, especially the knowledge they have been given to me throughout my time at the University.


Wathnak with Lord Mayor

Wathnak with The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Sandy Verschoor

What do you miss about your home country?

The festivals, the love and the connection to land. I am sure all of my friends felt the same way as well – that is why I have tried to connect with StudyAdelaide, Relationships Australia, and the Student and Wellbeing team to try and have more events both online and face-to-face whenever possible.


Wathnak receiving award

Wathnak receiving the Leadership Award in Language and Culture at Government House with The. Hon Michelle Lensink MLC, Minister for Human Services

What is your favourite thing about living in Adelaide?

The food (of course) and the travel distance. Honestly, the University of Adelaide is super close to everything. After lectures, I can just pop across the road to have lunch (and I never say no to shopping as well!).


What support have you received from the University during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The events and connections I've made. I really value the feeling and reassurance that I'm not alone. 


What is your favourite memory from studying at the University of Adelaide?

I'm not sure if I'm the only one who feels this way, but the more I study, the more questions I have (which is an excellent thing). This motivates me to continue my research and investigate more into the world we are living today – I want to work out how else I can offer my help and support to those in need.

Tagged in students, international students, cambodia, international student story, Australia Day awards, City of Adelaide, announcement, announcements