Laura Cheftel: making a world of difference
1 November 2019
Laura Cheftel from the 360 International team knows how valuable an overseas internship or exchange is for a global education.
Sometimes when plans get derailed, life works out for the better.
Laura Cheftel did her undergraduate degree at Oxford, majoring in French and philosophy and taught in France for a year as part of it. She was offered a place on the Masters of International Education programme at Edinburgh University and was all geared up to go. But at the 11th hour, the young Aucklander’s funding fell through.
“So I came home looking for a stop-gap job. A two-month contract came up at the University as Outbound Group Scholarships Coordinator on the 360 International team. I really enjoyed that and then a full-time role came up as one of four 360 International Advisers and I got it.
“So yes, I would love to have done a masters, but I have found a very rewarding job anyway. And I love being home in New Zealand.”
Laura, who grew up in Titirangi, also loves helping students have an international education experience, knowing the benefits it can bring. Her role is to raise awareness and help people work through the process for the multitude of outbound scholarships on offer.
She has recently wrapped up all the logistics involved in sending off a couple of groups who received Prime Minister’s Scholarships, one to Latin America and one to Asia.
The internship blog gave me a massive insight into how impactful these programmes are for the students.
The Prime Minister’s Scholarship Programme, which began in 2013 and is for groups or individuals, is highly competitive. This summer, University of Auckland students will be on internships in China, India, Mexico and Brazil, thanks to the Prime Minister’s Scholarships to Asia and Latin America. The University secured around $740,000 for 75 awards in the latest round, equating to more than 50 percent of the funds awarded to New Zealand universities.
Laura assists individual students applying for scholarships too, by running workshops to help give them the greatest chance of success.
“The scholarships are generous and cover flights, any programme fees and a stipend,” says Laura. “So applicants have to show the reason for their trip aligns with the goals of the scholarship and that can be about the relationship New Zealand is building with a region or country at a government level.”
Goals include a demonstrative link to New Zealand’s education, economic or trade agenda in the region they’re heading to.
“If I’m writing up an application for a programme that’s happening in Colombia, for example, I have to really ask how it’s going to benefit New Zealand and our engagement there.”
As well as the PM’s Scholarships, there are many other outbound opportunities including semester exchange, short-term programmes and global internships. Laura says students find out about the scholarships through word of mouth and information sessions that are regularly held in the 360 International office.
“There’s a growing interest. Our workshop earlier this year had 48 students attend but the most recent one had 120.”
Social media may play a part in raising awareness of what’s available. Scholarship recipients are expected to blog and post on social media about their amazing global experiences with appropriate hashtags such as #PMSLA (Prime Minister’s Scholarship Latin America).
“The opportunities are a lot more visible now. If we want to continue to get funding, given that the environment is so much more competitive, then we have to show Education NZ that we’re really working hard to meet the goals. Selected students need to be aware of their role as ambassadors for New Zealand and the University.
“With CDES (Career Development and Employability Services) we created a blog on Wordpress and the students were told to blog at least once a week and they were really good at that. From December to February that blog had nearly 10,000 views.
“The internship blog gave me a massive insight into how impactful these programmes are for the students.”
While time spent away for some programmes is credit-bearing towards the students’ degrees, many programmes don’t allow that, which is something being worked on, especially with internships.
But when students get full-time job offers from their host companies overseas or informal opportunities for when they finish their degree, it puts the icing on the cake.
“A really rewarding element for me is being able to help mobilise Māori and Pacific students through funded short-term programmes,” says Laura. “Of nearly 50 students on Prime Minister’s Scholarship-funded internships last summer, a third of the cohort were Māori or Pacific. What they wrote about in their blog posts was so powerful and led to forming an indigenous student panel session at this year’s Global Internship Conference in July.”
Laura is working on the next programme that received PMSA funding – a four-week trip in India with partner IndoGenius, with 15 places offered to students across New Zealand.
“The students will move around India, going into tech start-ups, meeting with business and community leaders. India is the fourth-largest economy and is rapidly moving up the ranks. A lot of students from India are also coming here.
“So there’s this idea of reciprocity in education. It’s a great opportunity for everyone.”
- Denise Montgomery