Lontya Kalililo was born in Zambia and raised in the US. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce at Torrens University.
Read about her experience moving to Australia and all the personal and professional highlights she experienced since she started studying as an international student with us!
Tell us a bit about your background and where you are originally from.
I am originally from Lusaka, Zambia. I grew up in the United States but moved back to Zambia for my last two years of high school and came to Australia in February 2017. I wanted to travel and study somewhere other than the U.S. or Zambia and I’d heard that Australia was a safe and exciting place to study.
What made you decide to study at Torrens University?
I chose to study at Torrens University because I knew a family friend who had started studying here a year before me and she only had good things to say about Torrens. I decided to look further into the university and was particularly drawn in by the small class sizes as I thought I would have greater access to the lecturers than in a class of 200.
What has been the highlight of studying at Torrens so far?
Studying at Torrens University has been an amazing experience for me professionally and personally. What I like most about studying with Torrens University are the support services that are in place. For example, I have received invaluable advice and help from our Wakefield campus Industry consultant. My Business Success Coach has been another key figure in helping me reach my goals and overall the student services team as well. I also like that we have a student council that is strictly run by students for students. The SRC has taught me most of my soft skills and leadership skills.
“When I arrived here from Zambia it took me a long time to adjust and feel at home. I found myself struggling with cultural shock and loneliness which ultimately led to failing to connect with others. A classmate suggested I join the SRC. After joining I finally began to feel as though I belonged. The SRC taught me how to be a leader and how to be socially responsible, to contribute to something bigger than myself.”
What was it like leaving home and moving to Australia to study?
When I arrived here from Zambia it took me a long time to adjust and feel at home in Australia. I often found myself struggling with culture shock and loneliness which ultimately led to a failure to connect with others. Then in October of 2017, a classmate of mine suggested that I should join the student representative council on campus. I reached out to Thein Vu who was leading the SRC at that time and connected with the rest of the members. I finally began to feel as though I belonged. I eventually took charge of the SRC. The SRC has taught me how to be a leader and how to be socially responsible, to contribute to something bigger than myself.
How has your time at Torrens prepared you for a career?
I began to network and immediately started applying for internship opportunities Eventually, I was hired as a Chartered Accountant Student Representative with CA ANZ. The job was initially posted on Torrens University’s Careers Connect page. Being a student representative has opened up many different doors for me. Through employment evenings and boot camps, I have had the opportunity to meet and network with partners from Ernst and Young, PWC, KPMG and accountants from the Auditor-General’s office and others who have given me invaluable career advice that has helped me in numerous ways as my career progresses.
A few months down the line, Torrens advertised the Adelaide- Engage Work Experience Network on Careers Connect for which I applied and was accepted. I had the amazing experience of working with international students from all the different universities in Australia as a consultant for a firm here in Adelaide. I learned a lot about professionalism and the work culture in Australia through AEWEN and its an experience I will never forget.
Soon after, I learned that CA ANZ offers an opportunity to gain work experience with top accounting firms in Adelaide while studying, through their Achievers Program. Through the Achievers Program process, I went through applications, psychometric tests, video interviews, and assessment centres which had been quite daunting, however, my experience from AEWEN really helped me through this process. I was then contacted by William Buck for an interview for an internship opportunity. Before I left the room, I was offered an internship with the firm beginning January 2019.
“The best advice I would give students is to lean into opportunity and never give up. Give it your best even when you don’t feel like it and I guarantee everything will fall into place.”
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
Currently, I am in the beginning stages of starting a non-profit organisation that aims to prepare marginalized youth in Zambia to join the workplace by offering free programs such as financial literacy courses that teach them lasting skills.
I am also going to stay on with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand as a student representative until I graduate next year. After my internship with William Buck, I hope to stay in the firm part time until I graduate and secure a graduate role. I believe experience is very important so I intend to learn from leaders in industry and then go off to own my own firm. Because the industry is very male dominated and lacks cultural diversity I have often found myself the “different” looking person in the room and so I live by Ursula Burns’ words ” I guarantee you, you will be the minority in the room, and instead of that being a burden, it should be an opportunity for you, to distinguish yourself”. This motto has opened up a lot of doors for me and hopefully next time I’m in a meeting, there will be someone else there that looks “different” and perhaps they won’t feel like a fish out of water.
What advice would you give to other international students?
The best advice I would give students studying at Torrens is to lean into opportunity and also not to give up. If it were easy then everyone would be at the epitome of their goals but you should always strive to give your best even when you don’t feel like it and I guarantee everything will fall into place. I believe representation in every form is very important and so I hope to inspire young people on campus who haven’t quite found their footing yet. I also want students to see that Torrens can help you succeed regardless of whether you’re international or not. I am proud of how far I have come in the last two years and I hope to excel and encourage others to do the same.