Xavier Tilos Villagonzalo, 27, was appointed as Ambassador along with 27 other international students from 23 countries one year after he was first chosen by former Lord Mayor, now Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman.
The Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, who announced the new representatives this year at an official ceremony, said that Brisbane’s international student ambassador program is part of a wider strategy outlined in his Economic Development Plan 2012 – 2031, to deliver a first rate experience for international students and empower them to become strong advocates of the city and promote Brisbane to the world.
This year’s program includes students age between 22 and 42, from some of Brisbane’s largest source markets, including China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Croatia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.
They are studying a range of courses including business, nursing, engineering, journalism and medicine at educational institutions across Brisbane.
Quirk said “International education is our largest export industry and these keen, enthusiastic students are ideally placed to promote Brisbane as a leading international student destination in their home countries.”
“Many will return to their home cities where they may become leaders in industry and government in the future, creating strong, long-term global connections for Brisbane. They also enrich our cultural diversity and play a vital role in demonstrating how vibrant and multicultural Brisbane is,” said Quirk.
Villagonzalo, who was one of only five continuing ambassadors from the 2011 program, said in his first appointment last year, “It’s never a good excuse to mess up your life because you come from a broken family or you’re parents have passed away. All the more reasons that you need to twist the fate of your life to your advantage.”
Orphaned at an early age in Dumaguete, he struggled in life as his mother died in an accident involving a passenger jeepney which fell off the cliff of Bondo, Siaton in 1994, when he was at the age of 9, and his father died in diabetes complications.
A former youth volunteer of the Diocese of Dumaguete (Commission on Youth), Villagonzalo finished his Bachelor of Mass Communication degree in 2006 at Silliman with a YMCA Outstanding Student Award of Negros Oriental in the same year.
He also served as chairperson of the Silliman University Corps of Campus Ambassadors for two consecutive years 2004-2006.
As part of his role, he will be using a variety of tools to communicate his real life experiences, such as Facebook, Twitter, and regular blogs on their ambassador profiles at www.studybrisbane.com.
Some of the formal activities will include media interviews, official visiting delegations to Brisbane and hosting media familiarization tours.
At the same time, he is expected to graduate his Bachelor of Information Technology degree this year at Queensland University of Technology.
Deiter Dizon, an alumnus of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños joined Villagonzalo in the ambassadorial role last year but only the Negrense got the appointment this year.
The Chamber of Commerce & Industry Australia-Philippines supported the student ambassadors’ initiative, through the Filipino Students in Brisbane (an organization founded by Villagonzalo and Dizon), to help the victims of both Typhoon Sendong and the earthquake that hit the province of Negros Oriental.
Rev. Msgr. Julius Heruela sent Villagonzalo a message through Facebook saying, “We received the box with clothes and foot wears. Thank you so much for your concern and generosity to the victims of floods and earthquake. This will go a long way. May the Good Lord bless you and the Filipino students in Australia. (www.ugnayan.com)