Sangria, Paella and Student Power: The New Definition of Networking Dinner

Erase all of your preconceptions when it comes to networking dinners. Just a group of old people going blah blah blah with each other? That’s certainly not the way we do things here in AIA Buddy Program! Imagine funky. Imagine style.

Imagine the freedom of moving about where you can meet and socialise with more than the four people you sit with.


AIA Buddy Program held its first ever networking dinner on the 6th of September at the NERAM Harvest. We kicked off at 5pm with around 40 members of UNE and Armidale’s student groups, services and supports signing up at the door where our members greeted them with welcoming smiles, two cups of beans and a fine glass of sangria for everyone! Student representation included ENACTUS, AYCC, UNEWS, ASPIRE, TuneFM, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, UNE Saudi Student Association, Indonesian Student Association, Bhutanese Student Association, Africans in New England, Wright Village, Nucleus, UNESA and AIABP.

After some initial mingling, the surprise was finally unveiled when it was announced that everyone would be starring in our very own Master Chef challenge - making paella for the dinner! This famous Spanish dish became the contest of the night as the attendees got divided into groups. Everyone was in for the win, and no one was giving up as they fired up their paella and chopped away the meat and vegetables. The folks at NERAM Harvest sure knew how to keep everyone happy!

Cooking paella2

Then, after all the cooking was done, everyone was bragging proudly of their awesome paella. And, even though there can be only one winning team, everyone was already a winner that night with their effort and mindset to embrace new things. Once we all sat down for dinner together, a series of short interview videos were played through the night. Student groups and services alike were asked a set of questions regarding their involvement and contribution with the student groups and what they need or can provide to make them better. The responses were overwhelming and it took one of our staff until 9 AM that very morning to finish the editing before getting any sleep. AIA Buddy Program sure never do things half way.

With so many passionate student groups working tirelessly towards engaging and assisting both international and domestic students at UNE, this networking dinner aimed to provide an opportunity for the student groups to meet each other, as well as explore the kinds of support they could get from around the university and town to improve the functioning of their group. It was also an opportunity for the services to find out what exactly the students need in order to best assist them with current and future projects they endeavour to bring forward.

From the responses of those interviewed, we can see that the students are in need of further financial support to sustain their groups. Also, student participation and awareness were also heavily discussed in the videos, with many students suggesting tapping into the external students to be involved in student groups and on campus activities. Another main suggestion was to improve the communication between student groups, or even working with one another in a single project with shared goals. We are definitely going somewhere here with different groups of students putting up suggestions and not being afraid to do so.

AIABP Committee

From the responses we got of our networking dinner, it seemed the night was indeed a success. We hope the contacts all of us made that day will help furthering each students group and broadening our scope for the future. After all, we do not exist to compete with one another, but we co-exist for the betterment of the students, so that they will advance through these experiences. One day, we hope these experiences will inspire others to step up like us and keep the student groups alive within UNE for as long as this university stands.

 - Written by Melalin Mahavongtrakul and Deki Wangmo, edited by AIABP Committee

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