The Connect and Learn Series (a collaborative approach)

Ms Bibiana  Moreno1, Mr Sahil Puri2, Mr Gary Lee1

1City Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 2UniLodge, Melbourne, Australia

When the global pandemic forced international students into a Stage 4 lockdown in Victoria, City of Melbourne and UniLodge introduced the ‘Connect and Learn’ series; an initiative to support and engage international students through a series of virtual events and activities.

Collaboratively, they offered a diverse range of skills-based, wellbeing-focused workshops in the areas of health care, speech interview and communication, fitness, food, arts and entertainment.

Delivered through Zoom, these workshops aimed at introducing new activities for international students to connect, have fun, learn new skills and make new friends. Workshops included a Colombian street food cooking class, conversations about migratory grief, a fitness session and an introduction to AFL.

The workshops were presented by members of the Melbourne community who volunteered their time and knowledge to engage and support international students. Most facilitators are former international students.

Presented by three former international students, the presentation will highlight the different types of opportunities that were offered to students, what worked, what did not work and the lessons we learnt along the way.


Bibiana Moreno is a former international student from Colombia. She is passionate about cultural diversity, sustainable tourism practices and volunteer opportunities. She initiated and led the Connect and Learn Series to facilitate community connection and to help international students connect and create networks during the Pandemic lockdown.

Sahil Puri is a former international student from India. He has been in the current role at Unilodge for over three years and is passionate about issues of isolation, identity and belonging of young people, particularly international students. He understands that a sense of connection is critical for mental health and wellbeing of students, especially those who do not have a strong social and family network around them.

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