Friends’ opinions can weigh heavily on deciding where to study, just ask Willem New. Hearing about a friend’s positive experience studying a Bachelor of Music at Wesley Institute (now Excelsia College) after making a career change from information technology was the catalyst Willem needed when he decided to enrol in the same course, also making the shift from IT and customer service-based roles. Returning to study 10 years after leaving school is no easy transition, however Willem found Excelsia College helpful for getting back into the mindset of learning new things. ‘The College pushed me in my musical learning and helped me become a better musician through constant opportunities to perform. It was an environment that was vibrant, engaging and growth oriented. I found a community of amazing artists who were all extremely willing to help each other grow and learn. That hasn’t changed – I’m still in touch with many of my peers from my time as a Bachelor of Music student,’ explains Willem.


After graduating from Excelsia College with a Bachelor of Music in 2012, Willem went on to complete his Graduate Diploma in Education in 2015. Now he works as a music teacher at Greenacre Baptist Christian Community School (GBCCS), a small independent school in south-west Sydney. As the sole music teacher, Willem hopes to inspire students to enjoy music and learning in general from a range of subjects. ‘At GBCCS I help to produce musical productions, help students to smash out amazing performances and journey with them on an exploration of who they are and who they can become,’ he says.


One of Willem’s favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 41:10 which says, ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Willem explains, ‘There’s a lot of fear everywhere these days and in the creative and performing arts department at my school, something we focus on is the idea that we can “create without fear”. Kids are fearful of failing, fearful of being ridiculed, fearful of looking like a goose in front of their peers, fearful of someone else being better than them. God has made us to be creative beings and He is always with us, so we have nothing to fear when we create but everything to gain. Any failures are an opportunity to learn and do it better next time; anyone who’s better than us is someone to be inspired by, not defeated by; any naysayers are an opportunity to strengthen resolve and overcome challenge,’ Willem explains.

As for his highlights during his time at Excelsia College, Willem’s end-of-degree recital was a definite highlight. ‘Performing incredible pieces with a massive band of fellow students who really pushed me to play my best was absolutely wonderful. Beyond that, memories of rehearsing choir parts for performance at the Sydney Opera House, learning how to really compose new music and jamming out tunes at the drop of a hat will always stay with me,’ he says.


If Willem’s story has struck a chord with you, why not explore Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Music, Master of Music or Master of Teaching (Secondary)?

Willem New – How one friend’s encouragement was the catalyst for a career change

Vonnie Ho has travelled a winding road in her pursuit to becoming a counsellor, juggling family expectations and changing courses. Working part-time in the hospitality industry whilst studying a Bachelor of Business exposed Vonnie to a diverse range of individuals and hearing her colleagues and customers past experiences, traumas, and family history ultimately affirmed her decision to become a counsellor. Vonnie decided to commit to this dream in 2019 when she commenced her Master of Counselling at Excelsia College. Fast forward to May 2022 and she enjoyed graduating with her cohort at Wesley Mission Conference Centre!


Vonnie was attracted to Excelsia because she wanted to learn counselling theory not only from a clinical world view, but also a Christian world view. ‘The diversity of the community in Excelsia College gives us the opportunity to make friends and connections with students within not only the counselling school but also other schools. At the same time, the small classes allowed us to build strong relationships with our peers. The staff members such as student support and the chaplain organise a lot of college activities, chapel services and Bible studies which create a caring and supportive environment for the student’s learning in college.’ As a Christian, Vonnie enjoyed getting involved in the College’s Bible study and also answering questions from her classmates who were exploring Christianity. ‘I felt very encouraged by my peers and also enjoyed the time to pray together and reading God’s Word,’ she explains.

During her time at Excelsia, Vonnie was trained with different counselling skills, had placement experience in the field and received one-on-one confidential counselling on campus as part of her course. ‘This gave me a great opportunity to foster my personal growth as a counsellor.’ Now, Vonnie is juggling different jobs and exploring her future career in counselling within a variety of different work contexts. This includes working with immigrants, using her multilingual abilities to relate to clients in English, Chinese and Malay, as well as working in one of the biggest psychiatric hospitals in Australia, with an Employee Assistance Program company and also running her own private practice.


One of Vonnie’s favourite quotes is by Henri J. M. Nouwen which says, ‘Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of freshwater from the depth of our pain.’ Vonnie explains, ‘I trust that each and every experience of our life shapes us for who we are and they are all different gifts of God. Sometimes we may have difficult feelings around, and that’s how it makes us human, the experiences in joy and trials walking with God.’ Vonnie values the importance of therapeutic relationships and in providing a safe space where individuals feel heard and supported with life’s challenges.

Studying during the beginning of the pandemic was both challenging and unsettling as classes moved online and students and staff didn’t know when they would be back on campus. Despite this, Excelsia College aimed to provide practical support to staff and students doing it particularly tough, something Vonnie is grateful for. ‘Even though we were unable to meet physically, I could still see how the staff and students were willing to support one another. The students also came up with a food donation drive for their friends who were financially struggling. I remember how a lot of our lecturers checked in with us, knowing that some of the students were struggling, which still warms my heart to this day.’


Part of Excelsia College’s values are to exemplify the life of Christ in our commitments, actions and in our relationships, and it is this community which Vonnie describes as ‘Christlike, inclusive and authentic’. Vonnie is reminded of God’s faithfulness, both in the good times and the bad times, also reflected through her favourite Bible verse Romans 8:28 which says, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ This verse reminds me again of how God is faithful to each and every one of us, whether in good times or bad times. We can trust that God still loves us even if living in difficult times or uncertainties.’ Vonnie is now able to integrate her faith into her work as a counsellor and offers faith-based services to clients.


If you want to study counselling from a Christian perspective in a nurturing, supportive environment, why not explore our Graduate Diploma of Counselling and Master of Counselling? Alternative pathways are available if you do not have the required study.

Vonnie Ho | Master of Counselling

Karen Anson graduated from Excelsia College with a Master of Music in 2019, with an interest in low flutes (flutes that play below the range of the standard orchestral C flute). For Karen, wanting to finish her degree at a smaller campus in person drew her to Excelsia, an environment that she describes as ‘welcoming, supportive and community minded’.

 

‘I felt very welcomed from the start by the other students from the music department and staff. I enjoyed being a part of the practical shows and concert practice (cp’s) and as a master’s student I felt welcomed and happy to be the first to present a practice-led research thesis of Australian low flute repertoire,’ explains Karen. For nearly 22 years Karen has been part of concert bands, first joining only six months after starting flute lessons! She performed with South Pacific Concert Band for over seven years and for the past two years has played with Camden Community band.

 

Karen was working for the Department of Education as a primary school teacher when she first commenced her studies at Excelsia College. She had experience working as a conductor and tutor of woodwind and brass instruments within the public school system, but she was striving towards a lifelong goal. ‘The most motivation I had throughout the degree was the fact that I was completing a lifelong goal of becoming a music teacher. Some mantras I lived by throughout my studies are “never give up” and “follow your dreams” and I still carry these mantras with me to this day.’

 

Excelsia helped open doors for Karen to work within new school contexts. ‘Now, I teach a school wind band program through the Amadeus Music instrumental program within the Sydney Catholic Schools system, something I hadn’t done previously.’

 

One of Karen’s highlights during her time at Excelsia from 2017 to 2019 was presenting and premiering two new Australian low flute pieces to the College community as part of her thesis, one of which has now been published through Middle C Music company, who publish music scores. She performed this piece on flute (not alto flute) for the Band Association of New South Wales’ state solo contest on 25 June this year, in the open flute and piccolo section and was awarded first place!

 

She also premiered an alto flute piece for her last recital at Excelsia. ‘Taking part in showcase nights as a master’s student alongside the undergraduate students is up there as one of my favourite times at the College,’ says Karen. ‘I had a wonderful small support group of friends and my fabulous flute teacher who totally believed in my abilities even when I didn’t and never let me settle for second best or give up.’

 

If you have a passion for music like Karen and want to study an instrument or specialise in a particular area of music, why not explore where Excelsia College’s Master of Music can take you? With passionate staff and leading industry professionals to learn from, Excelsia College can be the place that will extend you.

 

Karen Anson – How growing confidence in her musical abilities led to a winning tune!

For Anthony Barden, Excelsia College was the clear choice when deciding where to complete his Master of Teaching (Primary). The 2016 graduate noticed that the College placed emphasis on a Christian framework in the course and he saw firsthand the faithfulness of his lecturers when he first met with them. ‘It was clear that they took their teaching roles as a God-given responsibilities and that they worked hard to integrate biblical truth into their subjects,’ explains Anthony.

 

The support of a learning environment, staff and peers can be instrumental in helping to motivate and inspire an individual in pursuing their chosen profession, something Anthony personally experienced. ‘Excelsia is a faithful, professional, and encouraging environment. I felt really connected to other like-minded individuals (both staff and my peers). It was good to make these connections as it helped to spur me on in my calling to be an educator. I found the feedback from Excelsia staff during my practicum placements very constructive and helpful for shaping my reflective thinking on my teaching practice. This set a great tone for further development even once I’d finished my studies at Excelsia.’

 

Studying at Excelsia helped Anthony become effective as a teacher in a variety of Christian contexts, opening up opportunities to work as a children’s minister, primary school chaplain, Christian primary school teacher and Quiz Worx ministry worker, sharing the Gospel with children across Australia. Anthony’s favourite Bible verse is Romans 8:28 which says, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.’ Anthony dwells on this verse as he undertakes a transition period. ‘God is always present and active, no matter the circumstances,’ he explains as he awaits the right opportunity to work in full time children’s ministry in whatever capacity God provides. ‘God has provided the opportunity for further studies in education at a higher level in a Master of Education, time for reflection on how to grow as a disciple and to seek to glorify Him in the use of my time.’

 

Excelsia’s graduation ceremony was a highlight for Anthony, helping him to feel a close connection to God and students. ‘There was a really special moment in our graduation where we were serenaded by some of the creative and performing arts students; I remember them coming in really close, surrounding us with music and the love of the Holy Spirit. I felt really blessed and cared for from these students whom I’d never met before – it was a clear work of God.’

 

If you want to be taught by inspiring staff and develop academically and spiritually, stretch your thinking, and grow as an individual, why not explore Excelsia College’s School of Education? With courses available including a Master of Teaching (Primary), Master of Teaching (Secondary) and Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (Birth to 5), you never know where your teaching qualifications could take you. You could use it for ministry opportunities just like Anthony has!

Alumni Story - Anthony Alumni

Yumi Schaefer (nee Lee) completed a Graduate Diploma of Dance Therapy at Wesley Institute (now Excelsia College) in 2000. At the time, Excelsia College was the only Christian college in the world which offered a dance therapy course. For Yumi, God revealed Excelsia College to her when she was living in Japan, where she was born and raised as a third-generation Korean. Yumi explains the experience of finding Excelsia as God’s rich pathway and His divine leading. ‘When I was in Japan, I was seeking my future mission and heard God’s audible voice for dance therapy, so I started looking for courses in an Australian school guide. God showed me Excelsia College, the only Christian college in the world to offer dance therapy at the time. It was God-sent and it still gives me goosebumps,’ explains Yumi.


Yumi had previously studied in America and visited Australia a few times so she didn’t experience a culture shock upon arriving to Australia in 1998, however God was her constant anchor in adapting to a new home. ‘I dwelled on Bible verses throughout these times, including 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” and Nehemiah 8:10 which says, “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. Yumi has been a born-again Christian for the past 25 years and finds she is closest to God when worshipping and praising Him through creative expressions like dancing, drawing and painting. ‘As a student, I had significant spiritual growth at college. I have a life calling in dance therapy and creative art ministry. This is truly a heavenly gift for my life,’ explains Yumi. ‘The Christian life is the most exciting and joyful way of living above all, and I want the world to know it.’


It wasn’t just an education and zest for God through the creative pursuits that Yumi picked up, she also met her future husband! The pair have now been married for 20 years and currently reside in Brisbane. Yumi leads an active lifestyle working as a dance therapist, fitness, and Pilates instructor as well as a personal trainer. She works with a wide variety of client groups, from children to the elderly with various physical and mental conditions. She is passionate about the healing and empowerment for personal growth and change that can be brought about by moving our body in creative and expressive ways. It was in fact a serious health and life crisis and becoming a born again Christian that led Yumi to pursue this area. ‘With his tangible leading and healing, I was led to dance therapy and a passion for healing and health ministry’, Yumi says.


Yumi attributes her joy for dance to the College. ‘Excelsia helped me to gain joy of worship dance and creative art which I never thought existed. When I look back, it is truly Excelsia which shaped my life to the fullest and led all my dreams to come true.’

One of Yumi’s dreams was to publish a Faith Art Journal which incorporates Bible verses and beautiful art. She has realised her dream after publishing a book in 2020 called Sparking Joy. The book is a 30-day creative and reflective devotion designed to ‘spark joy’ in your life. This includes discovering your inner creative energy and playfulness given from our Creator and completing a daily gratitude and thanksgiving.


If you are interested in pursuing a career in the creative and performing arts industry, why not explore Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art? If you would like to educate the next generation of dancers, you can choose to major in dance in our Master of Teaching (Secondary). Perhaps you want to work with dancers or performers in a relational context. Why not consider a Master of Counselling? You never know how you could combine two industries.

Alumni News Yumi Schaefer | Excelsia

Anthea Agoratsios graduated from Excelsia College in 2021 with a Master of Counselling, having previously completed her undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art (majoring in Performance) in 2017. I always knew after I completed my drama degree that I wanted to pursue counselling and specialise in working with actors and other creatives on a therapeutic level. The Master of Counselling offered by Excelsia covered a wide range of therapeutic modalities that aligned with the kind of therapy style I wanted to pursue. I felt a degree like this one would be a great starting point for me,’ Anthea explains.


Over her seven years spent at Excelsia, Anthea has seen the community grow and change as the College has expanded and diversified in its course offerings. Despite the changes, she has noticed the consistent love and support within the student community. ‘Excelsia is welcoming, diverse, and creative; I fell in love with the warmth and hospitality of the community atmosphere. The students I have met during my studies have left a lasting and special impact on my life; the memories I have made are ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Through Excelsia I have met my chosen family and for that I will be forever grateful,she says.


Life can be scary and uncertain at times, especially during seasons of change such as completing your studies and moving into your chosen career, however Anthea feels that the student community at Excelsia has supported her in this transition. ‘No matter how uncertain things may seem, there will always be a support network rallying behind you while you complete the transition. Additionally, the importance of hard work, dedication and resilience when striving to achieve your ambitions has been reinforced countless times.

Anthea has many highlights and defining moments from her seven years spent at Excelsia College, however a defining theme she has noticed is her personal and professional growth. Both counselling and acting training require a great deal of introspection and, for me personally, that has led to an immense amount of transformation. I can sometimes hardly recognise the girl that started at Excelsia seven years ago and I am extremely proud of the woman I’ve become,’ says Anthea.


After finishing her studies at the end of last year, Anthea took some well-deserved time off to travel. Now, she is working as a clinic coordinator at a healthcare clinic whilst continuing to aspire towards her goals to becoming a counsellor.


We are proud to have inspiring graduates such as Anthea who embody the College’s values of hard work and a desire to grow not only intellectually but also emotionally. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for Anthea as she uses her knowledge gained to assist actors and creatives. If you want to be transformed, why not explore what Excelsia College can offer you? With courses in counselling, social work, education, creative and performing arts and business, you will be extended in ways you never thought possible.


Enquire with us today by visiting https://excelsia.edu.au/

Anthea Agoratsios – A winning combination of drama and counselling

For Joy Chayna, finding a college or university that was community-focused and backed by strong Christian values was very important to her when deciding on where to study. After finishing her New South Wales Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 2016, Joy didn’t have her heart set on a particular course. ‘I was never the person who knew what I wanted to do post-school,’ Joy explains. One thing was certain though, music was in her blood. Growing up with a musical mother, both Joy and her brother were enrolled in piano lessons from a young age. Later, as a teenager, Joy was involved in school bands, jazz improvisation, and various ensembles at the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music. ‘Those were my extracurricular activities and I thought that was the natural pathway because that was my thing.’ Sadly, Joy’s mother passed away when she was in Year 11 but her death was the catalyst for Joy deciding to carry on her mother’s love for music and all the hard work her mother had invested in her.


Joy also didn’t have her heart set on a particular place of study. ‘I was weighing up whether to attend my local uni, the University of Wollongong, to study a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Music or audition for the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) or The Conservatorium of Music (both located in Sydney).’ In 2016, after attending an Excelsia College open day, Joy found what she was looking for. ‘I noticed that everyone was so nice and seemed to know one another and it was a homely environment. Community is my big thing, and I love people and intentionality, so seeing a college that stands for that is something I wanted to be a part of. That was my process of thinking around Excelsia.’


After successfully being accepted into a Bachelor of Music (Classical piano), Joy decided to defer to do a gap year with Morling College. ‘I wanted to be a year older and have a bit more maturity before I came to Excelsia,’ Joy explains. In 2018, Joy joined the Excelsia community and cemented her Christian faith in the process. ‘I’ve always been part of a really strong Christian family and grew up in a very protective and sheltered Christian bubble.’ Excelsia played a key role in contributing to Joy’s personal faith. ‘Moving out of home as an 18-year-old, I found meeting new people at Excelsia was really formative for me in being more concrete in my values and for standing up for what I believe in … Excelsia really helped me to form my identity and was a safe space to express my values … The lecturers were always up for a chat.’


During her studies, Joy was also working part-time at a music school where she taught piano. With her years of experience performing to crowds, it’s a surprise to hear that performance anxiety plagued Joy, stripping her of completely enjoying music. Thankfully, Excelsia was able to help Joy overcome these anxieties. ‘I had performance anxiety and it was very debilitating, I wouldn’t be able to move. But I had a really nurturing piano teacher who was relational, so we almost had mini counselling sessions in our lessons. It was really helpful to understand how deeply music is not just a physical thing where I play; it’s an emotional thing as well.’ The performance degree also allowed Joy to discover who she was as a person. ‘When you’re forced to work in group situations to do assessments and encouraged to come to different events, you’re constantly being forced out of your comfort zone. It’s almost like you can’t feel isolated going to the College because you’re surrounded by community and events.’


Excelsia’s creative and performing arts programs expose students to a variety of front of house roles, as well as behind-the-scenes work. ‘Because of its size, Excelsia enables you to do things in a way that a big college couldn’t do. Because you’re known by everyone, you can get involved in more unique ways,’ Joy explains. ‘We got to be stage manager one week or pack down equipment another week and I feel like these tasks encouraged a sense of ownership. You get to do every job at least once, so it gives you a taste of it all.’ Joy also had a strong work ethic instilled in her from the teaching staff. ‘The lecturers went above and beyond. I think they really encouraged a system of “this is your responsibility, and we won’t baby you”. They treated us like adults and taught us good life lessons on learning to be responsible for ourselves. It was a balance of tough love but a really kind way of doing it.’

For Joy, the live performances were a highlight of her time at Excelsia. ‘The music students got to perform in classical concerts where we would dress up in fully Shakespearean costume; it was the best thing in the world for the classical buffs! I remember we got to do a porch concert on our teacher’s terrace in Newtown to random people in the street and gigs in Marrickville at cool bars. Those experiences really shaped my time at Excelsia. The campus was also a warm and inviting environment and I honestly just really enjoyed being in the student lounge space and hanging out with people,’ Joy explains.


Since finishing at Excelsia in June this year, Joy has been busy undertaking wedding preparation and continuing to tutor piano at a local music school. Within the next six months, Joy hopes to complete her Early Childhood Education Certificate, and later a Master of Teaching to enable her to teach in schools. As for her long-term goals: ‘I want to create my own music school business to encourage kids in their musical pursuits, but which is also a space where my employees love coming to work. I want the parents of my students to feel known and I want to create a community where people feel safe, accepted, and valued. If I can do that through my musical gifts that would be a fun medium, so I am working towards that. I need a lot of money to start that up – to buy a place, buy some pianos and resources and employ teachers – so that’s a long-term goal,’ says Joy.


In terms of what advice Joy would give to future Excelsia students, she recommends going in with an open mind. ‘It enables you to make the most of the opportunity and meet people, and get involved in any activities. It’s up to you to fully enjoy the experience here. For me, I got to meet lots of students and, through my assessments, people in the industry, which was super formative not only for being in the industry but for life. You can sit back, complain and not do things but if you go in with an open mind and a positive attitude it can be a really enjoyable experience and you can learn tons and meet people.’


We can’t wait to see where Joy ends up using her musical gifts. If you feel inspired by Joy’s journey, why not explore Excelsia’s Bachelor of Music course

Community and Christian fellowship are what attracted this student to Excelsia | Joy Chayna

You never know the impact your actions and words can have on shaping a person’s future career. For Jenelle Magtibay, it was the nurture and encouragement of her Year 11 and 12 music teacher that led her to enrol in Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Music. The 21-year-old, who completed her course this year, chose to major in music performance, with voice as her primary instrument and piano and bass guitar as her supporting instruments. Jenelle is putting her training to good use and currently working as a music teacher at Real Rhythm Studio in Fairfield, Ignite Music in Dural and a private tutor at her own business, Jenelle’s Singing School. Outside of Excelsia, Jenelle is also involved in her local church community where she serves on worship band.

Music has played an integral part of Jenelle’s life, particularly during her high school years when she developed her passion for vocals and R’n’B, contemporary and soul music. ‘I pursued music all my way through high school from Years 7 to 12 and then chose to do Music 1 for my HSC (Higher School Certificate) course. Since Year 9, I knew I wanted to pursue music in some way. I always had the dream to study music therapy, and it was my Music 1 music teacher who encouraged me to consider enrolling in a music course. She was very much like a mum to me, and she’d always guide me and take care of me and make sure that I was doing my work.’

After reaching the end of her Bachelor of Music course, Jenelle became unsure about pursuing music therapy, based on the audition component. ‘I could do the singing part but wasn’t sure about the instrumentation to accompany myself so I was asking God, “What else can I do?” I felt teaching was placed back into my heart; it’s something I also wanted to do as a kid.’ Jenelle was also encouraged by her teachers at Excelsia College who saw traits in her that could complement teaching. ‘My teachers Dr Lotte Latukefu and Elizabeth Blackwood would always say that I’m a natural leader and good at helping people, so I guess those skills of leading people, helping people and teaching were honed more during my time at Excelsia.’

Now studying her Masters of Secondary Education and Training, Jenelle hopes to become a high school music teacher, specifically educating Year 11 and 12 students. In this role, she hopes to show the same nurture and support she received from her teacher to the next generation of music students. ‘Although I don’t know what kind of teacher I will be until I start teaching in the classroom, I know the most important thing is to have a student and teacher relationship. I want students to come to me and to be able to engage in a positive way.’ The Bachelor of Music prepared Jenelle not only with performance skills but also how to communicate with and teach people with disability, as well as how to navigate students with behavioral issues.

As a committed Christian, Jenelle sees music as a vocation where she can daily demonstrate her faith. ‘Even without saying the word “God”, you can show your Christian faith through loving your students, through caring for them, and even discipline is a way to show you care and love them,’ she explains. It is Excelsia’s Christian values that attracted Jenelle to the College in the first place. ‘I went to a Catholic high school, but reaching the tertiary education stage of my life, I wanted to choose a Christian college. I felt a calling from God to go to the College rather than a secular university. I felt that faith in my classes. Even in class God was there. Post-class we’d talk to the teachers or mentors about life, church, or God if we were struggling. We had a music coordinator who would sit down and have a chat with us and ask us what God would want us to do or what God is teaching us this time. It was really nice to have chats like that.’

It was these conservations and her Christian faith that helped Jenelle to become confident in herself. ‘I learned important life lessons during my time at Excelsia, including sticking to who I know I am in God. This helped me to not sway from my beliefs and I learned that I didn’t need to please other people.’

When asked about how she would describe Excelsia, Jenelle calls it a ‘cosy, friendly, inviting and a close-knit community. ‘I would sit on the couch and say hi to people walking past as they were going to class. I spent every weekday at Excelsia, that’s how much I loved being there and hanging out with my friends, practising and jamming.’

Getting to know teaching staff and students from different faculties opened up opportunities for the music student, who helped to promote the College as student ambassador. Jenelle was also able to put her voice to good use for Excelsia’s 2020 musical Songs From a New World. Due to COVID-19, the College’s drama department decided to produce its very first virtual musical and Jenelle unexpectedly found herself front and centre! ‘My thought was that I was going to help the drama students by singing in it but then the director was like, no, you’re the lead! It was a good opportunity to learn from the drama department before leaving my degree,’ says Jenelle.

Excelsia College is delighted that Jenelle has been able to develop her inner confidence, flourish and continue to grow in her Christian faith. We can’t wait to hear where her voice takes her next! If you feel inspired by Jenelle’s story, why not explore Excelsia’s Bachelor of Music course?

How a teacher’s encouragement helped shape a career path | Excelsia Student

When Priyanka Reddy Allu first stepped foot on Excelsia College’s campus grounds in July 2018, she distinctly remembers having no idea where she was and which way she needed to go. ‘I remember on my first day of orientation, I was so clueless and someone saw me and said, are you okay, is everything fine?’ Like most first-year students, she had no idea how to locate her classroom. Thankfully in a matter of minutes, she’d received a helping hand and found her counselling class. It was that moment that sticks out in Priyanka’s mind as she describes Excelsia College as a place that instantly felt like home.

Making the massive leap from India, Australia’s high quality of education is what first attracted Priyanka to our shores. ‘From the beginning I started looking for courses in Australia. Going through the counselling course description at Excelsia, I was very much interested because it’s not just basics they teach you, but it was the fact that there were more practical units that really drew my attention,’ Priyanka explains. It wasn’t, however, an easy transition for Priyanka to assimilate into a completely new culture and she felt very out of place at the start, homesick and not sure how long she would last in Australia. ‘I was going down mentally, not adjusting to the environment, the house and people; it was a great struggle.’ Priyanka also came with her own cultural expectations and judgements about how people were going to treat her. ‘I wondered who was going to sit with me, but this course proved to me that this was the wrong thinking. We have a very culturally diverse class and that really helped a lot to make me feel comfortable. There’s a lot of peer support and shared group experiences and that was something valuable to the course,’ Priyanka notes.

Back home in India, Priyanka had completed her Bachelor’s in Fashion Technology, combining her passion for painting and exploring different clothing styles. She worked for two years in the field but underwent her own life challenges when she struggled with depression. It was the caring support of a counsellor that acted as the catalyst for Priyanka’s completely new career direction. ‘I just remember the first time I took counselling and the experience that I had, how I was able to connect to my counsellor. The kind of compassion she was providing me and her being open-minded really moved me. Immediately I realised there are enough designers in the world, and I need to get into counselling to help someone else,’ Priyanka explains. She then made the switch to studying a Diploma in Counselling in India and worked for one year in schools and colleges.

Whilst the Diploma in India helped provide Priyanka with a foretaste to counselling, she doesn’t feel like it scratched the surface on what she studied in her Master course. This became evident when she went for her interview at St Vincent’s Hospital and was able to confidently answer all the questions. ‘That’s when I realised that Excelsia College prepared me so well and whatever I shared with them during the interview was enough for them to train me. Looking back, I can confidently say it exceeded my expectations. I feel complete after doing this course, I’m not lacking anything.’ As part of their rigorous training, students are required to undergo 200 hours of counselling and 100 hours of practicum. The last unit students complete is about counselling and their personal experience with clients. ‘I picked up a lot of tricks to compartmentalise and do a lot of self-care as well,’ said Priyanka.

‘I liked the practical work and being able to talk about our own experiences and practise the theories we’ve just learned. Also, the lecturers sharing their own personal experiences were really helpful all round,’ Priyanka explains. ‘It’s not a job where it’s like, here’s this part of theory and this is what you need to do. Every day is constantly rewarding because there’s different clients and theories that we need to apply and different kinds of approaches. It’s very brain stimulating and constant learning and that’s what I love,’ Priyanka said.

Creating a women’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation program is what Priyanka envisaged herself doing when she first decided to take this course; nearly three years on, her dreams are becoming a reality. Following her graduation in November 2020, the Master of Counselling alumnus has been working at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst. Since her practicum in women’s rehabilitation, and after joining the alcohol and drug department of the Mental Health Unit, Priyanka has provided counselling services and created group programs in mindfulness. ‘I was providing individual counselling, sitting with them, giving them support, listening to them and building their trust. I also created group programs on awareness and adapting to change and developing tolerance.’ Priyanka feared she wouldn’t connect with her clients, especially when many of her clients weren’t from the same cultural background. Thankfully it was a positive experience for her, and Priyanka was able to build a rapport with her clients over time, seeing them come up in different places.

Although it has been a challenging two-year journey, Priyanka has felt supported by Excelsia the whole way through. ‘I remember starting my practical during the beginning of lockdown. I joined one place and within two weeks it was closed. I had even moved to another house and bought a car to travel because it was very far from me, located on the outskirts of Sydney. Thankfully I was still able to do my three practicums – one at Excelsia and the others externally – and I was getting the right support and finishing on time due to my visa requirements. Priyanka remembers Bobby Abraham, Chief Admissions, Global Engagement and Partnerships as the first person who made her feel welcome, as well as the School Administrative Coordinator who helped answer questions regarding documents, courses, and enrolments. ‘The College doesn’t let you struggle on your own. There’s proper guidance that comes throughout the journey and there’s always someone who’s ready to help, no wonder what time it is,’ said Priyanka.

Priyanka also noticed the genuine care of the Excelsia teaching staff, something she wasn’t accustomed to. ‘The lecturers made me feel at home and I stopped missing my family…I think that’s very important for students coming from overseas. It was more like a family: comfortable, welcoming, supportive in all ways, not just educationally, and they would always follow up to see if we had good places to live and whether we had part-time jobs…I’ve never experienced such things in India. The lecturers there are super strict; you can’t even call them by their names, you must address them as teacher.’ Excelsia is proud to be an interdenominational Christian-based community and accepting of all cultures and backgrounds. ‘The classes started with prayer to have a safe environment and closed in prayer. Although I’m not Christian, I could feel that energy in the class that it was a very safe space,’ Priyanka says.

Since joining the Excelsia community, Priyanka has developed not only her professional identity but evolved as a whole person. ‘Excelsia definitely helped prepare me to look at things in a non-judgemental way and with an open mind. A lot of self-work and healing has really helped me to become a better person and better understand relationships. I also used to hold negative thoughts but now I’m able to turn them into positive ones and that’s really changing the way I view the relationships I have and the people I surround myself with,’ she says. Priyanka also noticed a contrast between Excelsia’s counselling course and learning structure when she spoke to students from the capstone unit in the practicum, and the knowledge they acquired was very theoretical and they had to do stuff on their own without support. ‘That’s when I knew that I’ve taken so much from this course and the College.’

It doesn’t look like it’s the end of the road when it comes to further studies for Priyanka. ‘I’m planning on studying criminology in the future but for the next 6 to 12 months, I’ll be getting trained in opioid treatment. It’s something very new, and it’s challenging to do the mediation and understand the kind of drugs involved. I want to take part in DBT groups (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), create more group programs, and see how these can be useful to treat alcohol and drug issues.’

Priyanka’s advice to anyone contemplating studying counselling is to start whenever you want to. ‘Whether you’re twenty, thirty, sixty or even ninety years old, you can not only make a difference in others’ lives, but you can also change your world view as you learn to better understand not only yourself but also others.’ We can’t wait to see where Priyanka ends up and we’re thrilled to have been a part of her journey.

To find out more about our counselling courses, please visit our Counselling School page:

excelsia.edu.au/courses/counselling

When Priyanka Reddy Allu first stepped foot on Excelsia College’s campus grounds in July 2018, she distinctly remembers having no idea where she was and which way she needed to go. ‘I remember on my first day of orientation, I was so clueless and someone saw me and said, are you okay, is everything fine?’ Like most first-year students, she had no idea how to locate her classroom. Thankfully in a matter of minutes, she’d received a helping hand and found her counselling class. It was that moment that sticks out in Priyanka’s mind as she describes Excelsia College as a place that instantly felt like home.


Making the massive leap from India, Australia’s high quality of education is what first attracted Priyanka to our shores. ‘From the beginning I started looking for courses in Australia. Going through the counselling course description at Excelsia, I was very much interested because it’s not just basics they teach you, but it was the fact that there were more practical units that really drew my attention,’ Priyanka explains. It wasn’t, however, an easy transition for Priyanka to assimilate into a completely new culture and she felt very out of place at the start, homesick and not sure how long she would last in Australia. ‘I was going down mentally, not adjusting to the environment, the house and people; it was a great struggle.’ Priyanka also came with her own cultural expectations and judgements about how people were going to treat her. ‘I wondered who was going to sit with me, but this course proved to me that this was the wrong thinking. We have a very culturally diverse class and that really helped a lot to make me feel comfortable. There’s a lot of peer support and shared group experiences and that was something valuable to the course,’ Priyanka notes.


Back home in India, Priyanka had completed her Bachelor’s in Fashion Technology, combining her passion for painting and exploring different clothing styles. She worked for two years in the field but underwent her own life challenges when she struggled with depression. It was the caring support of a counsellor that acted as the catalyst for Priyanka’s completely new career direction. ‘I just remember the first time I took counselling and the experience that I had, how I was able to connect to my counsellor. The kind of compassion she was providing me and her being open-minded really moved me. Immediately I realised there are enough designers in the world, and I need to get into counselling to help someone else,’ Priyanka explains. She then made the switch to studying a Diploma in Counselling in India and worked for one year in schools and colleges.


Whilst the Diploma in India helped provide Priyanka with a foretaste to counselling, she doesn’t feel like it scratched the surface on what she studied in her Master course. This became evident when she went for her interview at St Vincent’s Hospital and was able to confidently answer all the questions. ‘That’s when I realised that Excelsia College prepared me so well and whatever I shared with them during the interview was enough for them to train me. Looking back, I can confidently say it exceeded my expectations. I feel complete after doing this course, I’m not lacking anything.’ As part of their rigorous training, students are required to undergo 200 hours of counselling and 100 hours of practicum. The last unit students complete is about counselling and their personal experience with clients. ‘I picked up a lot of tricks to compartmentalise and do a lot of self-care as well,’ said Priyanka.


‘I liked the practical work and being able to talk about our own experiences and practise the theories we’ve just learned. Also, the lecturers sharing their own personal experiences were really helpful all round,’ Priyanka explains. ‘It’s not a job where it’s like, here’s this part of theory and this is what you need to do. Every day is constantly rewarding because there’s different clients and theories that we need to apply and different kinds of approaches. It’s very brain stimulating and constant learning and that’s what I love,’ Priyanka said.


Creating a women’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation program is what Priyanka envisaged herself doing when she first decided to take this course; nearly three years on, her dreams are becoming a reality. Following her graduation in November 2020, the Master of Counselling alumnus has been working at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst. Since her practicum in women’s rehabilitation, and after joining the alcohol and drug department of the Mental Health Unit, Priyanka has provided counselling services and created group programs in mindfulness. ‘I was providing individual counselling, sitting with them, giving them support, listening to them and building their trust. I also created group programs on awareness and adapting to change and developing tolerance.’ Priyanka feared she wouldn’t connect with her clients, especially when many of her clients weren’t from the same cultural background. Thankfully it was a positive experience for her, and Priyanka was able to build a rapport with her clients over time, seeing them come up in different places.


Although it has been a challenging two-year journey, Priyanka has felt supported by Excelsia the whole way through. ‘I remember starting my practical during the beginning of lockdown. I joined one place and within two weeks it was closed. I had even moved to another house and bought a car to travel because it was very far from me, located on the outskirts of Sydney. Thankfully I was still able to do my three practicums – one at Excelsia and the others externally – and I was getting the right support and finishing on time due to my visa requirements. Priyanka remembers Bobby Abraham, Chief Admissions, Global Engagement and Partnerships as the first person who made her feel welcome, as well as the School Administrative Coordinator who helped answer questions regarding documents, courses, and enrolments. ‘The College doesn’t let you struggle on your own. There’s proper guidance that comes throughout the journey and there’s always someone who’s ready to help, no wonder what time it is,’ said Priyanka.


Priyanka also noticed the genuine care of the Excelsia teaching staff, something she wasn’t accustomed to. ‘The lecturers made me feel at home and I stopped missing my family…I think that’s very important for students coming from overseas. It was more like a family: comfortable, welcoming, supportive in all ways, not just educationally, and they would always follow up to see if we had good places to live and whether we had part-time jobs…I’ve never experienced such things in India. The lecturers there are super strict; you can’t even call them by their names, you must address them as teacher.’ Excelsia is proud to be an interdenominational Christian-based community and accepting of all cultures and backgrounds. ‘The classes started with prayer to have a safe environment and closed in prayer. Although I’m not Christian, I could feel that energy in the class that it was a very safe space,’ Priyanka says.


Since joining the Excelsia community, Priyanka has developed not only her professional identity but evolved as a whole person. ‘Excelsia definitely helped prepare me to look at things in a non-judgemental way and with an open mind. A lot of self-work and healing has really helped me to become a better person and better understand relationships. I also used to hold negative thoughts but now I’m able to turn them into positive ones and that’s really changing the way I view the relationships I have and the people I surround myself with,’ she says. Priyanka also noticed a contrast between Excelsia’s counselling course and learning structure when she spoke to students from the capstone unit in the practicum, and the knowledge they acquired was very theoretical and they had to do stuff on their own without support. ‘That’s when I knew that I’ve taken so much from this course and the College.’


It doesn’t look like it’s the end of the road when it comes to further studies for Priyanka. ‘I’m planning on studying criminology in the future but for the next 6 to 12 months, I’ll be getting trained in opioid treatment. It’s something very new, and it’s challenging to do the mediation and understand the kind of drugs involved. I want to take part in DBT groups (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), create more group programs, and see how these can be useful to treat alcohol and drug issues.’


Priyanka’s advice to anyone contemplating studying counselling is to start whenever you want to. ‘Whether you’re twenty, thirty, sixty or even ninety years old, you can not only make a difference in others’ lives, but you can also change your world view as you learn to better understand not only yourself but also others.’ We can’t wait to see where Priyanka ends up and we’re thrilled to have been a part of her journey.


To find out more about our counselling courses, please visit our Counselling School page:

excelsia.edu.au/courses/counselling