From Punjab to Alice … via RMIT

RMIT University graduate Deepinder Singh is living his dream in the Australian outback after a temporary placement at Al...

RMIT University graduate Deepinder Singh is living his dream in the Australian outback after a temporary placement at Alice Springs Hospital turned into a life-changing adventure.

Mr Singh, who had never travelled outside of India before he came to Melbourne to study, was thrilled to be offered a four-year contract in the hospital’s medical laboratory after completing his placement last month.

“I feel really at home in Alice Springs – I love the place and I love the people,” the Master of Laboratory Medicine graduate said.

“I always wanted to be in a place where you don’t rush your life and this is the lifestyle I’ve found right here. I feel really lucky to be given the chance to stay here.”

Mr Singh had no idea how far Alice Springs was from Melbourne when he persuaded his RMIT supervisor, Dr Peter Roche, to arrange a 10-week placement at the town’s hospital.

But when he climbed into his two-door Hyundai and drove the 2200km journey in February this year, he found himself fulfilling a lifelong ambition.

“It was a dream come true,” Mr Singh said.

“Even back home in India, I was always fascinated by documentaries about the Australian outback so to see it for myself was just incredible.

“And then, coming into Alice Springs, it was amazing. I straight away felt at home, it was so beautiful.”

The hospital had arranged free accommodation for Mr Singh with other students on placement, who quickly became good friends.

“The staff in the hospital were also really welcoming and helpful,” he said.

“I always wanted to learn things in a laboratory and here, every day I was learning something new.”

Ron Hallawell, the Pathology Manager at Alice Springs Hospital and an alumni of the RMIT Laboratory Medicine program, said Mr Singh quickly fitted into the lab environment.

“His training was excellent and soon after he started his placement, we knew that we wanted him on board,” Mr Hallawell said.

“Recruitment can be a challenge for us because the location is so remote but our pathology services cover the whole of the Northern Territory, so the opportunities for young graduates here are fantastic.”

Mr Singh never expected to end up living and working in the Australian outback when he left his home state of Punjab, in northern India, in July 2007.

Adjusting to life away from his family was not easy, with his first few months in Melbourne proving a challenge.

“It was a huge change when I got here, and I found it hard to make friends and settle in,” he said.

“I went to a few sessions with the counsellor at RMIT and that helped a lot. It was good to have someone to talk to about what I was going through.

“My teachers were great as well, they really helped look after me at that time.”

Mr Singh said he was especially grateful to Dr Roche, Associate Professor Andrew Wootton, Discipline Head of Laboratory Medicine in the School of Medical Sciences, and fellow international Master of Laboratory Medicine student, Minesh Lala, for their support.

He encouraged anyone coming from overseas to study at RMIT to find out about the many support services available for international students.

“Talk to someone if you’re finding it difficult and make sure you use the services that are there to help you – you’ll realise you’re not on your own,” he said.

“Be patient, stay determined, and who knows just where you might end up at the end of your studies.”

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