Being an international student can sometimes be an isolating experience, and this was never truer than throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. For University of Canberra student Malsha Kalpage, it was an internship that helped him connect with people he otherwise wouldn’t have met.
Originally from Sri Lanka, Malsha came to Canberra three years ago in order to pursue his studies in marketing and communications at the University of Canberra.
He’s currently interning as an associate at Mill House Ventures, a social enterprise accelerator that supports for-profit and not-for-profit social ventures.
The first project he worked on was creating a webinar series for a National Disability Insurance Scheme website, a project he enjoyed so much he went to programs manager Lina Connolly and asked if he could return to do a second stint with them.
Now he’s working with ethical brand Base Ethical Soap to create a corporate branding document for its product.
“Everybody at Mill House was really respectful and helpful, and I felt like my ideas were being heard,” says Malsha.
He says it’s also been a really good way for him to connect with people in the community who he otherwise wouldn’t have come across.
“They give me good advice and mentors, and I am a real part of the team,” says Malsha.
He has also been able to connect with an entire professional community in Canberra that students often don’t get the chance to connect with, and he hopes one day to be able to work for a company such as Mill House Ventures.
Malsha explains his true passion is for design and anything creative. In Sri Lanka, he previously worked as a graphic designer.
However, he had a bit of a change of heart and realised there were more opportunities in the field of marketing. He explains connection and communication with people is what excites him about the field.
“Think about brand – you have to work out how people will connect with you and your story,” he says.
“I like to show people how to use a product, what it is and why it will help them or why they need it.”
Previously in Canberra, Malsha worked for Caltex and as a chef at a Turkish restaurant. In both jobs, he says good customer service was key.
“Just smiling at someone and asking how their day went at the petrol station, or giving someone a little extra food in their box at the restaurant helped keep them coming back for more,” he says.
During his time at the restaurant, he embraced the challenge of running its marketing, including doing social media campaigns and the website, as well as physical flyers and posters to be distributed around town.
Malsha says he quickly progressed from working as a kitchenhand to being the restaurant’s front-of-house manager.
“In a year, we could really see the impacts of our marketing campaign as we had many more customers coming through,” he says.
Alongside marketing and communication, Malsha’s other passion is cooking.
He says he was inspired by his mum, who he describes as the “best chef I have ever met”. At home in Sri Lanka, it was by his mum’s side where Malsha learnt how to cook.
“I was always with my mum, and one thing we would do together was spend time in the kitchen,” says Malsha.
In Canberra, he has previously showed off his cooking skills at Sri Lankan restaurant Short Eats, where he’s also working on its marketing campaigns. Now he’s also working as a chef at the AIS, a job he says he was honoured to receive.
Learn more about Mill House Ventures and its work helping social enterprises succeed in Canberra.