For postgraduate students Bo Li and You-You Li, the experience of living and studying in a foreign country has given them far more than an academic qualification.
Since 2009, when the Chinese couple both enrolled for their PhD studies at the University of Adelaide, they have embraced life as “Aussies” in every sense.
Taking advantage of Adelaide’s “20-minute” city tag and visiting the beaches, wineries and hills on a regular basis – all within easy distance of their Glen Osmond home – the couple have fallen in love with the wide open spaces and easy going nature of their adopted country.
Even You-You’s PhD thesis is quintessentially Australian – a study of the endangered southern brown bandicoot.
Her research into the effect of pine tree plantations on the bandicoot’s fragmented habitat in Australia’s south east will hopefully result in new conservation strategies to ensure its survival.
A second part of You-You’s PhD involves looking at the bandicoot’s genetic divergence between populations in the south east and Mt Lofty Ranges.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree (majoring in Biology) in 2006 and a Masters in Zoology at Lanzhou University in 2008, You-You won a University of Adelaide-China Scholarship Council (CSC) Scholarship to undertake her PhD in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide.
Her partner, Bo Li, won the same scholarship and this year finishes his PhD in Science at the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the Waite Campus.
Bo has Bachelor and Master degrees in Biology Science and Botany, respectively, from Lanzhou University in China.
Studying under Professor Mark Tester, one of the world’s leading plant researchers, Bo has been working with a team at the Waite Campus to improve the salinity tolerance of Australian crops, thereby increasing their yield and growth.
“There were a couple of main reasons why I chose to study at the University of Adelaide,” Bo said.
“First, it is a member of the prestigious Group of 8 universities in Australia. Also, the Waite Research Institute at the University is one of the best agricultural research centres in the world and studying here allows me to work with really high-level scientists.”
The low cost of living in Adelaide was also a drawcard for the Chinese students and both have received other scholarships to help pay for their tuition and living costs.
Apart from the CSC Scholarship, Bo was awarded a Grain Research and Development Corporation Travel Scholarship and a top-up scholarship from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics.
You-You has also supplemented her CSC Scholarship with a Roy and Marjory Edwards Scholarship.
“These scholarships have paid for our full tuition and also provided a living allowance and allowed us to attend both domestic and international conferences,” she said.
Their university experience in Adelaide has opened a world of opportunities for the couple.
“The multicultural environment here has been wonderful. Although there have been challenges studying and living in a foreign country, I would recommend it to anyone because it helps you grow as a person, both professionally and personally,” You-You said.