Telling you my story as an international student in Australia

- Bao Linh , Pokhara

     Bao Linh     
     Saturday August 14, 2021

My name is Bao Linh Do. I am from Thai Nguyen city, Vietnam. I came to Australia in 2015 to start a bachelor’s degree in economics. Now I am a PhD candidate in Finance at the University of Technology Sydney. I am telling you my story as an international student in Australia. I believe many of you will feel related.

The moment I got off the plane, I realised that I was on my own. It is a bold statement, but as an international student, the first and foremost hurdle is trying to settle down in a strange place. Finding a rental that satisfies the criteria such as distance from school, weekly rent, the housemates, to name a few, took some time before I officially enrolled in the University of Wollongong. I spent the first few weeks getting to know places, understand Australia’s culture, and arrange all the necessities such as a bank account and travel card. In those first few weeks, you will feel alone and strange as you will need to be an independent person without the care of your family members.

Bao Linh with her friends

As time goes by, I become familiar with the housemates. We helped each other a lot as we are all international students. I also made some friends at university. Studying in a second language at university render it difficult for you at first. Therefore, my friends and I usually check in groups and share the experience to study better. The university where I studied also offered academic support and non-academic support. For example, academic support includes recordings after classes, consultations with the lecturers, peer-supported study sessions, library, independent study spaces and non-academic support such as communication programs, societies and clubs. That support truly helps me a better and more confident student. Through these programs at my university, I even know more people. That is the moment I realised that I am no longer on my own.

The other hurdles soon came as you attend university. They are academic and financial hardship. I prefer independent study and love exams and tests. I love being taught and challenged by tests. Therefore I don’t have many difficulties in studying for an exam or scoring good marks. However, the problem comes when the exam time comes and I have a lot of exams almost simultaneously. In my second year at university, I worked part-time to earn more income and experience in Australia. As an international student in Australia, you can work for a certain number of hours per week. Working and studying for exams at the same time stressed me out. I think this was one of the biggest hurdles I have when I was an undergraduate student.

From these experiences, I would like to share some tips about preparing yourself before you start a new journey in a different country. Besides your luggage that you prepare for an independent living lifestyle, you should seek help from the people from the place where you plan to travel to. In my case, I joined the University of Wollongong Vietnamese Society group on Facebook before I arrive in Australia. I got to know people before I officially attend the university; they answer many questions on what to bring when you study abroad, where you should live, the lifestyle at university, the subjects you should enrol in, etc. Social media is well-developed nowadays; it is not hard to find online connections by searching for groups and societies that offer help and support for newcomers.

Making friends and creating relationships is essential. The relationship helps you get over the loneliness when you apart from your family and allows you to learn different cultures.

Making friends and creating relationships is essential. The relationship helps you get over the loneliness when you apart from your family and allows you to learn different cultures. Australia is a multi-cultural country, so you have opportunities to know people from other countries and cultures. Sometimes, it is stressful when you have many tasks to do at university, so having friends to hang out with will maintain your social well-being. Many of them are still my friends for many years after we graduated. We can still provide help for each other in work and life.

Moreover, it is not early to learn some skills before you study abroad. I learned time management skills and problem-solving skills before I departed. I attended societies in Vietnam, attend cooking classes, learn new languages, reading books, opening a small online business. Keeping myself busy is a way that I learn how to manage time well. In hindsight, it enabled me to cope with many challenges such as university exams and working part-time at the same time. It makes me a more compelling character and become more confident. It is crucial to have good academic knowledge about the subjects at university, but it is also essential to sharpen these interpersonal skills before and after you arrive.

University of Technology Sydney

When I tell you this story, there are still many things that I am learning every day when I do PhD in Australia. I am still preparing myself with more skills and pieces of knowledge, make myself more friends. I realise that they play a more and more critical role in my life in Australia. I hope that my story provides insights for you when you prepare for your upcoming adventure.

(Ms. Bao Linh Do is a PhD candidate in Finance at the University of Technology Sydney. She comes from Vietnam. Besides study, watching movies, hanging out with friends, and practicing yoga are her other hobbies.)