Overcoming cultural and financial challenges: The story of an international student

I came to QUT in 2013 as a mature aged student. This was my second time at uni; my first time was back 2006 when I studied engineering in China.

I chose to study business because I have worked in business in Shanghai for the last seven years and I am passionate about helping businesses grow! I wanted to get the most out of my tuition so I chose the most solid skills for business: a double major in accounting and finance.

At the beginning, it sounded scary to not only go back to university, but to go to university in another country. I had been away from uni for so many years, could I pass this course? Maybe it would be too difficult? Despite all these negative thoughts, I told myself I never say ” no” to the things I want to do!

So I studied hard and I did four units during the summer, which is the first semester for my uni. To my surprise, I got a 5.75 GPA for these four units and in my data analysis class BSB 123, which is the most difficult subject for the whole Business School with a very high fail rate, I received a 7! I felt so proud of myself because I never believed I could that, but I had to keep ignoring all my negative thoughts and just keep trying. Since then I’ve started work as part-time tutor for data analysis and I helped a lot of Australian students pass this unit.

But the academic challenge is just one side of my difficulty in Brisbane. The other important thing is having to pay the massive tuition fee and living expense here. I come from a small village in China. My parents and grandparents are farmers and have no money. I paid some of my tuition through my savings which I earned in Shanghai. I also still have some small business over there which generates a bit of income, but it’s still not enough for the expenses here.

The financial struggle was stressful, but because I’d started my degree, I was determined to finish it. So I looked for different jobs in Brisbane – and I started doing anything from washing dishes, cleaning, being a kitchen hand and all kinds of labor jobs. I worked crazy hours and I also studied like crazy, but I still kept a balanced life style. I did Toastmasters at QUT and joined the Running Club. I participated in the Dragon Boat Race, Park Run, Brisbane Table Tennis Club and so on (I also do the Kangaroo Point stairs a lot!). My gosh, when I think back now I am so surprised by how much things I have been done in the last three years!

There is proverb: Where there is a will, there is a way – and I feel my last three years of uni life at QUT really demonstrates this. You can overcome so many difficulties!

I would highly encourage all students facing any academic difficulties, personal difficulties or financial difficulties, to say “no” to your negative thoughts – you can overcome them!

Now I am graduating from QUT and I’ve just started a contractor job with Flight Centre. Landing this opportunity was challenging as well!

I started my job hunt six months ago, printing off my resume and walking into difference offices relating to finance and accounting. Most companies said no when I asked about job opportunities – but even the “no’s” were opportunities to learn.

Every now and again I would get an interview, and even when I didn’t get the job the interview was still such a great lesson for learning.

Finally, I was offered a contract with Flight Centre. I will keep applying for any other opportunities that come up with them in the hope of getting an ongoing full-time role. And I believe I can, because I always say “ no” to the difficulties I’m faced with!

I am so appreciative of my three years with QUT: all the lecturers and tutors, and also all the friends I met from uni! I am also particularly thankful for my mother club: QUT Young Achiever Toastmaster Club. They have been like my family and I have had such a great and valuable time with them.

7 responses

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  1. avatar
    Landy

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. Your words are encouraging! Best wishes.

    • avatar
      Elsa

      Thanks for you nice words Landy, I will keep up all the nice work. Good luck with you. Elsa

  2. avatar
    Claeton

    Elsa,
    I’m 55 and am a ‘Masters of Business – Professional Accounting’ Student. I find it VERY BRAVE of you as a NON English speaking student to take on a degree and learn it in a language that is foreign to you!
    WELL DONE, WELL DONE, WELL DONE!!! AND GOOD ON YOU!!! I’m finding it hard to go back and study at my late stage in life, especially since I didn’t do the degree below the Masters to make it easier (that is – a degree in accounting – I did a business degree majoring in Management).
    But I’m getting there – through constant effort.
    YOU are an INSPIRATION to me and I THANK YOU for that! You really have done exceptionally well to achieve what you have and that’s a GREAT THING for both you and your country!
    Keep going with your endeavours in life, I’m sure it will all work out very well for you in the end!
    Best regards
    Claeton.

    • avatar
      Elsa

      Sorry for the late reply Claeton,
      I just back from my little village in China today in Brisbane, there has limits internet access. It was my 3rd time back to the village since I have started to study here, culture shock with me every single time. I am so appreciate I have the most opportunities than most other village people in China to be able to get education here, I think this appreciation attitude keep me work very hard here. Like you said it is hard to go back to uni as a mature age, I am 31 this year, however, through constant effort you could make it. I am very proud of you at age of 55 and still keep learning, this encourage me that I will back to uni again after 2 years working as accountant here. I already have missed uni a lot, so I choose to live close uni with my best friends i( she still study at QUT), for this case, get interact with friends from uni can keep me more active , whatever for life or for learning

      With you all the best for studying and learning
      Best regards
      Elsa

  3. avatar
    Renee

    I’m also from China and this is my second week in Brisbane. I can’t keep up with lectures now.Though I has spent all my time on listening recordings and reading textbook, my assignment is not good. I feel quite disappointed,but your words make me feel encouraged! I will try my best! Where there is a wil,there is a way! Thanks a lot!

    • avatar
    • avatar
      Elsa

      Hello Renee

      Thanks for your message and I have go though from there. Please just keep the nice working and keep trying, remember keep asking question from lecturers and tutors, don’t afraid people will laugh at you. The best learning skill I could share with you is keep asking. All the lecturers and tutors at QUT is very helpful. Also the other suggestion from me is find a group to study, it is better with a group with mix-culture together, not only study with Chinese. You will find actually you could learn a lot from classmates from different countries. I am a bit regret I should have to say hello first more to the classmates seat next to me, then I might have more good friends from uni. Make the action, you are not from here, so you will have less friends, and also learning here, say hello to people from different countries, don’t be shy, you will found it will be amazing experience, which will help you living and learning here

      Good luck with that, just drop me any message if you need any help

      Best regards
      Elsa

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