Part 1: Lost
I can’t believe I have graduated! Time flies! I still remember the feeling of euphoria when I first arrived in Brisbane and I was in awe of the differences I saw and experienced. Rumour has it, the first time is always the hardest and I totally agree! In this post, I will share with you some challenges that I faced when starting my first year at university in a brand new country.
Cultural differences & mental barrier
Before coming to Australia, I was very excited about the idea of making local friends and actively prepared myself for it (watching TV shows, looking up Aussie slangs or simply trying my best to master the language). What I didn’t know was that there was nothing going on in the summer semester. On the bright side, I got myself a full semester of no distracting activities to focus on studying and starting off with a good result (which set quite high standards for my learning goals). Though, I definitely got a life lesson of the importance of doing the research before making any big decisions!!!
When trying to get adjusted to the first year of university life, I noticed it was always easier to make friends with people from my home country or another international background. No matter how hard I tried to attend university events and talk to the local students, it was difficult to connect. Some people might say it was because of the language barriers, but for me, it was likely to be something else… Being an international student, I’m sure most of us would refer to cultural differences. Oddly, the more I heard and talked about it, the more frequent I could relate it to my personal struggles.
Transition to Independence
Since moving to Brisbane I have experienced a range of issues from housing problems to friendship difficulties and changing degrees. All of the sudden changes happened whilst I was living on my own, away from my home and family, which undeniably made things more challenging. I think it is so important that international students learn to become independent, starting from small tasks like cooking or doing laundry to bigger tasks like being open to connecting with people from different backgrounds.
Being an international student in Australia was a bold decision and no matter how lost I had felt at the beginning of my degree, everything quickly got better as I adjusted to my new life and it turned out just fine when I graduated.
My key takeaways from this new chapter of my life:
If you’re not confident, pretend to be! It will never get easier to get out of your comfort zone. However, the more you expose yourself to new experiences, the more competent and adaptable you would become when dealing with uncertainty.
Fake it till you make it
People might complain a lot about how unfair it can be for international students when you reach the stage of applying for internships and jobs. The more I talk about it with friends, the more I acknowledge its existence and feel more frustrated. But when you remember all the skills and knowledge you gained while studying, you can know that you can get there – it just takes time! Talking about negative things all the time could really drain you, especially for something that didn’t come from yourself nor could be immediately changed by your action.
Start sharing the brighter side (it exists!) and enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going.
Read more of Ha’s graduation story in her next part 2 blog post.