Being an international student in Australia has taught me plenty of life lessons and I am still learning; however, people seem to always hit a sore spot when they talk about how I am leading an easy life overseas and they are all struggling back home. I hate to burst the bubble; everyone faces struggles every day of their life. So, I am here today writing to spell out the struggles of an international student. The struggles co-relate to one another and might differ from one person to another. Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge the hardships in order to see your growth over time and I am not embarrassed to say that some days I still feel like I’m fighting a battle.
Losing social circle
First and foremost, not having my social circle was extremely distressing to me. I did not have my family and friends around me. My support system crumbled down when I came to Australia. I had contact with my family and friends but nothing came close to having them physically or getting a hug when I’m feeling low. I am grateful to say I have been blessed with amazing people in my life and I am also sad to know I can’t possibly bring them over with me. I didn’t feel safe walking back home at night even though I have been told Australia is safer than Malaysia. I felt insecure about my spoken English because I used to often get asked to repeat what I was saying. I was anxious about meeting new people here and often felt self-conscious about people judging me. People who know me well would feel surprised because that is such a contradiction to how I was back home. I used to be so bold and confident in my own skin. I know now this was all part of maneuvering out of my comfort zone; however, at that time, it didn’t feel like it and that led to a phase of depression.
Building social circle
Since I’ve lost my social circle, it only makes sense for me to build one here. I’ve been told by many that I am one of the friendliest human being they have ever seen and that it would be an easy task for me to actually get friends in Australia. I have to admit that it hasn’t been the easiest task for me. I felt like I forgot the art of making friends and I felt like I took more effort than the other person to be friends. When the efforts were futile, I felt like I was a bad person that people didn’t even want to give me an opportunity to be friends with them. Nonetheless, there were times I forced myself on someone to be friends because I see goodness in them and I know they are the type of friends I want. That proved to be success, which presented me a small circle of friends. Orientation day at university went on as well as it should have been but I still did not make any friends that I’d feel comfortable hanging out with. I joined various university events in order to form connection with someone and I found friends in my classes after a couple of weeks.
I always thought my open mindedness and broad minded views of the world have prepared me for my abroad experience; however, I found out it was not adequate when I reached Australia. The way things worked here was a little different, in a good way. The ways things operate here are much more systematic and I am beginning to get used to the efficiency. All good things said, it, however, made me feel like a dumb person. Again, as much as I think my English is fluent, I faced some difficulty understanding some local jargons like brekkie, bickies, chucks, snags etc. Later I found out that Australians like to shorten their words and come up with new fancy words. I even once asked a stranger about grocery shopping and how they pay off at the cash counter, I know it’s the same everywhere but I was overcome by a sense of insecurity at that point. One of the battles that I mentioned earlier is with regards to my amazing grocery shopping skills. I am still getting used to all the different brands they have here. I want to get cheap and quality stuff but it’s a constant battle for me because I’m unfamiliar with the product brands. I can hear my mum’s mind voice here, saying I should have followed her on those grocery shopping trips but I am still learning and I am enjoying this adulting phase as well as, discovering life.
This is definitely a struggle for any international student. I know it can be hard to not have enough money to survive the week and starve till you get some money. I am so blessed to have gained that financial stability in my journey. It’s not the case for many and it’s the sad truth. The course fee of many international students might be covered with study loans and some other mode; however, the struggle of earning money for cost of living here is difficult. My aunt used to tell me that even a CEO would have washed dishes during his early days to survive, so don’t be embarrassed by the menial job you do. When I came here, I had some savings as a backup but it was fast diminishing and I had to look for a job. Casually, I applied for one job and got called for an interview the next day. I was truly lucky, being at the right place at the right time. I have other international friends who have been looking for job for the past 6 months and still unsuccessful in the journey. Interestingly I realized, not many Asians would talk about their financial difficulties openly, unlike Australians here who would be frank and say they are broke. I think it’s important to be able to be open about it, it is not something to be embarrassed about. It even makes the student feel less sociable due to financial constraints and not being able to tell his friends that he can’t go out because he is penniless. Having some kind of financial stability eases a lot of stresses an international student face but there is a final struggle all international students face some time in their abroad experience. And that is…
This is an interesting point and people might even call me prude for pointing it out. It is time to face the truth, guys. No one likes the pressure or expectations placed on them. Being an international student in Australia, I have heard enough about how the grass is greener on this side of the world. Let’s face the truth, Australians know that’s not true, the job pool is so small, even Australians are moving out of the country to different places. And I? Well, I keep getting pressured into settling down here and making a life out of it. I like Brisbane, the river keeps me calms and it does remind me of home. However, home is something much more than all that. Home is overcoming all the 4 struggles I listed above, till I overcome that, I won’t be able to call Brisbane my home. So, all aunties think I should just get a job here and marry some white guy? That’s a social pressure I refuse to accept. I want to make a life out of my talent and skills, I don’t want to tie myself down to some guy just because I can live in a better place, that is a bitter life. I know a lot of other friends who struggling with this too, but it is also their hearts’ desire. To me, I love going against the social pressure, so listening to people telling my mum how amazing it is living here and I should settle down here, I don’t know where my future will lead me to and I still have a year more to go. Life is pretty unpredictable, right? I want to explore the world, I might even choose to move to another country like Africa or India, anywhere that keeps my heart happy.
I hope other international students would be able to relate to this article, even if it doesn’t, it’s alright.