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International Student Xin's story - Tips on adapting to Australian life and meeting likeminded people

Meet Xin.  She moved to Australia as a backpacker and is now studying a Masters in Social Work.  Learn how her experience has opened her mind to new possibilities; from embracing her homestay family to meeting people from all over the world in flat shares, finding new passions from dragon boating to Japanese dancing and finally, how she learnt the popular Melbournian skill of becoming a barista.

Read on to learn more about her adventure in Australia.  


Besides academic goals, international students like to explore Australia as this is a unique and faraway country, with brave kangaroos, emus and crocodiles, not to mention some frequent spider visitors that you can just say hi in your backyard.

When I first got here as a backpacker, I wondered where I could meet new people during orientation week? A bit freaked out, but still I had to survive, so there comes the first question: how to orientate myself into this new society?

First, I found a homestay place, where I lived with local people and experienced the local culture in a family atmosphere. After I met my local family in Melbourne, I became a special member of their family. Everyday, we would have dinner together, the parents and their three kids and myself. During dinner, everyone had a chance to talk about their day; anything you want to talk about, and it doesn’t matter how old you are or how good your English is, everyone is equal. This made me learn about patience and equality in this society, to be honest, as a single kid from a Chinese family, seldom would my parents ask about my day when I was young. 

There’s a gulf between adults and kids in my home country even if we are sitting together, but just through this dinner table in Oz, I learnt that I would always get a chance to express myself, to share and to understand others. I loved this experience and would encourage newbies in Oz to go out and find your position to feel welcomed by everyone. How to do that? It’s not necessary that you must have to live with locals, but why not just say hi to neighbours and bring some homemade stuff to them, who knows what kind of surprise you may get back.

After 2 months, I made my second step to be independent. I enjoyed the family atmosphere, but still so curious about this country, I moved into a house share with young people and found a job to support myself. 

 

Without any actual working experience, what should I do? Well, start from zero, why not to learn a new skill? In Melbourne, there’s a saying that everyone is a barista. What’s this barista thing? Well, based on a big coffee culture in this city, many people can work in a cafes, yes, making coffee!  That is what a barista does. Considering about this local culture, I decided to learn how to make coffee and soon found a personal barista teacher on Facebook. As a former instant coffee drinker, how the hell did I know it’s so hard just to make a cute heart in a coffee cup, so please forget that you might wanna draw a sponge bob on the surface of a latte! 

 
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Though I was such a clumsy student, my barista teacher, Stephano taught me step by step with huge patience and soon we became friends . After class, we would exchange some Italian and Chinese food cooked by ourselves and have an afternoon tea talking about some Japanese manga. 

Since international students focus a lot on study and homework, and perhaps it’s difficult to work in Australia, but there are benefits of working, besides making money; working life can help you understand the community and help you meet new people.

The third step I did to expand my social circle was using the meetup app often. So a little voluntary advertising for “meet up”, it was first recommended to me by the local family, as you can find many interest groups on it, for example, hiking clubs, reading clubs, language exchange clubs, etc. All those groups you will find similar minded people, if you are a sci-fi geek, you will find like-minded people on it.  I joined dragon boat club, Japanese dancing club and geek boardgames club.  I met heaps of people from different backgrounds; we might share a day in nature, a dinner after dancing and some bubble tea while playing boardgames, what I did was just RSVP and show up on time.

Finding people with whom you have a common interest is a way to meeting new friends. This year when I came back to Oz as a student, the first thing I did was go again to the dancing club, meeting old acquaintances , some new faces, all the same to me as the passion for dancing.

The last step I want to share about is about including your housemates. We live with our housemates everyday, sharing kitchen and living room and sometimes rush into toilet at the same time. Away from home, housemates are a big part of our life. Where to find good housemates? I tried different websites like flatmates, but the most effective way for me was through Facebook. 

There are quite a few share house sites and if you feel this is the environment that you want to live in, just introduce a bit about yourself and have an inspection of the house. Though I know a lot of international students would like to choose to team up with people they have already know or from the same home country to rent an accommodation, I always try to find a multicultural environment, which is easy to find in a place like Melbourne.

I stayed with people from all over the world; Italian, Japanese, Australian, English, Korean, Dutch, German people in the share houses, understood different life styles and values, and delightfully discovered other country’s food!  Currently, I am studying Master degree of social work, all these experiences have broadened my view, opened my mind and made me respectful of different cultures.

In the end, Melbourne is an amazing city with fun activities happening all the time. When you first arrive, you may feel confused, stressed or lonely. However, the most important thing I learnt was to open my doors to this city and step out; all the good stuff is waiting for us, hug it or not, it’s your own call. 

If you have done this, you will have found there’s a whole new world in front of you, which is so different from the old one.  Furthermore, in this new world, you can get to know yourself more deeply.  What’s next, I don’t know, but perhaps we feel more free and brave to walk confidently to the next stage of our life.

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