The Truth About Studying in Australia
Find out what it’s really like to live and study in Down Under.
Written by Mcken Wong, February 2019
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I have to admit, it’s tough for me to relate to life quotes like the above. It seems overly ideal, like a magical thread that attempts to sew together the complexities of life.
Only upon growing older that such words of wisdom start to take on meaning, adding layers of wonderment that sinks within and ultimately, inspires.
As I look back on my time in university, a fresh-faced, anxious and eager international student at the University of Queensland, I realise I have indeed experienced something more profound than simply getting a degree.
Studying abroad is an opportunity that some may take for granted, a straightforward rite of passage, a means to end the paper chase.
For others, it is a tunnel towards the unknown. You want to savour the experience but until you get there, nothing is ever certain.
I understand the latter. No matter how much research I did on living and studying in Australia, or how many questions I shot at my IDP counsellor, the emotions that come with each experience – from getting groceries to ordering a late-night kebab – will never be concrete until you’ve experienced it personally.
Living abroad, at that age, becomes a personal encounter with yourself that will stretch beyond guide books and the depths of Google.
When it comes down to the crunch, like staying with a housemate who doesn’t do his dishes, or when you retrieve a charred, rock-hard slab of meat from the oven, it becomes a matter of dealing with scenarios that are new to you. There’s failure, frustration and disappointment.
The reality that comes with studying abroad strikes home when you begin to juggle school work, emotions, human relationships and daily life all at once.
And therein lies the crux of this study abroad experience. It becomes a mechanical bull that you might try to ride and control, but eventually discover that this is a new phase in life where you’ll have to navigate and cope with.
The Support System
As time passed, I got to befriend people of variant nationalities and understood their cultures better. Your ability to communicate with people will inadvertently rise.
Also, my years in Australia have taught me resilience. I discovered the forlorn and helpless side of myself, one you never thought would rear its head so forcefully – but when something within you is triggered, there’s a sweeping sense of vulnerability.
This can happen when you are alone in a foreign place, or when stress becomes overbearing, but I’ve learned that it is okay to fall. You just got to know when to pick yourself up, and when you need to call on your support system.
Depending on your willingness to venture out of your comfort zone, slowly but surely, you’ll slide into a support system comprising a close group of friends, or people from the college football team you’ve joined, or even from church.
This clique will be there for you through thick and thin, and they’ll be there when you graduate, when you tear over heartbreak, or when you go on road trips to Byron Bay in a budget rental hatchback.
A Value-added Experience
Like what you may eventually experience in the workplace, a huge part of studying abroad is about managing and developing relationships. It’s a whole new ball game now that you’re trying to communicate with both local and international students.
There’s a whiff of diplomacy and politics, from creating apartment-cleaning schedules with your housemates, to amassing votes for your running as the student society’s treasurer.
There’s also having to deal with fussy landlords, giant spiders, possums who sneak in and ransack your kitchen, the rowdy neighbour on his untuned electric guitar, choked sinks, faulty water heaters and the list goes on. You get what I mean.
However, it is difficult to tackle every single issue or problem that crops up. I’ve learned to pick my battles and simply laugh over spilled milk. This is what studying abroad is all about. This is what studying in Australia is about. No worries, mate.
All in all, there’s no perfect plan to ensure that every moment is smooth-sailing, but as long as your attitude is right and you’re keen to learn from and savour every experience, you’ll emerge a far more resourceful, resilient and tolerant person.
There are no regrets.
Keen to experience studying abroad yourself? Find out more at the IDP May Education Expo 2019.
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