international Tag Archive

My First Ever “Breaking Away” in Australia

Written by Editor’s Picks, Student Life

It’s hard to define “home” when you don’t stay in one place for an entire year.

In my case, during the first half of the year, I lived in a homestay. During the winter break, I went back to my home country, Malaysia, to visit my family before coming back to Australia. Just recently, I moved out of homestay into a shared house with friends.


Living in different places brought out different aspects of my personality. While I was at the home stay, it seemed imperative for me always to show my best behaviour because it was like I was representing my own country. I would consistently wake up early, get myself ready for classes and get my laundry done on time. If I didn’t, I felt it would reflect poorly on my parents and how they have raised me. At the same time, it was the right kind of pressure, the kind that makes you a better person. I felt much more productive, and I certainly got a lot of things done, and I was also able to enjoy what Sydney had to offer in the spare time that I had.

Ice skating with the ladies

Ice skating with the ladies

But now that I’m living in a shared house, it feels like the pressure is gone. I don’t have to put myself on a pedestal and demand myself to be the best example of a Malaysian girl because I’m in a house full of Malaysian girls. There’s no reason to try to stand out because I belong. Of course, at times I do feel left out and awkward, but it happens to everyone. These kinds of awkward moments only last for a split second…then life resumes its course. I’m slowly learning to work through them because if I think about it, in the long run, this is where I can learn more about who I am and establish a closer connection to people from my culture.

Im Ready yo

It may not seem like much but living in a shared house tests my independence and maturity. I am even more in charge of my survival than before, especially when it comes to food. I now have to decide what to eat every day! That’s super stressful! If it were up to me, I’d just eat instant noodles, but I hear that’s not exactly healthy. Really, I have the utmost respect for mothers and fathers that always know what to cook for their families (y’all got it figured out). Also being in university, I am wholly in charge of my studies. There’s a lot of gap time in between classes and what I do in those hours could either really help me or hurt me. Of course, the first few weeks of uni I messed around and slept in my free time. But I’ve grown to realise the importance of setting a routine early on in the semester when it comes to studying. That is certainly something I will work on next semester.

The ladies from Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney


Being able to live in a shared house with different people has also allowed me to meet more people and more friends! It was something I was not able to do back in the homestay as I was living with one family. I recently met my housemates’ friends when we went on a trip to the Blue Mountains together. We hadn’t met before, but during that journey I found that I really connected with them and felt at ease. We have since become friends, and it’s helped me feel that I won’t go through life alone.

The Malaysian sensations from the recent Blue Mountains trip


My parents have told me stories from their university years about finding a close-knit group of friends, and I have always wanted to experience something similar. I wanted to find people I could seriously consider my brothers and sisters in this new city. By deciding to move to this shared house, I feel as though I have done just that.

It feels like home away from home.

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Things You Don’t Know About EID in Malaysia

Written by Entertainment, Student Life

Islam is a religion practised by over a billion people and Muslims are followers of the faith. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is the holy time of Ramadan, when Muslims all around the world fast for a month. By avoiding food and water from dawn until dusk, Muslims look to fulfill one of the pillars of Islam. (The five pillars of Islam are five basic acts in Islam that are considered mandatory and are the foundations of Muslim life.) After resisting temptation and fighting inner demons, they are then rewarded with Eid (or Raya), a month filled with food, forgiveness and celebration. As it is a big occasion in countries all over the world, Eid is observed in tandem with the country’s specific culture.

In Malaysia, where I come from, the event is a huge deal. Preparations can even begin from the second week of Ramadan. It depends on how much money you’re willing to spend, but some families go all out and make their Eid clothes or kuih (koo-weh). Some even give their living room a makeover: new curtains, new cushions, new furniture, new paint, the whole she-bang. Others choose not to be too grand in their Eid preparations. 

What do we do during Eid in Malaysia?

The night before Eid, Muslims in Malaysia watch their TV sets and await the Eid announcement after Maghrib prayers (second last prayer of the day). Once it is announced, a takbeer is heard in the nearby mosques and various TV channels. It is a proclamation to prevent Muslims from becoming too prideful and to remind themselves that the month of Eid is a blessing and a reward from Allah (the Muslim god).

The takbeer is usually performed by men at various mosques

On the first day of Raya, Muslims go to the early Eid prayer at the nearest mosque. Then, they return home to the delicious home-cooked meals that have been prepared that morning or the night before. Raya is celebrated with immediate family members first, then with other relatives and/or friends.

After breakfast, we have a “forgiving session” where family members take turns apologising to each other for any mistakes made or harsh words spoken. Usually, the youngest will ask for forgiveness from the eldest and move down the age line. The reason we do this is because Eid is the time of forgiveness and renewal. A common phrase used during this period of the year is kosong-kosong which translates to “zero-zero”. It means that all past mistakes are forgotten, and we begin our relationship with each other fresh and new for the rest of the year.

As shown here, the oldest sibling is asking for forgiveness from their parents

Families usually go to each other’s houses to visit, reconnect and eat. So people who you haven’t seen in a long while or have never even met before may pop up at your home. But, in the spirit of forgiveness and Eid, you greet them with a smile and open arms. At the end of the visit, the adults may give out duit raya, money in individual packets, young children, students, the elderly and orphans.

Duit raya in colourful packets

The amount will vary depending on each family and each person. The packets are either bought or received for free from various institutions like departmental stores or fashion boutiques. The more relatives you visit, the more delicious food you get to eat and the likelier it will be to get money as well!

What do we wear during Eid?

In Malaysia, we wear our traditional clothes during Raya. Women wear baju kurung or baju kebaya that can be ready-made or tailored.

Baju kebaya

Men wear baju melayu with sampin and songkok.

Though recently, women may be seen wearing long dresses known as Judah or abaya that can have a variety of designs and colours. However, it isn’t usually considered traditional Malay clothing, but Arab.

Since it is encouraged to dress nicely and wear new clothes on the first day of Raya, many people are eager to prepare in the days leading up to it. Some families may even decide to coordinate their Raya clothing. There’s a sudden surge of shoppers at various malls selling traditional materials, new designs pop up (ranging from affordable to expensive), discounts are offered and shoe sales increase. Needless to say, it can get pretty hectic!

However, after the fifth day of Raya, the excitement starts to die down a little bit. You can wear non-traditional clothes or stop serving Raya food to guests if you wish.

What do we eat?

The first day of Raya, we eat traditional Malay food such as ketupat (ke-too-pat), rendang (ruhn-dang), sambal kacang (sam-bal ka-chang) and ayam masak merah just to name a few. Each state will have variations, but it is the same all around Malaysia.

Ketupat or nasi impit are soft rice cakes that have been boiled for a few hours, with a hand-woven coconut leaf case. Because of the skill required to make the casing, ketupat takes longer to make. Therefore, many tend to buy versions ready-made from the market or use nasi impit instead. The skill is still practised in more rural areas of Malaysia though.


Ketupat or nasi impit is best eaten with rendang is a dark-coloured spicy meat dish that originated in Indonesia. The smell is one-of-a-kind and aromatic.

Sambal kacang is a spicy peanut sauce that’s usually eaten with satay during normal days. Ayam masak merah is another spicy dish, but it is red and uses chicken instead of meat or peanuts. (We do like our spicy food, eh?)

Seen here are rendang, ketupat, ayam masak merah, sambal kacang, and seronding.

To cool and sweeten our palate, we treat ourselves to various kuih (dessert/pastries) that have been homemade or store-bought in the days leading up to Raya. Desserts may include tart nenas, suji, Almond London, other cookies, cakes and kerepek. In this modern day and age, you have just got to know where to get the best kuih to impress your relatives and friends.

What do we listen to?

Raya-related songs can be heard everywhere you go during this month. Here are some classic selections:

Eid is a grand celebration for Muslims all over the world to mark the completion of Ramadan, regardless of culture and customs. Even so, Eid has its special identity within a culture. For example, in Malaysia, Eid is unique in such a way that it is identified by the food that is served, clothes that are worn, and most importantly, duit raya.

How does your culture uniquely celebrate Eid?

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Finding the right accommodation 101

Written by Student Life, Tips & Tricks

Accommodation can determine life in Sydney. As international students, individual circumstances factor into the process of choosing the right fit. The research process is tedious and often overwhelming, given the handful of options available. So allow me to provide a guide to finding the perfect home.


Residential Colleges

Designed to cure homesickness and ensure you’ll feel loved, residential colleges are equivalent to the Houses in Harry Potter (but without the moving staircases and talking paintings). Think cafeterias, entertainment lounges, galas, etc! Endless college-held activities guarantee students the time of their lives at the uni. Each college carries a different vibe, ensuring no one becomes a misfit. Best part: strangers become homies for life and loneliness becomes the past.


Student Apartments

These are similar to residential colleges, but are designed for students of a single status or otherwise to live independently. Choices of 2, 3, 4, 6 and even 8 bedroom apartments are offered, with the kitchen, bathroom and living room as the communal area. It is another way to build life-long friendships while living in a supportive community.


Studio Apartments

Like student apartments, studio apartments can be located inside or outside the campus, allowing students to be a part of neighboring suburb communities if they are not fond of university student life. A studio is fully equipped with one bedroom, kitchen and bathroom for one person and one person only (law states so). For international students who prefer to live on their own , studio apartments are the most appropriate decision.


Temporary Accommodation

Thank goodness universities have not forgotten about the international students on exchange or for (emergency) short-term stay. Budget-friendly hotels, hostels and serviced apartments are good for having shelter while scrambling to find a real place to settle in. Vacation rentals are also up for grabs as well as a few campus accommodations that offer housing for that short period of time needed.

Private Accommodation

Most university websites establish a separate site for independents, or “indies”, to post their advertisement specifically tailored for students’ needs e.g. close proximity to campus, easy access to transport and safe environment to live. Indies include landlords looking for tenants, home owners looking for an extra roomie or local families looking for another member to join their family. The crucial part that cannot be overlooked is to physically house-hunt and meet future landlords or roommates before moving in (it is illegal not to so as well).


Accommodation must follow legal housing practices and, more importantly, match its description and picture. Private accommodation requires in-depth knowledge of housing practices to ensure nothing is put against you illegally.


Among the array of options for private accommodation, homestay is not a bad choice if you are lucky enough to be offered a loving household. Living with a family means you have a new support network to keep you going. . The University of Sydney even partners with the Australian Homestay Network (AHN), which is a network that aims to ensure the well-being of students in the welcoming houses of friendly families.


Boarding Houses

Last but not least, a choice more popular in the inner west of Sydney is to live in a boarding home, often run by a church or humanitarian group. Almost like residential colleges except off-campus, boarding houses carry students of diverse backgrounds to engage with each other and make the most of their living in Sydney


One last reminder…

QS Top Universities, Mercer and The Economist all regularly rank Sydney as the top 10 most student friendly cities in the world. But(there’s always a “but”) pricing wise, students are looking at $200+ rent per week without utility bills and meals. As far as roommates or apartment neighbors go, reality could turn into a nightmare. And for students on campus who want to study ? Word of advice: earplugs and coffee will be your new best friend.

At the end of the day, choose an accommodation that you believe best suits your requirements to call a place home.


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11 Special Christmas Dinners from around the World

Written by Editor’s Picks, Student Life, Tips & Tricks

Eat Carp in Poland


Beetroot soup (barszcz), mushroom soup or dumplings are popular in Poland, but you can’t celebrate Christmas without carp (a river fish). People in Poland believe that eating carp brings luck, health and wealth for the coming year. Traditionally, fresh carp is bought from the market before Christmas day. The carp is kept in a bathtub, a swimming pool or a big basket before being fried for Christmas Eve dinner and served along with 11 other dishes. That’s why people around the world, who have already visited Poland, always say “Christmas dinner starts in the bathtub.”

Eat Apples in China

While other countries are exchanging high-tech equipment and expensive gifts such as Xbox, Iphones or other hardware, apples are given as Christmas gifts in China, 10 AUD for each in a colourful paper box. The word for apple, pingguo, is pronounced similar to the word Christmas, ping’an ye. This coincidence makes apples an exclusive present at Christmas time.

Eat Gammon with Coke in South Africa

Christmas in South Africa has the same weather as Australia. The hot blazing summer weather is suited to a roasted and fresh meal. Chicken, ham and jam are the most popular protein to prepare a massive Christmas Eve feast. But, gammon (with or without bone) has become more popular because of an influence of American customs, which is cooked in a large pot of water with brandy, lemon juice and coke. After 4 hours, the gammon is served with delicious and fresh potatoes, rice and green veggies.

Eat Hallacas in Venezuela


With an indigenious background and a multicultural heritage, hallacas are the iconic signature of the Venezuelan culture. A mixture of beef, pork, veggies, olives and raisins are wrapped in plantain leaves and then boiled for 1 hour (depending on the number of hallacas). People in Venezuela believes that because of its hard working and complicated process, it requires all the family members in the house to help each other from the preparation stage to the end process cooking stage. Thus, making the delicious hallacas on Christmas day represents one of the strongest holiday family traditions in Venezuela.

Eat KFC in Japan

A majority of the Japanese are Buddhist, but thanks to a successful KFC marketing campaign in the 1970s, eating KFC has become a traditional way of celebrating Christmas in Japan. This unique celebration attracts lots of media attention and foreign visitors. If you are in Japan to celebrate Christmas, remember to make a booking to get an amazing deal with fried chicken, cake, wine or champagne.

Eat traditional Almond Paste Bread in the Netherlands

People in Netherlands traditionally spend more than 3 days celebrating Christmas, so Christmas breakfast has all kinds of luxurious breads, teas and chocolates. Almond Paste Bread (kerststol) is considered a deluxe breakfast treat instead of cookies. The homemade baked cake is filled with expensive raisins, nuts, dried fruits and has almond paste. You can eat with butter or cheeses when having coffee or tea.

Eat Chicken Bones in Canada

Christmas would be missing its crucial sweet element in Canada if the chicken bone candies are not on the plates of kids and adults. The chicken bones are with filled with chocolate and covered in candy to melt smooth in your mouth.

Eat Lechon (roasted pig) in the Philippines 

BEST LECHON FOR LIFESTYLE - VANGIE REYES / JULY 27, 2012 Elars Lechon, Sabroso Lechon, Cebu Lechon, Hecky's, Eastwood Richmonde hotel, Flying Pig, Casa Armas PHOTO BY: ANDREW TADALAN / PDI PHOTO

Elars Lechon, Sabroso Lechon, Cebu Lechon, Hecky’s, Eastwood Richmonde hotel, Flying Pig, Casa Armas

Image c/o Ronald Tagra, Flickr

Image c/o Ronald Tagra, Flickr

80% of Philippines are Catholics so Christmas is a serious business for the country. A big and open feast, called Noche Buena, happens with family members, friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve from evening until midnight. A massive roasted pig with crunchy and oily skin wins over turkey and ham in the Phillipines to embody the spirit of Christmas. A big skewer hangs the pig over a big fire, which is prepared from the early morning around 4 am before being cooked at noon. Lechon makes for a juicier, merrier and brighter Christmas for Filipinos and their guests.

Eat Curry in India

Christians in India celebrate Christmas Eve dinner with the traditional curry dish and a sweet and milky pudding to end the meal.

Drink Vzvar (boil-up/borscht) in Russia

There are no meat dishes on Christmas Eve, so Russians mainly eat vegetables and fruits during the feast rather than meat or fish. Vegan Potluck and Beetroot Soup are the two popular dishes with salads. To make a unique Christmas meal, Russian drink Vzvar, a hot boiling drink with a mixture of dried fruits and honey. This traditional drink symbolizes the birth of the baby Jesus.

Eat Seafood in Australia


Because of the hot summer time in Christmas, Australians have combined a traditional barbecue style with  a cooler and refreshing meal through various kinds of seafood choices – prawns, oysters or lobsters. You will now easily catch a slang phrase “shrimp on the barbie”. The fish market opens 24/7 during Christmas Day so people can get fresh seafood for their Christmas Feast.

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Internships with Giants

Written by Student Life

When international students apply for an internship or are seeking for jobs, they might experience a few stumbling blocks; primarily the Australian citizenship and PR requirements. Through the stories of 3 international students, this article aims to educate and create awareness on international students who have managed to successfully secure themselves positions in institutions such as the City of Sydney Council, Westpac and Japan Trade Organization.

Linnea Wastberg

International Intern in City of Sydney
University of Technology, Sydney
Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Social Inquiry

As an intern in the Economic Strategy department of the City of Sydney Council, Linnea evaluated the implemented strategies of the International Student sector such as the usefulness and success of the Sydney International Student Guide. She also co-coordinated and co-managed the Lord Mayor’s International Student Welcome Reception 2015 by liaising with the respective stakeholders and managing the event. She is currently working on an Economic Strategy Plan to boost the international education economy and enhance the well-being of international students. This internship has enabled Linnea to have a greater understanding of the Australian workplace environment, improved her command of the English language, strengthen interpersonal, research and project management skills.

Linnea participated in the workshop-based program focusing on the Australian workplace run by UTS where she learned how to write a good CV as well as gained useful tips in regards to interviewing and dress practices. Based on her experience, students should take advantage of the university’s resources where one can develop intellectual skills by volunteering in the Orientation Week and Mentoring Program, speak openly and freely as well as take any opportunities to expand your networking.

Thi Tran

Assistant Intern in Westpac Bank
University of New South Wales
Bachelor of Commerce

Studying accounting and human resource management in UNSW, Thi did not expect she would get an internship in banking – a field that she has not had much knowledge and experience in. However, her solid voluntary and working experience in the International Student Leadership and Ambassador (ISLA) of City of Sydney and in her university has enhanced her communication, consulting, teamwork skills which paved the way for her internship position with Westpac. Her responsibilities in Westpac include assisting in developing the general products such as saving accounts, business accounts, mortgage, and the internal operation. In addition, the internship in Westpac has also enhanced her experience of the local Australian working culture which has greatly benefited her start-up business – The VOIS magazine.

Thi said that she was a little apprehensive at the start of her internship as she had to constantly ask her colleagues on an array of work related issues. However, actively seek out for advice would greatly aid your future professional career.


Project assistant intern in Japan government trade organization
Macquarie University
Bachelor of International Business

Miyu is an exchange student from Japan and her exchange program in Australia lasts for 10 months. The organization that she is having the internship does not advertise the position, however, she has great interest in the Asian economic and trading, and it motivated she to call to the Japan government Trade organization and inquire if they provide student internship. Subsequently, she sent them her CV, passed an interview, and got her internship after 4 months staying in Sydney.Her tasks are to listen to the seminars’ recordings between Japan and Australian governments and translate them, as well as write reports about the tendency of the investment and trading between these 2 countries. Her work contributes to the negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements, such as to reduce the tariffs from Australia to Japan and vice versa.

Miyu admitted she got the internship in this Japanese government organization because she called them to request the internship. This is also what she wants to share to the international students: take the initiative and show your enthusiasm by calling to the companies that you are interested in, it would work better than just sending an email or applying when they have recruitment advertisement.

So don’t be afraid to take a chance applying for an internship or part-time job position. You Can Do It! 

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The City of Sydney: International Student Leadership Ambassador (ILSA)

Written by Student Life

In the cover photo:

  • A Brazilian in his mid-30s gave up his 14-year experience as a lawyer in his home country to come to Sydney to start everything again.
  • An Indian mother left her 2 children and interrupted her 16-year management experience in India to pave the way to a better future for her kids
  • A young Singaporean who has traveled to 11 countries and has lived permanently in 6 different cities decided to land his foot in Sydney.
  • And the same goes for the 33 other people with yet another 33 amazing stories, none of which are less interesting than the other.

This is how OUR combined story started when we met each other in a government community program called ISLA.

ISLA is the abbreviation of International Student Leadership and Ambassador, a community program of city of Sydney which aims to provide support to the international student community, to help them to make the most of their experience in Sydney” (city of Sydney, 2015).

In order to bridge the gap between the international students and local communities in NSW, Mrs. Susana Nguyen, the Senior Community Program Officer, has chosen 35 representatives from 17 countries.

Sydney, being one of the most expensive cities in the world, has an advanced education and infrastructure which attracts thousands of students. However, it also possesses the traps and dangers that any city in the globe would have, making us disadvantaged as students, but even more so as Internationals.Despite that, our good and bad experiences have equipped us with the necessary life skills to make us more mature, more confident individuals who are more aware of their environment.

We smile with happiness at having new experiences and new friends; yet we also cry the tears of loneliness and worry about the expenses, the relationships, the assignments and everything that an international student would be concerned about. Therefore, we, ISLA, understand the international students the most as we are a part of them.

We work with each other, with international and domestic students and, with the NSWgovernment, in both local and international events. We might not know how far we can go and what challenges we might meet, but we have the same belief, the same vision and the same love for our fellow international students. We believe that together we can achieve our missions and our commitments to the government.

We are united in standing up and fighting for the rights of international students, to help them to adapt to the local life, to make the most of Sydney, to believe that there is still someone cares for them.

If you want to go fast, go aloneIf you want to go far, go together.

We have gone and will always go together, so no difficulty or limitation can stop us.We are International students. We are ISLA!

To update ISLA’s events, please follow our Facebook, and  more information about the ISLA program.


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