student Tag Archive

Little Ms. Independent International Student

Written by Student Life

It’s pretty common for teens to wish they were on their own, living the independent life, with no parental units breathing down their necks. We’ve all been through that. I’ve always wanted to be independent — I’ve always dreamt of going to university, living on my own, setting my own curfew, exploring and absorbing culture through my pores. I just never thought that time would come so soon. I’d always prepared myself for the separation from my parents after I graduated. It was the norm. I’d come to terms that graduation marked the beginning of my adult life. But, alas, that is not always true.


It was the summer after my junior year. Australia wasn’t a curve ball my parents threw out of nowhere; it’s been in the works since the beginning of the school year. I was excited. And nervous. Really, really nervous. I was no stranger to uprooting to a strange land; I’ve had to move to Saudi Arabia at 9. Settling into Saudi Arabia, however, is far easier than Australia. You’d think, “Well, you’ve lived in a conservative society all your life, wouldn’t you want to be independent?” I did. But there was a catch.

I had to do it without my parents.dsc_0757

They flew Down Under with me, of course, but they were only around for 1 week. I was only 17. How was I supposed to survive three months and three weeks without my parents?! They don’t teach you this kind of stuff in school. But thankfully, my mamma didn’t raise no fool. I could take care of my basic necessities just fine – I knew how to wash my clothes, change my sheets, wash the dishes, clean my room, the simpler stuff. I just couldn’t handle finances well. But it wasn’t something I couldn’t learn.

“When I first moved to London, I felt very homesick and yearned after the countryside a lot. Because London’s hard. It’s a big place, and it’s lonely. It takes a while to get into it. But once I got into the flow of it and started to grow up, I realized that my home is wherever I am.”

– Toby Kebbell

afiqah5 (1)

Because I am underage, I had to stay in a home-stay. Living in a home-stay helped ease the homesickness – my host will usually have guests and they would treat me, almost, like their own. It made me feel very welcomed, except when they would begin to speak to each other. That always throws me off course. I went from smiling, laughing and trying to make small talk to just staring at a point on the wall or just staring at the TV as they spoke in rapid-fire Greek. 0 – 100 real quick. But I got used to it.

It was a challenge for me to enjoy myself here. There was this one time that a friend of mine pointed out that I was very cheerful and I was “emoting”. It was very interesting of her to say that – I had always thought I was emoting. Unknowingly, I had this solemn, somber, indifferent look on my face if I wasn’t particularly into conversations; probably an RBF but sadder. I was immensely insecure about being miles and miles away from my comfort zones. It was my defense mechanism.

I didn’t want to be one of those small town people who forgot themselves once they moved to the big city, the big leagues. Focused on not losing myself and home, I refused to enjoy what Sydney had to offer. But that always resulted in my sitting in my room, taking long walks down memory lane and getting lost in a whirlwind of emotions. That’s not healthy.

nazihah5Coming back for my second semester here, I’ve resolved to enjoy myself. Sure, I’ve had to grow up and mature pretty quickly, and I’m still a bundle of nerves anxiety. But, I’ve begun to accept that I’m 17 and miles away from home. It can only be a good thing in the long run and it’s the start of something great. The weather will change but it doesn’t mean I can’t get the most out of it.

I’ve got a mission here and that’s to make my parents proud, to make myself proud, and to grow. Like waves in the stormy ocean, responsibility and life broke the shores of my consciousness and washed me awake. Trying to surf the waves when I’ve only been practicing for 3 days is deadly. I will fall and get hurt but I’d hurt myself even more if I didn’t try.

It wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy and I don’t expect it to be. I’ve always got support from my loving parents and my wonderful friends back home and here Down Under. To help myself enjoy myself Down Under, I chronicle my adventures on my blog here and through photos on my gallery.

How long was I going to live under my parents’ wings?

I’ve got my own. Let’s give them a test run.


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5 New Uni Resolutions for the Lazy

Written by Entertainment, Student Life, Tips & Tricks

Welcome to those fresh out of high school (prepare yourselves) and to those who are returning to uni (you poor suckers). Here are a few study hacks as a new semester descends upon us.

1/ Take the time to be present

Sit at the front. Aall the way at the front

Sit at the front. Aaall the way at the front.

Seat yourself where the professor directs their attention and thus questions. We’re all students and therefore nerds, nothing wrong with that. Near the back has poor lighting and food crumbs…which are like the crumbs of knowledge you’re picking up (#Englishmetaphors). And not being there in the first place means you’re not picking up anything at all. Plus, you’ll be surprised by what actually filters through during daydreams and thoughts about lunch.

2/ Don’t leave just yet


Ten minutes before the lecture ends there’s a rustling of papers, then a whistling of zippers, then a thunderstorm of seats snapping back into position as people leave. If your next class is almost a suburb away across uni campus that’s understandable. But if it’s within a 500 meter radius, surely you can spare a few minutes listening to the lecture slides that (most) professors have devoted time and energy to. Near exam or assignment time there are always a few pointers that will help and they’re usually tacked on at the end for the studious.

3/ Ask question after question

Young Boy at School Raising His Hand to Answer in Class --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Raise your hand like this Young Boy at School Raising His Hand to Answer in Class — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Only the mighty of us ask questions in class. Why? Because no one admires someone who seems to lengthen lecture time. But you know who does? The professor and every person who has the same question on their mind. You’re showing that you can think critically about the topic or present potentially new and interesting perspectives. It actually injects life into the lecture and allows the professor to showcase their knowledge. Uni is, after all, an opportunity. Make it a point to ask a question every time. Stand out and be remembered as that person instead of those people.

4/ Read the textbook before lectures

All the books you promised to read. But never did

All the books you promised to read. But never did

Yes, uni textbooks can cost almost two weeks rent. Yes, sometimes these are impulsively bought during the period of time when everyone’s super motivated to study. And yes, sometimes the recommended textbooks aren’t even used. But by going to the source of the professor’s material, you’ll know what the lecture will be about in advance. The absorption of the take-home message will be much faster, so you can get-home much more quickly too.

5/ Use lists

So many days. So many opportunities

So many days. So many opportunities

The phrase “get organised” sounds so overwhelming to procrastination lords everywhere. Like it’s so simple to download an app or buy a diary and write down tasks each day and just do it. So where do we start? Start by writing down lists. Write down absolutely everything you need to do and ignore deadlines. From there, prioritise those tasks. So many of us walk around with to-do lists in our heads that it creates unnecessary mental clutter (as uni students, we don’t need anymore). By writing them down, those goals become concrete and we’re more likely to remember them.

So go forth and conquer the first week of semester.

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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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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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