If you ever wonder what an international student's life is like, let me tell you, it's not a bowl full of cherries. In fact, it's more like a bowl full of durians.
I will take you into the real life of my international student life in Australia during COVID19.
No. It's not the Crazy Rich Asian stereotypes that you see on tv. But, the brutal reality of maintaining three jobs at the same time and yet, maintaining a distinction average at university.
Having a part-time job while studying is tricky, as you must have some serious time planning skills to maintain that job and try not to fail any subjects, but having two jobs, or even three, is even trickier. However, that's the life that many international students live right now. The main reason for this is due to the ridiculously high tuition fee and living expenses in Australia.
During my time in Australia, I have had to learn to stay afloat, emotionally and financially. It was hard and sometimes, I wondered whether I would make enough to pay the rent on time, to feed myself, to pay for tuition fees, because unlike some international students, I am not living off my wealthy parents and just to achieve high marks at university.
So, I want to share my top tips for international students living and studying in another country far from home. I hope this will help other international students in Australia strive for their best experience and marks.
#1: Time management is the key
Having three jobs means you will have three different rosters, and if you do not arrange these carefully, you might end up mixing everything up. Normally, I will have two fixed rosters, so I know what day I would work in two jobs, and a flexible roster in the other job (means I could tell my manager what day I could work, and they will let me work on that day, at the shift that I want). I also note everything down in my calendar and set the alarm for everything to remind me if I forget anything.
#2: Talk, talk, talk
When I have a deadline at university, I will ask my managers to let me have some days, or even a week off, at least one week in advance, so that I still have time to study and do well in my exams. This approach has never failed me. Communication is important. If you feel like you cannot work, just tell your manager frankly and let them know the reason, they will surely understand.
#3: Keep track of your study
When I was in my first year, I didn't even bother to look at the subject outline. But when you have a part-time job, the subject outline could be your bible. It tells you all the important dates: the midterm break (so you can get more shifts), the deadlines (so you can plan ahead for any day off).
#4: Always pay attention to your health
Having three jobs is tiring. Sometimes I have to work 12 hours a day and move between two places with a very tight schedule. So how could I still have good health and enough sleep?
The answer is, I didn't.
I was exhausted!
Last semester, sometimes I only had 4 hours of sleep and then woke up the next day still working and studying like crazy.
Why don't I give up, you may ask? Well, I can't. The crazily expensive rent and tuition fee has placed a burden on international students like me.
I was lucky that my parents still helped pay for most of my tuition fee, and I had to pay the rest. But some of my friends have to pay for everything themselves.
One time, I read a story of a guy who came to Australia to study. His parents told him that they could only pay for the fee for the documents to get him to Australia, the rest would be on him. So he had to work two jobs from early morning till very late at night. He could only afford a bed for $80 a week.
Many international students are living like that, and as I said at the beginning, it's a bowl full of durian. But you know what, despite its gross and spiky skin, the durian keeps such a sweet and nutritious flesh. Even though it is hard, but I won't give up, because I know my hard work will pay off one day.
Having an international education and learning to be organised during hardship, and being resourceful are important life lessons that will define one's character to persevere for the light at the end of the tunnel.