Sunday, March 13, 2011

Masters in Education

It has been a very long time since my last post. Whilst I haven't been spending time on the Soy Sauce blog project, I have commenced a Masters in Education by research that focuses on similar terrain. In order to assist that research project, I thought I'd resurrect the old blog as a means of keeping track of the Australian media's coverage of international students in Australia. I am focusing on what kind of discourse is circulated in the media regarding the encounter of international students with Australia. Anyhow, this article from the Australian entitled Blitz to lure Chinese students, published on March 9th 2011 doesn't deal with this issue specifically, instead focusing on the Government's attempts to reinvigorate the market in the face of slumping enrolments.

Chinese students coming to Australia has dipped significantly over the past year or so, due to a combination of several factors including changes to visa rules, the rising Australian dollar, a weaker American dollar and a US push for an increased stake in the international education export market. The article points to Australia's rebranding of its education export sector under the Australia Unlimited banner, which will be rolled out during the China International Education Exhibition tour which commenced in Beijing last Sunday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Apologies for the lack of action here lately. I have been blogging at Kangaruni recently regarding international students in Melbourne. However, I hope to return to Soy Sauce soon!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Challenge Yourself

This is the first part of my interview with Jarry. Whilst we have never met in person, I was interested in interviewing him after hearing that he had been involved in several volunteer projects, including work for the City of Melbourne. In the above photo, Jarry is the centre of attention, or, as he so eloquently puts it: 千夫所指.

There are many reasons students from China choose to pursue their studies abroad, what do you think are the three most important?

Increasing experience: Stemming from a fondness of Western culture, students are driven to go overseas and experience life here first hand.

Improving English: Achieving a good standard of English whilst living in China requires a huge amount of work, whereas living overseas is a more efficient way to improve one’s English level.

Challenging oneself: Admittedly there are a lot of stresses and difficulties associated with leaving one’s home country, but one by one, I hope to optimistically surmount all of them.

And what about those students who don’t come, what lies behind their decision to stay in China?

Most families cannot sufficiently bear the expenses associated with foreign study. However in these situations, students with good enough grades can still apply for scholarships. There is also a percentage of students who simply don’t want to go overseas. They prefer living a quiet life, and have other pursuits.

Was Australia your first choice?

Australia was my first choice. My English isn’t great and whilst there is no doubt that schools in America are excellent, from my perspective the entry threshold was just a little too high.

Out of Australia and England I selected Australia. This is because I’d like to get some overseas work experience and Australia gives people the opportunity to immigrate. After graduating in Australia, the chances of finding work here are relatively easy. Also, the majority of postgraduate courses in England only go for one year, and this seems too short.

Finally, do you believe that overseas students in Melbourne are satisfied with their experience here?

From my understanding they don’t seem to be very satisfied. The most important reason is because they are lonely, and also they find themselves unable to really immerse themselves in English speaking environments.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Colour of Water by kool_skatkat, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 license.

The following post is from Grace, a former student of mine whom I met whilst teaching at the Monash University English Language Centre in Clayton.

My name is Ruan Xuemei and my English name is Grace. I come from Hangzhou in China, which is a very beautiful city. I arrived in Melbourne in March 2008. Along with many other students, the main reasons I decided to study abroad were not only to improve my English, but also to broaden my mind and add to my life experiences. For me, the reason I choose Australia is very simple, it's easier to apply for entry than America and also my agent told me Monash is a very good university. In my opinion, most students from China are generally satisfied with their educational experience in Melbourne.

I am living in Clayton now. Like other students in Australia, I share a house with others. Fortunately, I live with my friends, and I get along with them very well. We care about each other and often make meals together just like a family. Finding nice housemates is very important I think. Apart from this, choosing a place to live is also crucial. For me, I chose a house near the station and not far from the shopping center, so I can go to university by train and buy food conveniently.

About my social life, I think the best way to get involved with the environment is participating in social activities, for example go to a church. People in the church are all very nice and friendly. They are willing to help you. I became a Christian here and go to a church regularly. As time goes by, I have made good friends from church. I enjoy spending time spending with them. This year, I joined the worship team, which has been an unforgettable experience in my life. For new students, especially oversea students, joining university clubs is a good way to meet friends. Don't always stay at home alone. Going out and making friends will make your life colorful.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On the beach, you'll find them there

This photo by Ross Thomson, appears under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license.

This is the final part of my first interview with Jack. I have presented it in its original format, with Crystal's translation of my original questions left intact. Jack articulates some interesting ideas on how international students might be able to learn more about the lives of Melbourne locals and also offers some advice to newly arrived students.

Many international students find life in Melbourne to be quite boring, with not many social activities of interest. We’d like to hear your opinion on this matter?

In some ways this is true because we find it very difficult to become a part of the local social scene. What appears on the surface to be a friendly exchange of amenities does not necessarily signal that you have successfully integrated with local society. Sometimes this is a complex problem, incorporating cultural differences, language barriers and differences in habits and customs. However, if you want to resolve these issues there is only one way, and that is to stay here long enough. So for students who have just arrived, life can be very tough and lonely.

Have you ever attended any social activities or events in Melbourne, such as a sporting event, a music concert, a university club function or a church event?

As a matter of fact, I’d love to attend events like these but I wouldn’t have anyone to talk with. Normally the thought of going to something like that makes me quite nervous, after all I'm a stranger in a strange land. However I would probably adapt pretty quickly. A church meeting might be the best place for me.

Have you met any local Australian families or students?

The only family I’ve met were a Chinese family who immigrated to Australia around 20 years ago. We met on the plane trip to Australia. They sat down next to me and we chatted happily. The father had actually graduated from the university where I am about to commence my studies. After the plane landed they accompanied me to my new house and we have stayed in contact since then.

What do you feel is the greatest difficulty in adapting to life in Melbourne for international students?

Actually, the only real difficulty is the loneliness. Apart from this, most students find it relatively easy to adapt to life here.

If you could, what changes would you make to improve the quality of life for international students in Melbourne?

I feel that the Australian Government could establish more scholarships for overseas students. Also, I think we shouldn’t be viewed merely as consumers, give us more opportunities to contribute to society. For example, we could visit the homes of older local residents and do volunteer work. We don't expect young Australians will be that interested in making friends with overseas students, they are busy enjoying their own lives. Older people on the other hand are often just looking for someone to talk with.

Up until this point in time, what has been your best experience here in Melbourne?

I was walking along the beach at some bay, the name of which escapes me, picking up shells, enjoying the sun's rays and the gentle breeze. It felt so good. I thought to my self, this is truly living!

Overall, would you describe your experience of life in Melbourne as pleasant?

Yes, relatively pleasant. I find life here agreeable, the pace of life is very slow and I am free to do the things I want to do.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The power of compassion

Photo by Nasitra entitled Glimmer of Hope, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.

Saturday February 7th 2009 will long be remembered as the day over 200 people lost their lives in Australia’s worst natural disaster to date. On this day, now known as Black Saturday, fires swept through the Victorian bush, destroying over two thousand homes and completely decimating the towns of Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewen and Flowerdale. With over 500 people injured and 7500 people left homeless as a result of the blaze, not to mention the huge economic losses caused by the disaster, a remarkable effort will be needed to restore balance to the lives of those Victorians affected by the fire.

Alongside a swift response from the State Government of Victoria and the Federal Government of Australia, which passed a $10 million emergency package, individual Australians were quick to contribute to the call for donations with a Red Cross appeal raising over $150 million. These contributions have been bolstered by donations from major corporations, companies, banks, and cultural and sporting organizations such as the AFL.

One group that has also rushed to the assistance of the victims of the bushfire has been Australia’s Overseas Chinese community. This community, made up of international students, permanent residents, citizens of Chinese descent and expatriates has galvanised in an effort to raise much-needed funds in this time of need. Whilst their campaign has not received much media attention, I feel that it is extremely important to commend this community for their fund raising efforts.

Personally, I found out about this campaign only last week. Whilst walking to work at Monash I came across a poster proclaiming
捐出一澳元, 献出你爱心。

The sentence can be translated as ‘donate one Australian dollar, show your compassion.’ It went on to detail a campaign organised by the Australian Overseas Chinese community with the support of the Education Group of the Consulate General of the PRC in Melbourne. I was quite awestruck by the community spirit displayed by the Chinese community in Australia in instigating this campaign. I was even more moved when I met a student from Beijing who was standing in the hot sun at Monash Caulfield carrying a hand made donation box emblazoned with the Red Cross insignia and collecting money for the bushfire victims. I began talking with her and discovered that she had only been in Australia for a matter of weeks but felt the need to volunteer and do what she could to help those affected by the disaster.

To read more about the fundraising campaign or to find out how you can donate, you can follow this link to the Monash Chinese Students Association blog. I will provide a full translation of their blog entry in the above post.

In closing, Soy Sauce would like to pay tribute to the Overseas Chinese Community of Australia, especially those international students involved, and also to the Consulate General of the PRC for their assistance in helping Victoria rebuild in the wake of this tragedy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Absolutely happy with life in Melbourne

In this second and final part of my interview with Pei Pei, she relates her feelings and opinions on a variety of topics relating to the international student experience in Melbourne.

I live in shared accommodation near the Clayton campus of Monash where I go to uni. It is definitely very difficult to find accommodation here. There are lots of student seeking off campus accommodation, so rental properties become quite a scarce resource with availability unable to meet demand. I think that this makes rental agencies quite rude, as they don’t have to worry about the properties they are handling, knowing that there are so many people who are desperate for housing. As for price, those properties located near campus become unreasonably expensive. Living in home-stay accommodation is even dearer, plus I don’t really think I’d like the food provided!

In terms of my experiences living in shared accommodation, I have heard lots of horror stories. I am constantly hearing complaints from my friends or friends’ friends that their housemates are being difficult or their landlord is being unreasonably harsh, even doing things like asking them to move out at extremely short notice. Ideally, I’d live in a cozy and clean newly built rental property with two to three other people. Of course it would be even better to have an opportunity to live with local people in a nice neighborhood in order to really experience Melbourne’s culture.

This brings me to the subject of meeting local people, I don’t think international students usually get many opportunities to do this. I was able to make local friends through my recent vacation work experience in Queensland but if I hadn’t had this opportunity I may have never had a chance to mingle with local students. Before my vacation I had been to soccer matches, footy matches, charity events and other things but only once did I really get a chance to meet any Australian students or their families. This occurred through an activity organized by St Johns Church near Caulfield. Some friends and I went to one of the church volunteer’s houses and had dinner with her family and friends. It was a really great experience.

Overall I think life in Melbourne is fairly easy for international students, especially compared to remote areas like the island I stayed on during my summer vacation. On the island there weren’t any Asian supermarkets or grocery stores, plus ALL the shops were closed on Sundays.

Sure the public transport here isn’t great but that is because Melbourne is more sparsely populated than most Chinese cities and the majority of the population have private cars here. This just means I have to plan my trip before I go out otherwise I might get caught waiting for a long time or stuck because of the dreaded NO SERVICE notice.

And in terms of safety I’d say that overall I feel quite safe here, except when I’m walking down the street and someone yells out ‘Sexy!’ Many of my friends have had this experience and have talked about it, so we just don’t go out alone anymore.

If I could make any changes I would let international students benefit from the public transport concessions that local students enjoy but on the whole I have been absolutely happy with my time here in Melbourne. The city itself is the most international city in Australia and there are heaps of exciting events happening here everyday!