Saturday, February 7, 2009

The importance of being harmonious

This post introduces Jack, a student who I first met whilst working at RMIT English Worldwide. Jack was always really funny and interesting in class so I was keen to ask him to contribute to Soy Sauce. In this first excerpt, he talks about some of the reasons why Chinese students come to Australia and goes on to give some really interesting anecdotes about the problems many students face when trying to find suitable accommodation in Melbourne.

My name is Jack and I come from China. I have lived in Melbourne for four months. I finished my Bachelor degree in China with a major in applied mathematics.

I think the main reasons Chinese students go abroad for further study include widening their own horizons, improving their English skills and also exploring the possibilities of future immigration. As for those students who choose not to go abroad, they probably cannot afford the financial burden and their parents have rejected the idea, or they simply want to start their careers early. Personally speaking, I came to Australia to improve my English and I’m also interested in migrating here one day, even though I’d prefer to live in Canada.

On the whole I have been satisfied with my life in Melbourne although I’m always annoyed that there are so many Chinese here, which limits my chances to speak English.

I think one of the biggest problems facing Chinese students when they come to Melbourne is housing. When we arrive in Australia, usually our English speaking and listening skills are not sufficient to interact with local agents. We have to say ‘pardon’ so many times that they become impatient and bored, leaving with the impression that Chinese have poor communication skills. As a result local agents seem like they really don’t want to do business with Chinese students, which really limits our options when it comes to renting a house.

However, we still need to live somewhere so we are usually forced to seek help through more established Chinese immigrants operating within the rental market. Because the properties controlled by Chinese in Melbourne represent only a small section of the overall market, we are forced to compete with all of the other Chinese students here who face the same problem. As a result of this fierce competition the prices go up and up. In the end, Chinese students usually end up living in places where the rent seems irrationally high!

To add to this problem is the difference in the exchange rate between China and Australia. Let me give a specific example, the money used to pay a month’s rent in Australia on a single room is equivalent to what it would cost to rent an entire apartment for a whole month in some mid-scale Chinese cities.

Because of this, most of my friends here live in share houses with other international students. This experience is not without its problems and some of my friends have been forced to move house. A couple of my friends have even moved house several times in one month! Honestly though, I would probably do the same thing as I believe in the importance of harmony when one is living abroad alone. I would rather avoid conflict even if it meant losing a little bit of money. I guess that is because I am a pretty easy-going guy with not much in the way of aggression.

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