Helping yourself Down Under: Survival tips for Indian students in Australia : The Tribune India

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Helping yourself Down Under: Survival tips for Indian students in Australia

Thoroughly research academic system, work norms, financial implications

Helping yourself Down Under: Survival tips for Indian students in Australia

Between January and December 2023, as many as 1,26,487 Indian students were studying in Australia. Photo by the writer

Tanvi Bhatia

EAGER to ease the financial pressure on his parents in Karnal, University of Sydney student Mayank Kumar fell into the trap of getting a job that would help him earn more than the regular wages. “This person, of Indian origin, drove me around to various workplaces. Abruptly, he requested me for money saying he would pay me back and also help secure more contracts. I transferred him the money and never heard from him again. It was only later that I found that students have work limitations of 24 hours per week and cannot work beyond that unless they have university breaks,” says Mayank. Having learnt his lesson the hard way, he urges international students to be mindful of what awaits them.

Working more than 24 hours a week is not just a breach of law, it’s a risk that can jeopardise one’s entire academic journey, besides cancellation of visa, reminds Swathi Thangavel, a student at a Perth university.

According to a report of the Department of Education, PRISMS, between January and December 2023, as many as 1,26,487 Indian students were studying in Australia, making it the second most popular destination after Canada.

Students from India say the promise of a better life and opportunities can easily get crushed in the absence of properly researching the academic system, cultural nuances, language barriers and financial implications.

“We are drawn to part-time work opportunities to fund our studies, only to face the harsh realities of restricted work hours and visa regulations,” says Shubhang Aggarwal from Ambala, who is studying in Sydney. “It was after I arrived here that I discovered the limited job availability and high living costs.”

Ribhudeya Ramamoorthy, a student in Sydney, says, “The rent here is quite high. I spend around 570 AUD (1 AUD=Rs 55) a week for accommodation.” With university accommodation costing AUD 300-600/week, many students live on rent in areas away from the university, which adds to expenses. Depending on the location, the cost of a private/sharing room can vary between AUD 120 and 400, plus bills for utilities. Additionally, expenses may include cost of travel to the university. Grocery expenses start at around AUD 50/week. The food bill can go up to AUD 150/week if you eat out regularly. Leisure activities like exploring the city, watching movies, etc, will further dent your budget. Conservatively, international students concur, living in Australia costs around AUD 25,000-40,000 per annum.

Relying solely on part-time work to cover fees and living expenses may not be sustainable in the long run and can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Hemang Patel, a recent graduate, states, “For me, balancing work and studies proved challenging, leading to a prolonged job search in Brisbane. The experience left me feeling lost and overwhelmed, ultimately resulting in a period of depression, with no clear solution in sight.”

From adjusting to social norms to understanding communication styles, cultural differences also pose significant hurdles. Language barriers can further compound these challenges, making simple tasks overwhelming.

“The Australian academic system is vastly different from what we are accustomed to. It requires patience, perseverance and willingness to learn and adapt,” says Harjinder Kaur Manki, who is currently pursuing a Masters degree in cybersecurity in Sydney.

Nithin Krishnan, a Sydney-based senior network engineer, emphasises the importance of soft skills and a positive attitude in securing employment. He underscores the need for proactive learning and utilisation of freely available resources as many fail to realise the potential of acquiring knowledge to get into high-demand fields.

Jeremy Lindeck, a lecturer at University of Technology, Sydney, underscores the importance of assimilating and embracing Australian culture. He suggests joining diverse group projects and social clubs at the universities.

Amid the trials and tribulations, there is hope. Australia offers a plethora of support systems and resources. From university services to community networks, there is a safety net to help those who stumble along the way.

Nadeem Ahmed’s ‘Indians in Sydney (IiS)’ support group on Facebook boasts of 1,32,000 members. Highlighting the significance of social connections, Nadeem says, “IiS is more than just a group but a community providing support, resources and connections.”

Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a testament to strength and resilience, says Hemang. “Queensland University provided me the best support when I was fighting depression.”

#Australia #Karnal

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