International students do have Aussie mates, and we have lots of fun!*



Verge Festival flashmob, circa August 2012 (Photo credit: Midflip)

I read this article today, entitled "Why international students need to make Aussie friends" by Catherine Gomes on The Conversation, a website that posts opinions by academics on current events. This article described a particular problem that international students face in Australia - the difficulty they have mixing with locals.

More than anything else, an international student’s social life in their host country impacts their perception on their time at university. In particular, Gomes calls for Australian universities to make further changes to their orientation programs, to ensure that international students are better integrated into their host society.

The article made me reflect upon my own time here in Australia, and I realised that none of my closest friends, save for the two who came over from my high school with me, are Malaysian. I met most of my friends at the Women’s College, the residential college where I lived for four years, and through the Movement and Dance Society on campus. Aside from being teased occasionally about the strange way I pronounce certain words (‘tomato’, ‘salmon’ and ‘pizza’ being my worst offences), and being asked for my opinion on the best Malaysian food in the city, my nationality doesn’t usually crop up as a topic of discussion. 

Additionally, most of my closest friends are Asian-Australians. It wasn’t a conscious choice of mine, but it’s interesting to note that this was one of the issues mentioned in the article - that international students’ difficulty in interacting with Asian-Australians (I’m assuming this applies specifically to Asian international students in Australia) makes it hard for them to feel “at home” in their host country.

I’ve certainly not deliberately sought out the company of people who look like me, and I think rather than mixing with Asian-Australians that makes me feel at home per se, it’s more about mixing with people who have similar interests and values as I do.

Given this is my last year in Australia, I decided to share some of my favourite moments from the past five years that I’ve been here at Sydney University. None of them are related to study. Instead, they’re wacky, ‘artistic’ ventures (note that I say ‘artistic’ with a lot of trepidation), which usually started in my head as a funny idea in a moment of procrastination from my books, and which many other talented people have been gracious enough to humour and help make a reality.

I now present my top 3 moments, tongue-in-cheek, as “an international student with Aussie friends” at Sydney University:

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