By Grenville Ignatius Francis

Packing up to study in another country can be an adrenaline-charged exciting experience. It can also be a nerve-rackingly terrifying thing to do, especially if the country one is moving to is so foreign, it could be on another planet. Some would say it is an emotionally laden roller-coaster ride of delight and distress.

But that is what more than 5,000 of UWA’s international students do. Leave the bosoms of their worlds of love and support where even the sights and sounds and smells embrace them with comfort and care, to chase their dreams and make their marks on the world in that foreign land called Australia.

Lee Jing Ru and Genevieve Cheng are two such international students at UWA. They too experienced that ride when they left Malaysia to further their studies in Australia. As such, they became UWA International Student Ambassadors and volunteer their help. Using their experiences to make the journeys of other new arrivals a little less bumpy and stressful.

Sitting in the warm and welcoming confines of the International Student Lounge of Shenton House, they speak of the fabulous support it offers all foreign pupils, both under- and post-graduate. Lee, who begins her third semester in her Bachelor of Science degree says the house gives “space for students to make new friends.”

She says Shenton House is a place for international students to interact, especially those not living on College Row. Some find it quite difficult to approach new people and she feels the casual, relaxed and genial atmosphere of the lounge lends itself to easier interactions and friendship forming.

Cheng who is in her third semester in her Bachelor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics says the lounge holds a variety of activities for students to engage and intermingle.  Some of the activities held during the past year include taking the best social snapshots in and around UWA, decorating doughnuts and cookies and painting personalised coasters.

Both believe the English language barrier plays a big part in the isolation of some international students, citing instances where this language barrier has caused distress in their studies. Lee speaks of one young Malaysian student who packed up and went home before completing the semester because it all got too much. Thankfully, the International Student Support team organises English classes at Shenton House.

When queried on why they became International Student Ambassadors, Lee says, “To help out the students and be actively engaged in UWA.” Volunteering has helped Lee to expand her circle of friends as well as give her the satisfaction of helping people. Cheng says it boosts her confidence and helps her to ‘talk with people, to interact with people.”

So, what advice would they pass on to international students? Lee says to prepare for the differences they will encounter here before they come here. She feels a lot of new arrivals lack awareness of everyday basics such as SIM and SmartRider cards and general UWA orientation that includes student cards, enrolments, and timetabling, and believes the university website is a great place to start preparing.

Cheng says they should work out their accommodation and finances beforehand. Also, learn how to cook, she adds. Once here, both agree that students should interact more. As Lee says, “build your connections, don’t be shy, make more friends.”

Whether connecting with peers or seeking advice, the International Student Lounge is a great resource for the diverse student body at UWA. Situated in room 1.05 on the first floor of Shenton House it is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 3 pm.

As we greet the 2024 intake of new international students with a halo and namaste and g’day, rest assured Lee Jing Ru and Genevieve Cheng and the rest of the team are back at Shenton House. Embracing them with comfort and care, helping them through their challenges and sharing with them the fun and fulfilment that can be had in this foreign land called Australia.

All the while turning the distresses of those roller-coaster rides into journeys of delight – with a whole new circle of friends.

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is the second-oldest student publication in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you like having opinions, writing, drawing, and/or free tickets to local events, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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