Going abroad to study at a tertiary institution is the desire of many people. Students who have opportunities of learning in Australia are all excited for their departure days. They think of the freedom they will have, new friends to make and new life to enjoy, but they seldom imagine the challenges they may encounter.

Like these students, I felt so happy when I was granted an Australian scholarship to study here. Although I am old enough to know that life is not easy in a new environment, and my teachers equipped and prepared everything about “Culture shock” before hand for me (I was immune), I still faced some challenges like the use of computers, missing family, and suffering with strange food. These things affected my study. However, in the long term, even right now I already have strategies to overcome them and adapt myself to a new student life.

I come from a remote area, and unfortunately, computer using became popular in my home country just some years ago – In the late 1990s when I already finished my tertiary study at university. That was the time for hand-doing things. Teachers wrote on the boards by chalks, and students copied into their notebooks. There were not any printed handouts like this time. Then, I came back my hometown after I graduated, and I experienced some jobs including teaching English and working as a post staff, but I seldom had a chance to use computers. Although I already completed some computer courses got certificate for level A, I did not practice using it for a long time, so what I can do now is only typing in word processing and sending email. However, I cannot type as quickly as my friends do.

I also perceive that computer skill is now a need condition in every field of work and life, so being a student I must be professional in using computers. However, because of two reasons I mentioned above – My origin place and my age are barriers for me to get used to it. I shall try to bridge this gap by any way and at any time when I have a chance. For example, asking for help from teachers, tutors, and friends. Moreover, I shall buy a second hand computer to practice using it everyday, or if possible, I will register to study in a computer skill course, and I hope in the near future time I shall make great progress in computer accessing.

Loneliness is a sense I have undergone sometimes in my life even when I lived in my family. That was when I got some secret sadness that I could not tell or share with any family members. However, this emotion became more serious when I first time lived on myself in a foreign country far away from my home. Although in the past, I had ever stayed in dormitory in other province for my study at the university, and I was accustomed with living alone; I was seldom in the upset state like this time. Before I came to Australia, I was sure that I would never be challenged with homesickness because I had ever experienced the mood of “away from home” student life. Really, to relieve my hurt feeling, I spent a lot of money on phoning home, especially in “Tet holidays” time, the beginning of February, when I had to study while in my country that was enjoyable time for everybody. That made me feel more homesick, and even I cried on the phone with my husband and my son.

This emotion also quickly passed when I gradually became familiar with life rhythm here. I took part in some parties with new international friends at their renting houses and ate their traditional food; for example, with Korean, Laotians and Australian people. Then we went to supermarkets and Sunday markets together both by bus and on foot. I shall participate more in other activities of the university like going to “English conversation class” every Thursday, Video Night or Bus Trip so that I will have a busy but enjoyable life to soften my loneliness. For my husband and child I shall find another way to contact them cheaper but also a compact one; for instance email whenever email access becomes available in my hometown, and when my husband knows how to use it like me. We shall have a good time each other, and I shall not have a state of being separate from home anymore.

Food is an everyday everlasting issue that people seldom take into account for their problems as the others; and I do, too. I am an easy eating person, and I am sure that I can eat any kinds of food. However, when I came to Australia, and I have lived in Downsview Lodge, an International Preparing House, I have really suffered the strange food there. I was never in this case before. Although I tried to comfort myself to make familiar with these kinds of food, and as a result I could not. I cannot stand eating bread (sandwich) all the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner days after days. Furthermore, I am sick with dairy food, so terrible my life during that time. Rice is the main food course in my country, but here I seldom have a chance to meet it, usually mash potatoes, pizzas and Italian noodles, things that I can only try sometimes at the parties.

To liberate myself and to get again my balanced state of mind, I shall find another place - where I can cook myself – the Vietnamese food style – to live. I shall have another opportunity of going shopping every weekend so that I can understand more about people, lifestyle, culture and social activities here. Moreover, I shall study better when I am not hungry during the studying time anymore.

In conclusion, challenges with new life in a foreign country are inevitable for overseas students. However, there are different kinds and degrees from one student to others. For me, with the lack of computer skills, homesickness, and food problems, I believe they are only temporary obstacles in my life. I am sure that I can overcome these things to enjoy my studying life here. In addition, many of my International friends will help me in this point of time, and with my adventurous character, I consider this is only one period of my traveling path. I already decided to come here to study; I have to get success regardless of all barriers.

 

Trương Thị Thanh Nga_Department of foreign languages

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