Culture //

The pain of going home

Jay Ng will graduate soon, and is conflicted about what lies beyond.

Image via williamson, Flickr.
Image via williamson, Flickr.
Image via williamson, Flickr.

I have lived in Australia for six years. In that time, a lot has changed as I have learnt through my own experience, and from the experiences of those around me. As bad as it may sound, I am not the biggest fan of Australia for different reasons. That aside I still feel very anxious about going home, as I am graduating soon.

I was born and raised in Hong Kong, a rather conservative society, despite the impression it gives of being an ‘international city’. Just to give an idea: in Hong Kong, racism is perpetuated against minorities and very little government assistance is provided for them. Families often prefer the birth of a boy rather than a girl, and women are policed in many ways for their dress and appearance. The society is still evidently unsure about the difference between same-sex oriented and transgendered individuals (many members of the public were outraged when Denise Ho, a celebrity and LGBTQ+ activist, discussed transgendered marriage rights in the Legislative Council). While these examples do not represent the entire city, it is easy to come across individuals on a daily basis.

I was never exposed to ideas like feminism and race theories until my feet landed in Australia, especially during my time here at USyd. These values are inherently different and have made me a better person. I constantly worry about how to stand up for what I believe in back home, and how to articulate these ideas that I learnt in Cantonese.

In Sydney, I have to constantly make my own decisions and take responsibility for them, which has made me a strong and independent woman. It is undesirable in a culture that prefers submissive women. Going home, and likely to have to live with my family again after six years stresses me. I can already predict arguments on these issues, triggered by my changed behavior or ideas.

Going home also means I will lose the luxury of living the way I want to – from eating at random hours, to hanging out with my friends at the time and place that I prefer. As odd as it may seem, many parents in my culture are strict and protective regardless of the age of their children.

On a financial front, I also worry about my career path. There is very little support provided by the university here, especially if I was going to work back in my home country. Of course, it would be normal for any parents to expect their children to have a job with a decent salary upon coming home, especially when they have paid more than $34,000 per year, along with the hidden costs associated with living.

Perhaps all these the points might not apply to all international students, but leaving Australia also means that we will be apart from all the amazing friends we have made during our time here. And for me, this is the worst part.