Welcome! Or should I say Namaste and Ni Hao! Maybe there are other countries out there but I’m sure that about covers most of them. As an international student myself, let me just say to you – Congratulations! Either through stunning academic achievements or industrial strength bribery you’ve managed to join one of the top ten universities in Camperdown! Now, as that famous Russian guy said, “Unhappy families are all different and happy families are the same,” or something. Whatever, I don’t read. So to make sure your time in USYD is a happy one, here are some pieces of advice.
Saving money? Don’t worry about it!
Being an international student comes with tremendous privileges. You get to contribute to the beautification of this great institution by paying at least $16,000 (Australian dollars) per semester! And since many of you will be failing, you’ll get to pay for a lot of those! Of course, this is no problem as we are all obviously children of oil tycoons so can pay these amounts without blinking. Which is great because you don’t get student discounts, like concession pricing for public transport. What, are you really going to ride on the train like a peasant?! Don’t make me laugh into my jewel encrusted handkerchief.
You don’t speak English
So you grew up in a British colony in Asia that has been speaking English since before Captain Cook set foot on Australia? Not good enough, mate. You won’t be speaking the right kind of English (for example, you should only say the word ‘but’ at the end of sentences). I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘Your English is really good!’ (Which is weird since Asians are good at counting, amirite?) Since I’ve been practicing speaking English for the last two decades, it’s wonderful to have this affirmation from people who are the experts.
You’ll have diverse collaborations
It’s amazing the kind of people you’ll get to work with – anyone from a Taiwanese to Shanghaniese. Obviously, coming to a new country where you have zero social networks, a completely different cultural reference pool, and knowledge of a completely different set of cultural norms is hard. So you may be surprised to learn that the onus is on YOU to reach out to others. After all, if domestic students who already come to university with friends they’ve known for years are able to, why can’t you? And even though there may be people of similar backgrounds that you can relate to, associating with them means you’re being ‘unapproachable’ and ‘isolationist.’ After all, you haven’t succeeded socially until you’ve made White domestic friends.
Get ready for an exciting love life (especially if you’re a woman)
You get to be showered with words like ‘exotic’ or praised for having ‘lovely almond shaped eyes’ (men, you will also get that a lot, which is GREAT…). It’s especially fulfilling if you like being pursued by people who treat you as an object of tokenised sexual fetishisation. It really doesn’t matter where you come from or how you look. As long as you look different, you’ll always get to be someone’s kink. And at least in that, there’s something for everyone.
Illustration by Aimy Nguyen.