Study & Work Abroad - Brisbane, Australia

Interview & Text | Samantha Leong, Chloe Lim, Khin Chong

Chloe Lim (27) Facility, HR & Accounts Manager at Shafston International College, Brisbane.

Education pathway: SPM > The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of International Hotel & Tourism Management.

Q: Why do you choose to study abroad? It was kind of a family tradition to study abroad. We have three (3) siblings in the family and all of us graduated from The University of Queensland (UQ).

Q: You took an American Transfer Program but lastly pursued your degree at UQ. Why? I first had the ‘American dream’ like many of my friends do but I ended up choosing the University of Queensland because of its QS ranking. Also, to make sure that I could spend my semester break with my family in Malaysia, I chose to study in Australia because its education system offers similar semester break periods.

Q: Any essential(s) that you will advise students to bring over to Australia from their home country? I was budget-conscious enough to think that things like cotton bud, toothpaste and sanitary pad are essentials to be brought all the way from Malaysia because they are e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e here. Then I realized that the price is ok once you started earning in Australia currency. The only essential that I would bring along with me from Malaysia is contact lens because unlike in Malaysia where you could simply buy one, you must see a qualified Optometrist to issue a prescription in Australia. Also, what I would not spend money on in Australia is ‘Roti Canai’ because they are anyhow expensive. Ah… how I miss Mamak…

Q: Which program did you graduate from? I was enrolled in a dual degree of a Bachelor of Psychology and a Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management. I was young and dumb that I dropped the Psychology degree after my first semester.

(pic above: "I’m the last unit my dad invested in The University of Queensland 😂 3 of his children went to the same uni, guess he owns a piece of that brick wall behind." Chloe)

Q: How did the program benefit(s) you? Thanks to the 3-year consecutive assignment submissions, my writing skill improved. As I was enrolled under the Business Faculty, the syllabus required intensive report writings. I remember that I once asked my tutor if a written assignment means submitting my report in handwriting (side joke). After graduating from my degree, it surprised me how I ended up becoming a Band 8 English user in my IELTS test. Q: Did you commit to any part-time job during your studies? If so, do you have any tips to share with future students? Yes, I started to look for a part-time job once I landed in Brisbane. I used to work at a “BOBA” shop and a Chinese restaurant. It is always my suggestion to international students who wish to engage in a part-time job to KNOW YOUR RIGHT. Throughout my university years, I have experienced abusive work environment and get paid with illegal rate. It somehow turned me into a tougher person, but I would still suggest newcomers to know your rights because your parents wouldn’t want you to go through those nightmares. To find out what you are entitled to, you may visit for more details about employee entitlement even as an international student. They have strict regulations on work rights, and they are there to help. Q: Did the part-time salary help cover some of your living expenses as a student? It depends on your own lifestyles. For me, my earning was able to cover most of my grocery spending and a partial of my rentals. It would be so much easier to cover both if I weren’t underpaid.

Q: From your personal point of view, can you share with us about the Australian education system or learning culture based on your experience? The Australian education system does not rely 100% on final examination. Rather, students are assessed from different perspectives such as class attendance, group work etc. ‘Think out of the box’ is highly appreciated in Australia. The culture is open-minded, and they know the boundary where you are allowed to unmute yourself whenever you feel uncomfortable. So far, not more than 5 persons have asked about my race and age, but maybe a little warm ‘Hello, tell me about your beautiful home country.’ Second, the system is flexible. I did 4 subjects as a full-time international student (that’s compulsory) for a tertiary education. But if you proved that you could handle more, you are allowed to take up more subject, not to mention you will be given the flexibility in choosing courses and timetables. As I work at the Shafston International College that offers English and vocational courses to both domestic and international market, I am proud of how the system allows people from all ages to receive education. Courses like IELTS preparation, Cambridge English, and TOEFL though, requiring satisfactory attendance because we offer these courses to students under 18. No matter which education level you plan to pursue in Australia, you will always feel supported along the journey. Q: Any tips to share with students regarding choices of accommodation? I am lucky as I have relatives in Brisbane, so I was introduced to renting a shared house in which the rate is lower as compared to living in the city. I used to pay around AUD 150 per week. Believe me, it requires luck to find a rental that would suit your needs because I once met a landlord who refused to return my rental bond and treated me like a Cinderella (with fix cleaning schedule and curfew given). To ensure that you are protected as a tenant, make sure that the rental agreement is bind with the residential tenancies authorities in different states. Speaking of the rental in Brisbane, a shared house is a cheaper option, but it may require you to commute longer to school. I used to commute 1 hour to UQ but it was great to sit down and relax along the journey. For rental options, browse Gumtree, Flatmates, or Facebook groups. There are also better options offered by student accommodation companies such as Unilodge, Student One, Urbanest, Iglu etc. Q: Any advice(s) for parents that are considering sending their students overseas? Studying abroad is a good chance to train teenagers to be discipline, independent, and responsible of their own decisions. Parents should seize this opportunity to allow children to explore more of the outside world with appropriate amount of care given. When I was working at an education agency, I encountered students with self-discipline issues where they hardly prioritize their studies due to distractions, and distractions are normal. I personally recommend parents to be on top of the breakdown of tuition fees, deadlines, and details of the institutions. One of the cases that I encountered turned out so bad that the student spent his tuition funds in gambling and the parents knew nothing about it. I am not suggesting parents to put children under 24/7 surveillance, but at least, keep yourselves in the loop of their academic progression.

(pic above: P/S hobby in Australia is expensive though.)

Q: Last but not least, do you have any tips regarding visa application? The first tip that I would suggest is to evaluate the risk of your country’s passport and the choice of your institution(s) before you apply for your student visa. The higher the risk of your country’s passport & choice of institution(s) the lower the success rate of a visa application. Second, your Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) statement will need to be comprehensive to convince the Department of Home Affairs that you are going to reside in Australia on a temporary basis for education but not abusing your right to stay as a channel to gain permanent residency in Australia. Supporting documents might include but not limited to statement on: A. Family and education background B. The reason why choosing Australia as your destination C. The reason why choosing this institution D. The reason why choosing this courses E. Your plan after attaining this qualification Finally, the gap between each milestone is also essential to determine your risk. For example, it would be riskier for a person who completed high school in 2008 and decided to study abroad in 2021, given that this person could not provide hard evidence of the gap in between (such as employment letter etc.). Also, the relevancy of your background, career plan, and courses are also key… In overall, you will need to prove to the Department of Home Affairs that your intention to study is genuine and provide evidence before the authority doubts your motives to remain in Australia.

(pic above: Chloe and Samantha during our online interview.)

Special thanks to Chloe for contributing valuable info to our e-publication!

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