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Student stories: How international students balance work, study and life abroad

ALTHOUGH they’ve only been in Melbourne for a short time, some international students are quick to try and work a part time job here all while studying and adjusting to a new environment at the same time. Trinity College Foundation studies students April Gracia, Siyu (Caroline) Chen and Shiying (Tammy) Wang interview students who’ve experienced all these things at once. 

Dafflin Harrison, 18 (RMIT)

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Indonesian student Dafflin Harrison has been working at a fast-food restaurant on a part time basis for the past month. While pursuing a degree in Commerce at RMIT, he decided to work “to fill up [his] free time and to get work experience.” He informed us that his work hours were flexible because he could “ask for less shifts and [time] off” whenever he wanted “during school period”. Fortunately for Dafflin, he doesn’t “have many classes or lectures to attend”.

In many instances, Dafflin is able to take time off from work for study but he recommends students still pay as much attention in class and lectures as they can so that they can absorb and retain that information rather than play catch-up outside of class hours. Understandably, doing extra schoolwork on top of his actual part-time job would only make things more complicated.

When it is time for the final exam, he took some time off from work and use it to study. So, by using his free time to work, he can get more work experiences, but his hours of working will change in accordance to his study schedule. He advised you to listen in your lectures so you are still able to follow the lesson well and when it is time for exams, you are still able to do the best you can. 

Cecilia Maureen, 18 (Trinity College Foundation Studies)

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Indonesian student Cecilia Maureen has worked part time at a market for nearly two months. Often working on the weekends, she feels that she has benefitted from working and earning experience. Like Dafflin, “[she] feels like [she] has too [much] spare time”. It has also been a convenient experience for her as working on weekends means she never has to miss a class during the weekday. 

Similarly, Maureen does not think that it is hard to balance her school work and her part time job.

“Sometimes I can even do my homework while working and after all, I finish my job at 3pm, which is the time I usually start getting productive in terms of assignments,” she explained.

Maureen recommends students to “prioritise your study rather than your job” and to “never abandon your assignments just because you have to go to work.”

Zhang (Bryant) Lingzhi , 19 (Trinity College Foundation Studies)

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Bryant has been working since September 2015. He works twice a week and like the previous students we spoke with, he wanted to work because he had “lots of free time” and “experience [a] different life and improve [his] speaking”. 

Working at a convenience store has also proven to be quite easy for Bryant to schedule his studies around.

“If there were exams, I always told my boss and had [a] break to prepare [for] my exam,” he said. 

On advice that he would give to students trying to balance it all, Bryant recommends students also prioritise what’s important to them.

If you get the time and can handle your studies, then go for it. When you find that you can’t balance your studies, you [should] focus on your studies. Studies are always [the] most important thing when you are a student.”

How to balance it all

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Ultimately, the efforts of these to balance work, study and life abroad came to down them.

Studies always came first but they also considered that with enough free time on their hands, they could be able to do a bit of extra work and gain some meaningful experience.

So to repeat, what should students do in order have it all?

First of all, always focus on your studies. Do not burden yourself with too much work. Maybe having a study schedule would be the best way to manage your time. Understand that working a part-time or casual job in Australia is always a welcome opportunity to learn and grow in other areas that aren’t taught in school. But if you have too much tasks on hand, don’t add more weight on your shoulders.

Essentially, work experience is invaluable and all students should try and get seek out opportunities where they can gain relevant or meaningful work. After all, work experience is what can help you get a job and build a career in the future. But finishing your studies is also important too, of course, and all students shouldn’t lose sight of that. 

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This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via meld@meldmagazine.com.au.

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About

Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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