More to overseas study than a university education

University isn’t the only means of education for international students in Australia. Mihika Hegde caught up with three TAFE students who are loving their education. 

When considering international students, university study can often be the first thought that comes to mind. However, despite a rise in international student enrolments at TAFE, the conversation and dialogue around international students can often leave the entire sector flying under the radar.

So what can you expect from TAFE study and would it be an option for you? Meld Magazine spoke to three students about their experience and what they’ve learned.

Stefania Zeno
Institution: Melbourne City Institute of Education
Course: Diploma in Leadership and Management

Originally from Italy, Stefania embarked on a TAFE course in the hopes of becoming a manager. Moving to Australia with her family provided her with a support system that she spoke of with gratitude.

“I think it’s a good to have them all around me because I don’t feel alone”, she said.

Previously studying cookery, Stefania said that though this wasn’t the path for her, it guided her to what she wanted. Studying at TAFE as an international student is not a common pathway. In fact, in 2010 no single public VET institution had an international student population greater than 16 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Looking ahead, Stefania outlined plans to work in Australia, putting her skills to use in the local job force. Speaking to international students considering a TAFE course in Australia, she advised people to research aspects of life abroad. Accommodation, transport, and employment can become significant drivers in shaping an international student experience.

“I think all international students need to check which course is best for them because otherwise you waste time. Make sure that you find a school that helps you in every aspect [of your life] not only in the course”, she said.

Shahrulazri Zaini 
Institution: The Gordon
Course: Nursing

In the thick of a TAFE course, Sha says that he has always had an interest in nursing so undertaking his current field of study was a natural next step in his education. Having previously served in the Peace Force in Singapore, Sha says that this experience shaped his outlook and approach to his studies.

“I decided it was time to spend some time away from home [after serving in the Peace Force] and try something different”, he said.

Having visited Melbourne on holiday prior to studying in Australia, Sha says that the cultural climate of the country was always a factor that attracted him to the locale. “I love it here, I like the weather and the people”, he said.

Though TAFE is often not a considered option for many international students, Sha chalks this up to a lack of representation and promotion.

“I think it’s an awareness thing. There’s actually quite a number of international students here. I didn’t really realise that the past few times I visited here”, he said.

TAFE courses can be a gateway for many different career paths. For Sha, he said that he hopes his experience will lead to opportunities at other tertiary education institutions and employment within his chosen field.

Bibek Subedi
Institution: Victoria University
Course: Engineering

Throughout his studies, Bibek has developed a knack for embracing change. Enjoying the hands-on approach of his course, he said that having the opportunity to put theory into practice was a particularly noteworthy highlight of his studies.

“Experiencing the things we’ve been reading in theories and books is the greatest opportunity,” he said.

Hailing from Nepal, he said that his secondary studies shaped the career aspirations he holds today.

“My teachers and my colleagues gave me motivation to pursue higher studies,” Bibek added.

Comparing his experience in Australia with his preliminary studies in Nepal, Bibek said that he’s enjoyed the melting pot of cultures that Melbourne homes. “I have the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures,” he said.

As for takeaways from the classroom, Bibek said that he’s been appreciative of staff for considering the specific circumstances he experiences. Being enrolled in a course specifically for international students, Bibek said that the structure provided him with a support network he found wholly beneficial.

Looking towards the future, Bibek has high hopes for what he hopes to do with his skills. Embracing a socially conscious approach, he said he was interested in giving back to his country of origin- Nepal.

“It’s a developing country so I’d like to do work and see where that takes me”, he said.

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