CHAI Junction continues to assist international students in Australia who find it hard to adjust to a new life away from home. Manuella Silveira recently spoke to its founders, Su and Jeri, to better understand the work they’ve done to help.
The experience of studying overseas often brings a mix of feelings for any student. It can be exciting living overseas, learning new cultures, living by yourself and meeting new people but with so many new things to learn, it’s easy for students to begin to feel homesick and isolated from the local community.
Having experienced this sense of social exclusion themselves, former international students Suhasini Seelin and Jerilee Cardoz, known as Su and Jeri, founded Chai Junction, a place where international students can hang out with local students in a real local social experience.
“We aim to work with what international students want from a local experience,” said Su.
Born in 2010, Chai Junction aims not only to gather students to a place where they can connect with each other, but also encourage them to develop personal and professional skills and network with the local community.
“When we first came to Australia, back in 2006, there weren’t many meetings and groups where we could possibly network. We started this project for ourselves and we now aim to help international students fit in the Australian community,” explains Jeri.
Chai Junction promotes multicultural events, like workshops, seminars, movie nights, informal get-togethers and many other projects where international students can gain skills and connect with other cultures.
Both Su and Jeri have a Master of Creative Media in Film & TV from RMIT University and are passionate about telling stories through visual arts. They are currently working on producing a TV show to be released next year.
One of their latest projects was the play Open for Inspection, held at the Chisholm TAFE in Frankston last August. Written and directed by Su, the performance featured the experiences of international and local students living in a share house.
Chai Junction has also organised Short Film Nights in collaboration with one of the largest short film clubs in India, Shamiana, where they showcased short films produced worldwide.
“The event was an opportunity for students to present their work for an audience and connect with people from the industry,” explains Su.
“People also got to share their experiences and discuss how they financed the films.”
When asked why they named their organisation ‘Chai Junction’, Jeri explains that “Chai, in most Asian cultures, means tea and tea is an excuse for getting together for conversations.”
“It’s about networking and connecting in a common place, which is the junction part of the name.”
The name also suggests that it could be a place for people to get together for both personal and professional development in a relaxed manner, as in meeting friends for a cup of tea.
Together, Su and Jeri run Chai Junction in a fun and promising way. From brainstorming over cups of chai and meeting people from different organisations across Melbourne, Chai Junction is always aiming to engage international students with local communities, promoting fun and productive events outside the grind of education.
“We are now constantly working on what students want, so if you have any questions and ideas contact us and let us know.”
The story was supported by the City of Melbourne’s Community Services Grant 2014, and is part of the ‘Day in the life of…’ project featuring a cross-section of the diverse local Melbourne community – the extraordinary and ordinary people in the city, their lives and their jobs, and opportunities to connect.