Bridging the gap between local and international students requires collaboration between government, universities and organisations
SIX years, five different cities – and Melbourne still has the X-factor that Melbourne alumni Steven Tannason can’t find anywhere else. But if there was one thing he wished could be better, it would be seeing government, universities and organisations work together to bridge the gap between local and international students.
Having lived in five different cities over the past six years, I can safely say that my years studying in Melbourne have taught me some of the most important lessons in life, which have shaped who I am today.
Born and bred in Jakarta, I arrived in Melbourne six years ago to pursue my degree in media studies at University of Melbourne. Amongst others, I was attracted to Melbourne’s prestigious educational institutions, particularly University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Arts, and its close proximity to my hometown Jakarta. Upon arriving, I experienced moments of homesickness, partly due to living alone. Little did I know that for the next three years to come, Melbourne would be a place I proudly called my second home, where I met some of the best friends I have ever had.
I have yet to figure out a way to put its X factor into words, but I am sure those who have lived in Melbourne get what I am trying to convey.
Throughout my three years in Melbourne, I had plenty of opportunities to explore life outside lecture halls and tutorial rooms. Besides serving in the committee of Melbourne University Overseas Students Society, I joined Meld Magazine as a journalist and business intern, volunteered in fundraising marathons and intercultural festivals, attended inspiring public lectures as well as immersed myself in the holistic cultural experience Melbourne had to offer.
Closer to classrooms, I believe University of Melbourne’s “Melbourne Curriculum” – then referred to as the “Melbourne Model” – has been pivotal to my subsequent university and professional career. In addition to my core Arts degree, the curriculum has allowed to me to pursue my other interests in business management and marketing. Taking subjects from Faculty of Business and Economics proved instrumental during my application for my postgraduate degree in management. Furthermore, those subjects provided a strong foundation during my internships at marketing and advertising firms.
Amongst the few regrets I have had during my university years, I wish I had made more local friends.
After my degree in Melbourne, I moved to Hong Kong and Beijing to pursue a master’s degree in international management. Fast forward one year after graduation, I am now based in Singapore, working for a technology company. While I had a great time living, studying and working in the fast-paced, dynamic Asian powerhouses, there’s something about Melbourne which I can’t find elsewhere – its X factor. I have yet to figure out a way to put its X factor into words, but I am sure those who have lived in Melbourne get what I am trying to convey.
Perhaps it’s the blend of intellectual academic rigor, rich arts and culture as well as diverse group of inhabitants. Perhaps it’s the mix of mesmerizing skyline of the city’s skyscrapers and beautiful natural scenery in the outskirts of Victoria. Perhaps it’s the lifestyle – which may include safety, efficiency and infrastructure. After all, Melbourne has been consistently ranked amongst the world’s most liveable cities.
After all, these elements of Melbourne have made my three years there some of the best time of my life. Amongst the few regrets I have had during my university years, I wish I had made more local friends. While I had made some good local friends from lectures and tutorials, I wish I was more aware of any platforms bridging local and international students.
In my opinion, bridging the gap between local and international students require collaboration between government, universities and organisations.
It is already difficult to make friends in a university setting as compared to smaller sized school environment, let alone making friends with those who come from a different cultural background. In my opinion, bridging the gap between local and international students require collaboration between government, universities and organizations. Events, meet-ups and “buddy programs” are important in addressing the issue; as important is making sure that international students are aware of these programs, as initiatives will amount to nothing if the critical mass is not achieved.
As we are speaking, my plan for the foreseeable future is to pursue my career in Southeast Asia, especially its biggest market Indonesia, which many observers argue is where future opportunities lie. However, a goal I set for myself a couple of weeks ago during moments of reflection is to keep getting connected with the local alumni network wherever I am, be it university alumni association or Australian alumni network. After all, it is always refreshing to catch up with old and new Melbourne friends, reminiscing unforgettable memories we all carved in our heart.
Steven Tannason, from Indonesia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne in 2012. He then headed to Hong Kong and Beijing to pursue a master’s degree in international management. He now works at Google in Singapore.
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