Q & A: How one international student has overcome change and disruption

Jasmine - International Centre
Jasmine - International Centre • 4 June 2020

Nang completed her course at Holmesglen and was all set to return to her home country. She had given notice to her boss and landlord and said her goodbyes. Then, the Australian borders closed. Nang shares her Holmesglen story and how she has been able to adapt in challenging times.   


We would love to hear about your home country. What is it like?

How you see the world is how you live in the world. The reason I say this is because the way I look at my home country before and after coming to Australia is totally different. It is a developing country and while we do have education opportunities around, there’s not enough for everybody. While we do have healthcare, again, there’s not enough for everybody. Now I view my country as quite conservative where our culture is important, however we are moving towards development. It’s a beautiful and green country and because of this, it has been growing a lot in terms of attracting tourism.


Tell us about your journey to becoming a Holmesglen student.

I come from quite a poor background however with hard work and good fortune, I was able to apply for and be granted an Australia Awards Scholarship. These scholarships are very competitive, however I believe my intention and passion to use my course learnings to make a difference in my home community is what stood out.

Before I came to Australia, I did a lot of research into the institutions and states where I could use my scholarship to commence studies and it came down to three options. I decided to contact the three institutions and I only received a quick response from Holmesglen. I could see that Holmesglen is professional, supportive and cares about students. From there, I was supported through the process, including things like finding accommodation and airport pickup. The team showed they cared for my wellbeing which is why I am so glad I choose Holmesglen.


Nang with members of the International Centre Management Team
Nang with members of the International Centre Management Team


What course did you study?

I have been a Holmesglen student for two years and studied the Diploma of Community Services which I graduated from in March. This course covers a range of topics, however a highlight for me is counselling which teaches a fundamental and essential skill for people working with communities. I have a big focus on mental health because I believe if you have positive mental health, even if you don’t have much you can be happy. This idea is something I want to bring back to my home country. We also study community development, project management, mental health, drug and alcohol issues and how to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures.


What are some of your achievements during your time at Holmesglen?

During my time at Holmesglen, I have done a lot of things. The first is being a Student Ambassador. From this, I was able to build rapport and grow my network to be considered for projects like Holmesglen photoshoots. As part of my course, I coordinated a conference in partnership with Amnesty International Australia which was a success and a proud achievement for me. Last year I represented Holmesglen at the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) conference. I have also been involved in many projects with the International Centre, including the Peer to Peer Program which is a support group for international students. Finally, I was nominated as a candidate for the International Student of the Year at the Holmesglen Awards.


Nang delivering a speech


We understand that the closing of Australian borders impacted your plans to return home after finishing your course. Tell us about the situation you faced.

COVID-19 has impacted so many. People have lost their jobs and livelihoods. When I think about it though, in a way it’s a blessing for people to come together and realise the meaning of life  myself included. The restrictions in Victoria started in March. I had planned to go home in April, just after graduation and the Holmesglen Awards were planned to occur. I had also been project managing a sexual health conference — with Study Melbourne, Council of International Students Australia (CISA) and many other organisations — which was scheduled for March. All of these things had to be cancelled and with that comes a lot of disappointment. Luckily, because of Holmesglen, I was supported.

I had already let my landlord and employer know that I was heading home in April and had said my goodbyes, so there was a lot of chaos. The main thing I was concerned about was my visa however, of course, I needed somewhere to live and to work to survive. The Holmesglen International Centre team supported me so much with the immense and complicated visa extension paperwork, for which I am so grateful. Holmesglen also arranged for me to move into student accommodation free of charge until I can return home. Luckily I work at Holmesglen’s Waverley Campus and my boss was able to be flexible and allow me to continue to work. I have to say, the Holmesglen community is everything to me in Australia.


How did you navigate through this challenging time while maintaining your mental health and wellbeing?

Having to move homes during COVID-19 and resettle into a new environment after all of the other disruptions was a challenge I had to overcome. A new home during a time of adjustment was tough. Additionally, there is so much information and negativity that circulates on the news and social media. Everyone’s stress is heightened and it’s hard not to be affected and feel scared. It impacts your wellbeing.

Self-care has been important to me in overcoming this. I meditate every morning, I write in my journal and write gratitude letters. This is where I channel my fear and confusion and it gives me relief. I also consciously exercise, eat healthy foods and go to bed early. All of these things help.

Challenges and problems will always occur. It’s about how we respond to it. 


Now that you’re in a more stable situation while waiting for the borders to reopen, how are you spending your time?

I have many things keeping me busy! Apart from work, I have the sexual health conference to manage and a mental health project I am undertaking with CISA.

The rest of my time is spent on improving myself and learning new skills. This includes meditation, journaling and listening to podcasts. I am also a member of the Glen Iris chapter of Toastmasters – a worldwide club all about public speaking. Every fortnight we have meetings which members prepare speeches for in order to practise this skill.

Then, of course, I am keeping in contact with my family which is so important. It’s not always easy  my mum does not have a phone  nevertheless we make it work to support one another. It’s important for all of us especially when we are in different countries.


Nang delivering a speech
Nang putting her Toastmasters learnings into practice


Do you have any advice for fellow international students during this uncertain time?

I think this is a golden time. It sounds weird, however it is true. Many people, myself included, think we don’t have time. Now, we have experienced not even being able to go outside. This is the time to pause, reflect on life, reconnect with ourselves and define our goals and purposes. What sort of life do we want to create after this? When we know our purpose, we can plan our next steps to make our goals a reality. 


The International Student Sexual Health Conference is on each Tuesday of June until the 23rd. To find out more check out Nang’s recent post: https://community.holmesglen.edu.au/post/954


Are you an international student who wants to share your Holmesglen story through a Q & A? Email us on intl@holmesglen.edu.au.