Q & A: Venezuelan culture meets life in Melbourne

Jasmine - International Centre
Jasmine - International Centre • 31 August 2020

Hailing from Venezuela, Darwin is an international student who enjoys his Melbourne life so much, he is undertaking his second qualification here. He has embraced Aussie culture, but equally has great pride for his home country. Learn more about Darwin’s wonderful South American home country and the similarities and differences it has to Melbourne and Australia. 


Tell us about your journey to becoming a Holmesglen student and your aspirations.

My journey with Holmesglen began with my older sister Dilia who was once also a student at Holmesglen. She inspired me to come to Australia, she was my building block during my studies in nursing, and like me, she also has a great passion for the Institute.

I am in the final year of a Bachelor of Business Administration course, but before this, I studied a Diploma of Nursing, also at Holmesglen. I have worked in that industry for more than 4 years now and my career ambition is to become a business consultant in the health industry. To achieve this goal, I will have to continue my studies in health science and of course, build a good reputation in the business world. 


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

Despite being in the midst of the political and economic turmoil, my Venezuela is a place of great wonders and delightful landscapes. It is well known for having amazing mountains with the most breathtaking fauna. Venezuela also has some of the largest rivers in the world as well as the tallest waterfall. But if there is something every Venezuelan is proud of, it’s the spectacular beaches and islands that surround us, being next to the Caribbean Sea. 

Choroni Beach Venezuela
Choroni Beach / Playa Grande, Venezuela


We would love to hear about the cultures and customs of your home country. How would you describe the Venezuelan people? 

Venezuelans are characterised for two particular virtues, our happiness and resilience. We are grateful for what we have but, at the same time, we look to thrive always in uncertain times. Venezuelans are very positive people. One thing is for sure… anything, and I mean anything around us could be the cause of laughter! This is perhaps the reason we make friends with almost anyone in matter of seconds. 


What are some important values in your culture? 

In our culture, we embrace who we are and hold that as a badge of honour. This is because, like Australia, Venezuela was also once a country of multicultural life. We soon learnt that our colour or race is simply a feature of unique beauty within each one of us, that makes us special.  


Tell us about the food culture in your country – are there any national dishes?

Yes!! Where do I start? I think the preferred national dishes for Venezuela are arepas and empanadas. I say this because this is normally what we have every day for breakfast. But there are other culinary delicacies we have like golfeados venezolanos (Venezuelan cheesy roles), tequenos (Venezuelan cheese sticks) and Venezuelan flan. 



What might be considered rude in your culture?

Blowing your nose with tissue paper in public! This will definitely raise some eyebrows and create some stigma in people, and they will think of you as someone who has no manners. 

Here’s a funny story. When I first came to Australia and saw people blowing their noses in public transport and even restaurants, I was so disturbed I had to tell someone I was sitting next to, to stop! They looked at me very strangely… but it was just a matter of time before I would start making this my bad habit too, especially in winter and spring. Until one day, I was talking to my mum over the phone, I blew my nose without realising I was still talking to her, she was so shocked with my impoliteness and rudeness. I remember her, saying, “Darwin, I never raised you like that!” 


What are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed in Australian culture, compared to your home country?

I think Australians and Venezuelans are very alike in many aspects. Both cultures are easy going and like spending quality of time with our love ones in bars drinking beer, or in open areas. But I think maybe the biggest difference is that for barbecues, Aussies eat sausages in white sandwich bread, which I learned to love too. In comparison to Venezuelan barbecues though, Aussie’s barbecues could improve a little. 


Do you have any funny stories of your encounters with Australian customs or culture?

Yes! apart from the blowing nose embarrassment. I also had a bad experience greeting a stranger with a kiss on the cheek, which is custom in Venezuelans. It is basically the same concept the French have when they greet people with kisses but instead of giving two kisses, we only give one.

I came to Melbourne with my ‘weird’ Venezuelan habits and the first day I went to church I went to say hi to a girl, so I shook hands with her and leaned forward to greet her with a kiss on the cheek. To my surprise, she pushed me away and gave a very bad look. I have never felt so rejected! 


Tell us about some of your achievements during your time at Holmesglen?

People always ask me about the awards and the scholarships I have acquired over the years with Holmesglen. But to me, these are not my biggest achievements. I consider my biggest achievements to be a result of what I have accomplished with Holmesglen, which include my ability to persist in challenging times and to value the power of friendship. 

Thanks to that, I have been able to learn an entirely new language in a foreign country; use my skills to save someone’s life; grow my network; pass all my subjects and most importantly influence others by leading with passion and love. 


Darwin, International Student of the Year 2019 at the Holmesglen Awards

As an international student who has achieved so much, what advice do you have for fellow international students to make the most of this experience?

  • Accept yourself unconditionally. Get to know yourself completely and learn to leverage your true strengths. 
  • Read, read and read. But not just junk material, read what is important and relevant for today. 
  • Be proactive and learn critical thinking. 
  • Set your goals and priorities. 
  • Help others thrive and care for them. 
  • If it doesn’t work in one way, find another.  


Finally, we’d love to hear about how you are coping with the challenges of Covid-19. 

This is what has helped me to focus and cope with difficult times, and science supports it. To have a flourishing life we need to: 

  • Have positive emotions. 
  • Motion creates emotion, so exercise every day. 
  • Enjoy the blue and green of nature. 
  • Talk and care for your mates. 
  • Be grateful for what you have. 
  • Make sure you eat as healthy as possible.
  • Take time to rest each week (it will reduce your stress and anxiety levels and make you more efficient). 
  • Giving is living, just do something for someone for no reason. 
  • Look after your spirituality. 

There is an online course called The Live More Project - it would be very selfish of me no to share this with you! So, if you can give it a go! It's great! 


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