International student perspectives
International students from Monash University take you behind the scenes of studying in Australia.
Australia is internationally recognised as one of the world’s top destinations for education. With a high population of students from overseas, Australian universities offer a range of postgraduate degrees, scholarships, accommodation services, English language courses and study assistance to welcome foreign visitors.
In 2014, international students made up nearly a third (31.5%) of STEM postgraduate research students in Australia. Given the numbers of international students who remain in the country and apply for residency or citizenship after completing their studies, Australia has the potential to become a key STEM destination.
Meet three international students studying in Australia:
Prajwol Sangat from Nepal, who studied a Master of Information Technology and is currently completing a PhD
Juthaporn Charoenphol from Thailand, who is studying a Master of Advanced Engineering (Mechanical Engineering)
Nandini Anantharama from India, who is studying a Master of Information Technology
What made you want to do postgraduate study and work in Australia?
Prajwol: Before applying for a postgraduate, I researched student life in Australia. I found that Australia was hailed as one of the best places to live while you learn. It’s a dynamic, vibrant country with energetic people and a strong reputation for excellent education.
Juthaporn: Australian universities are very supportive of international students. It’s a safe country and not too far from my home. The people enjoy a high standard of living, they have a professional way of working and they are open-minded to foreigners. It’s a great place to stay.
Nandini: When I decided to enrol in a Master of Computer Science, I researched the pros and cons of the top universities across the globe. I decided on studying in Australia because Monash University has a fantastic computer science department and several merit-based scholarships for international students. Melbourne is a beautiful city and a growing hub for software companies, which made the decision that much easier.
When you began your postgraduate, what was your experience of studying in Australia and where did you live?
Nandini: The first few weeks were consumed with academic administration and getting used to the rhythm of daily life. The university made the transition easier with an extensive orientation session, which answered many of my questions. I was lucky to find fellow postgrads as flatmates, who were very welcoming and took me to the beach on my first day.
Prajwol: Studying in Australia has been the best experience of my life. When I first arrived I shared a room with another student, because I love to get to know people and learn about their culture. Room-share is great, low-budget accommodation, but the university offers a range of other options in their residential buildings and apartments.
Juthaporn: Melbourne is a lively city and convenient to travel around, so I don’t have any difficulties living here. But as my native language is not English, it took me a while to adjust my listening, speaking and writing skills in class. I would recommend overseas students to enrol in an English course before the start of semester.
Where did you find support to help you in your studies?
Juthaporn: The library had plenty of resources and free courses to help me improve my speaking and writing skills. I also received great support from academic staff, who helped me find an engineering project that suited my interests.
Nandini: My lecturers are incredible, and everyone is approachable and friendly. They go the extra mile to help you resolve any concerns you might have. The university also incorporates interactive teaching methods, which I find very useful.
Prajwol: There is a great culture of being able to talk to your professor or lecturer about something you don’t understand. If you need help with academic situations or personal problems, the university provides free counselling. At Monash, there is a postgraduate association and a student association to help you out.
What challenges did you have when you were finding work in Australia?
Juthaporn: There are not many large companies who accept international students. I’m still studying a Masters degree and have only had casual and part-time work so far, but I’d like to join an engineering company.
Nandini: Finding part-time work turned out to be a little more challenging than expected as most positions are full-time. However, with time and effort, I was employed as a research officer at the university, which complements my studies.
Prajwol: I’ll be absolutely honest – the driving factor for finding work in Australia, besides a solid qualification, is how well you know people. It’s important to look in the right place at the right time. After applying for over 250 jobs online, I was able to find one at the university.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
Prajwol: One highlight was getting to spend time working at Agilent Technologies while I was a student. Another was being awarded with a Monash Graduate Research Scholarship so I could pursue my research and complete a PhD. It looks like things just keep getting better, so I’ve no doubt if you ask me in few years I’ll have a new highlight to add to the list.
Nandini: In my second year, I had the opportunity to do a one-year research project. I was fortunate to work with a very accomplished and knowledgeable research adviser and to work with The Alfred Hospital. The university has a great combination of teaching excellence, a relevant and well-defined curriculum, flexibility for specialisation, industry partnerships and, most importantly, the willingness to help you reach your goals. There are a number of interesting options I could pursue in research or industry. Whichever path I choose, I am confident my two years here have given me a solid foundation to build a successful career.
“Australian universities are very supportive of international students. it’s a safe country and a great place to stay.”
Author: Heather Catchpole
Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs