‘Migratory birds’: studying away from home

To stay or go back home after finishing study is always a struggle for Chinese international students. There is no doubt that the newly released policy about 457 visa is making waves to their hearts. The changes of immigration policies happened recently is exactly a chance to observe what they think and how they respond to it.

Wild geese are always beautiful in ancient Chinese aesthetics. They strongly acknowledge their destinations by migrating from north to south in every autumn-winter, and they are smart enough to travel like a sequential team during the long journey. They have been appraised of tenacity and beauty by Chinese poets since ancient times, which makes them a beautiful and persistent motif to represent human personality.

Some of those wild geese are flying to the warm south, Australia, while the recent policy released in April this year of abolishing 457 (Long-stay Temporary Business Visa) made it a severe cold current forcing them to make a decision ahead of schedule. 

“It seems that there are many choices for me after finishing my master degree, but no matter what way I choose, it will be difficult.”

Kira Liu has stayed in Sydney for two years. She studied HR in her bachelor’s degree in China, almost finishing her master of media practice in Australia, and dreams to become a fashion designer in the future. In order to be close to her dream, she volunteered in Sydney Fashion Week during May. “I feel it is exciting and frustrating at the same time, because the more I close to it, the more I feel myself narrow-minded.” Kira added: “my mind is changing all the time. I don’t even know it is a self-improvement or indecision.”

For now, she has to face the reality. If she wants to stay in this country, she has to extend her student visa by applying for a second Master. “There are too many things uncertain, and I am not brave enough to sacrifice time and money to achieve it,” Kira said. “457 Visa do affect my future plan, but it does not touch the essential problem.” She believes that the only challenge she needs to conquer is to be brave enough to decide her future path.

“I have never walked alone at nights in Victoria Park since that happened, and I will never tell my parents to worry them.”

Hellen Li, a 25-year-old young lady who is doing one of the most popular master degrees at the University of Sydney, has a helpless experience. Last year, she was robbed in Victoria Park, at around 7.30pm on her way back home. “I tried my best to be calm because I have a final exam the other day. I have never been through this kind of thing before, and being calm is the only thing I can do at that time.” She then described the whole thing in the recording below. She is not the only victim. Security issues associated with international students are still an un-tackled problem in this nearest park to the campus of Sydney Uni. There are at least 5 cases happened among a year and the latest happened in this April around 2.30am.

A reminder from Fisher Library on 2nd, May. (Photo: Mia Ning)

Majoring in Accounting, she has to split her time into pieces. Three days for studying at uni, two days for work and the left days for Natti. “I have a sister in China and she is the one who strongly supports my whole family both financially and mentally. Honestly, I feel less pressure because of my sister’s caring for my parents. And that maybe the reason why I am considering to stay here.” The company she worked in is an international education agency but most of her colleagues are Chinese as well. Some of them are students like her, others have already got PR, a permanent residency Visa in Australia.

Hellen Li describes the robbery in the recording (Source: Mia Ning)

“It is normal to see we Chinese students do part-time jobs in this kind of companies like real estate companies or education agencies. It is like a comfort zone because there are not that many chances communicating with native speakers. I am struggling.”

“It (the 457 Visa changes) pushes me to make a decision.”

Having been living and studying with his cousin in Australia for seven years, Luke Liu has plenty of memories here. He looks even-tempered and speaks at a slow speed.When he was doing his bachelor degree in UNSW, he permed his hair in bouffant hairstyle. But for now, his appearance is more appealed to a typical Chinese look with a crew cut. He never doubts that when one day he would come back to China and the only variation is how long he will stay here after graduation.

Yang has hesitated for several months, and her biggest concern is from her family. She is from a traditional family of Chaoshan area in the Guangdong Province, where the culture shows a significant difference to the other areas of China. She has five sisters and one little brother. “I can imagine that once I go back home, I will follow my sisters’ steps being arranged have blind dates even though I don’t even have any intentions.” She had a plan to apply for a totally different Master in Canberra, but the ban on 457 Visa made her plan dashed. “Family relation is so complicated. I know what a happy life I will have in this country. But my elder sisters keep putting pressure on me, and I know they are telling truth.”

Yang looks tired when referring to her family.”I know I can’t rely on the family all the time, and being free requires for money and time. That is the thing.”

Family value always takes big part affecting the choices of this group of people. This group of people is just like wild geese seeking for a warm place to stay and keep conquering difficulties in their ways. Policies are changing just like the cold current, but these students are like wild geese seeking for a warm place to stay and keeping conquering difficulties in their ways.