Chinese students: to stay or to leave

International Students in Australia. (Video: Zar Pro)

They come, they leave; they laugh, they cry. They fall down, they stand still. Experience makes them strong. — Soleil Liu

“I have considered for a long time and I decide to apply for Australian naturalisation,” Joanna said the words while she was walking in Martin Place through the crowd, who dressed formally and just finished their work. The sky was getting dark. It looked alike her mood at that time, a little depressing but determined.

Joanna. (Photo: William Wang)

Joanna immigrated to this country when she finished her secondary education in China. Strictly speaking, she is not an overseas student as well as a native. However, her experience reflects the attitude of the majority of Chinese who study or live in Australia. Stay here, it is challenging to engage in the community. Leave here, the unwillingness inside will be amplified.

Studying abroad is not just a way to commence another journey to the future, but also an opportunity for students to live under a disparate culture. The development of Australian education industry perfectly fits the situation.

Australian government, the Department of Education and Training issued the latest International Student Data monthly summary in March 2017. The report shows that there are over 480 thousand international students in Australia. The exact figure is 15%, which is more than the one in the previous year. It is worth mentioning that around 30% of them come from China. Also, the data of higher education enrollments are around 54%.

Source: Australian Government, the Department of Education and Training.

For the overseas students in young ages, studying and living in Australia may be not their own aspiration. Comparing with the youngsters, the senior students could be more confident with their own decisions and have independent thinking.

“I can’t engage in Chinese context anymore.” “The freedom, the relaxation I am feeling here is precious for me and I would like to enjoy it with my entire lifetime,” says Laurence, a new father lives in Sydney, who has experienced western style life from Perth to Sydney since he was 17 years old.

After his graduation from UNSW, he got an internship in his hometown. The opposite lifestyle feels like seizing his throat. Consequently, it made him come back to Australia and enhanced his determination to build his family here. Now Laurence works in a local construction company. He drinks with his colleagues after work every day and spends time with his little prince.

Elliott, an international student studying in Melbourne, who is studying coding and program. He changed his major from Film Production to IT when he came to Australia. His friends could not believe his decision. Because films are always what he loves. As a man with passions in literary and artistic creation, being a computer programmer does not coincide with his dream.

Elliott. (Photo: Jason Ji)

“I am gay.” The only three words he offered. Elliott said it peacefully with a poker face. His face was too calm to conceal his little anxiety. At least, people can tell his conflicts with the proud and disturbed feelings inside.

He puts down the cigarette. “I know who I am and what I like.” “My life is rooted in freedom. What I wish is having a healthy relationship and walking into the crowd hand in hand with my partner without any concerns.” The truth is that although the same-gender marriage is not officially legal in Australia right now, the future of its acceptation is still brighter than that in Asian countries.

Freedom is the one that overseas students, who have eastern culture background, always say when they get in touch with western cultures. But maybe “freedom” is not the accurate word to describe the feeling. When facing a totally different world, young people are easily attracted or blocked by the sense of freshness.

For international students, people with blonde hair and blue eyes make them feel free; through the blue sky and tight-knit white cloud make them feel free; people who are brave enough to show their sexual orientation make them feel free; and hanging out with friends and drinking at night make them feel free. As a matter of fact, leaving parents and then starting their independent lives are the real reasons that lead to this feeling. The freedom begins from the sense of fresh and will continue with the willing of being happy for the rest of their lives.

“I am anxious,” says Joanna. She knows she can not go back to China because her parents are in Sydney. However, could she call Sydney home? “I have no idea yet. Applying for citizenship puts me into the middle zone between Australian and Chinese cultures.” Although Joanna has come here for almost 10 years, she admits that she is not able to step into the local communities. “But my Chinese gals regard me as an Australian, the attitudes changed.”

Joanna is not the only one who have this feeling. Even though Laurence has known how to chat and hang out with the local and he attempts to engage with them, he also worries about if he could join in the Australian communities. “My good friends here are still Asian and most of them are Malaysian. However, the cultural and regional distinctions cannot be overlooked. I wish I could come here far too much earlier.” Laurence also dreams going to other cities or countries in the following two or three years. “The Australia lifestyle is too leisure. It would be satisfying when I get older, but not for now.”

Outside Melbourne. (Photo: Elliott Xu)

Every time when Elliott takes photos of outside views from the 22nd floor of his building, he finds himself a lucky one. He gets to own the chance to enjoy the breath-taking views over eight thousand miles away from home. Then he takes a sigh, goes downstairs and continues his coding assessments. “I don’t know if I would bring my parents here. Maybe I won’t.” “I can shout out to anyone else that I like men, but I don’t know how to tell them. They are my parents.”

Experience and the sense of belonging are key to international students’ lives, but it is hard to get them both. The reason behind the freedom they want is the feeling of having life in control. The urges for getting closer to happiness pushes them to move forward, even though they are still confused about what directions they should choose. Valuable experience fulfills students’ life philosophies and builds up their confidences to arrange their own lives. Predictably, there might be varying options and decisions after graduation, the hardship always sits beside them. But they will get paid for what they gain in the future. Both Australia and China could be their homes because the real one lies in their heart all the time. Their lives are still going on.

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