“Study Local Support Local” is run by Zhan Huang, a recent graduate from RMIT. It is an online community volunteer group for international students in Australia or those who cannot return to the country due to pandemic-related restrictions.
It’s a much-needed avenue for international students in Australia who are suffering from a lack of transparency from the government over when they can return. Many have also lost jobs, struggling to pay tuition fees, pause their programmes or even quit university altogether.
How does Huang’s initiative fill this gap? We caught up with him via email to learn more about “Study Local Support Local” and why, despite all news reports to the contrary, there is a silver lining for international students in Australia today:
Tell us more about Study Local Support Local and how you’re helping. What are some key things you’ve noticed with the New South Wales Government and their support for international students in Australia?
It’s a campaign to call for Australia’s attention, putting aside the financial and political aspects to focus on the connections of international students in Australia’s everyday life. It’s to make sure Australians understand how important it is to have such international students and to reconsider the border restrictions or possibly reopen the borders to them.
It then grew and became the voice for international students, especially those who are unable to return to resume their studies. The thing that needs more work is the message for international students. For example, the “you should go home” message from the government.
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The plans to have students back or the pilot programme that was released with no follow-up messages or announcements needs more clarity. In contrast, New Zealand authorities confirmed they wouldn’t allow students to return last year which was a clear message that helped students plan their life ahead.
News accessibility to non-English speaking countries also needs more clarity. The government or unis should have listed their key announcements in languages other than English. This helps new enrolled students and their families to understand easily.
There is a clear financial and mental struggle where the support for it is not enough. Students are paying to study in Australia so the country is responsible for those students’ health related to their studies. Authorities need to offer mental health support in different languages. Why? Because mental health is strongly connected with each student’s culture.
Despite the country’s strict restrictions, do you think it’s worth it for international students who are waiting to head back to keep their hopes up with the new pilot programme?
I managed a closed group with 800 students and family members, with 7,000 followers across different platforms so I believe I can confirm that those who are still waiting to come back are those who have no online classes available. They also have family and/or properties here and are in the process of getting their permanent residencies.
The only thing they can do is wait. In addition, students paid to get their degree in this country because they like and trust Australia. This is why we should not let them down.
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Tell us more about your career trajectory in IT since graduating.
I was very lucky to get an internship opportunity during my final semester and I’ve worked there since then. My suggestion is to work on your CV and portfolio during the semester break and do not give up looking for jobs in the final year of uni.
For those students on shore, it’s a great opportunity for them to get a job as not many skilled workers are not able to travel back at this stage. Therefore, many companies accept student visa holders for some positions.
For those offshore students, if you plan to stay after graduation, it’s also time to look for jobs. It’s definitely harder to find something but there is nothing wrong with being prepared especially since many more companies accept work-from-home settings.
What skills or knowledge do you wish you had learned more during uni?
I did not make the most of my summer breaks. I know it’s not about skills or knowledge but I really wish I spent more time trying new things.
I strongly recommend all students to take summer breaks to live in a different city. If you study in Melbourne or Sydney, spend a summer in Brisbane or Perth. Meet new people, see new things and possibly work in a casual job.
These living experiences will open up your mind. This will help you understand more of Australia as well as sharing your own culture to Australians.
What advice do you have for students who are planning to enrol in the same course as you?
To follow what you want to study. If you don’t enjoy it, change. Nothing is too late to start but of course, stay passionate and keep learning.