As part of Study Australia's #InThisTogether campaign, we're chatting to international students to get their perspectives on study and life in Australia, and what their journey has been (before, during and post-COVID19).
I’m originally from East Java in Indonesia, and came here to Australia on a very competitive scholarship in 2016 - the Australia Award - to study my PhD at the University of Canberra. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself at the time so it’s crazy to me that I even applied for it, when thousands of students apply and only a small number are accepted each year. I was really excited, I couldn’t believe it, when I was told that I got it!
I was working as a Maths teacher in Indonesia, and was interested in learning more about how we could help students further develop their maths skills, so that’s the focus of my PhD.
A world of opportunities
Since arriving at the University of Canberra, I have felt so grateful. For us, the chance to be able to study abroad is something you just can’t afford, unless you are coming from a wealthy family. And it also allows us to study in English, which can be very challenging as a non-native speaker, especially academic writing. But the benefit of learning English is large, and the university is very supportive and provides tools and services to help us through our studies.
The opportunities given by the scholarship are huge. It has given me the chance to do different kinds of workshops, learn skills, and even the opportunity to meet important people from the government here in Canberra. Sometimes when there is a program at Parliament House, we’re also invited along to attend, with people from UC.
Close-knit university community
Uni Canberra is very supportive, because it’s a small uni. This is beneficial for me as a PhD student, because I get more personalised attention. Any time I need their help or assistance, people in the university actually recognise me - they always know, “oh Destina, you’re in the faculty of education, your supervisor is so-and-so”. As a result, the bonding feels very personal, that you probably wouldn’t get in a large university. It’s like a family, and that feels so good.
Personalisation matters, now more than ever
This has been particularly good during the recent challenging times of COVID-19. Due to the campus closure, we cannot access our office anymore, and have limited access to printing, textbooks, and internet. This is pretty hindering to me at the moment when I'm writing my thesis report.
Having access to 24/7 online study and writing help has really helped me get assistance with my thesis at this time, helped me to keep it up and boosted my confidence as well. Because I’m not a native English speaker, those little grammatical things and language can be my biggest hurdle when it comes to academic writing. Knowing that the university offers help with this anytime through Studiosity is a real comfort.
Studiosity gives feedback that is not always telling you what is exactly right or wrong, but they really teach you. For example, they’ll say 'If you put a word here, the sentence would be better', but they are not going to tell you WHICH word, they let me think. Also in my language we use different types of tenses, not ‘simple, present, past’, so I often miss using the correct tense - it just doesn’t occur to me. But Studiosity reminds me and now I’m getting better at recognising that in my own work. I keep improving and I can feel it now, like I think I'm a lot better at that. And they always give us the reason, so for me, I'm really learning a lot in terms of improving my English through Studiosity.
Also thankfully, both of my supervisors are still available. We have regular meetings, which is really helping me to keep up with whatever I can do in the meantime. I live here alone, and my family is back home in Indonesia. The cases of COVID-19 there are a lot worse than Australia. So I am thinking about that, and what I will do back home after I finish my thesis, and when you have so many things in your head, sometimes it becomes such a jumble that you can't create anything. But the support from my supervisors has really helped me a lot with that.
Our university has something in place called the COVID-19 scheme, which allows students to apply for leave or extensions, and can also seek financial support, physical and mental health support from the uni in this way. At the moment I’m working my best to finish up my thesis report so that I can complete it here before I go back to Indonesia.
Me presenting my study to Australian academics
Then, hopefully, I’ll take what I’ve studied and learnt here to see how it can be implemented back in my maths classroom at home in Indonesia.
My tips for other international students
- Never feel ashamed or shy to ask for help. As international students, we need to shout out if we need support. At my university, I’ve found people to be really helpful and supportive, if I just ask - as well as a range of academic support services available anytime.
- Be positive in these unprecedented times! It’s easy to feel stressed about what’s happening, and as someone living alone, it’s easy to feel down about that. But you’ve got to have a positive frame of mind. And be straight-forward about your goals - focus on your study and remember why you’re here.
Thank you so much again, Destina, and best wishes from all of us in the Studiosity Team, on your academic journey.