By Ted Chan
While authors of entries in this blog site talk about how much they liked their experiences of studying abroad, I shall write my entry differently. Just like Julia Stiles in her movie with the late Heath Ledger entitled 10 Things I Hate About You, I shall dare to share my own list of 10 things I hate about my experiences as a student in another country. Specifically in my case, I will talk shamelessly about my experiences as a Filipino student in Newcastle, Australia.
I hate having to stay up late to chat with friends from different cultures, endlessly talking and sometimes arguing about our cultures – from food preferences to funny customary nuances and political leaders. I remember many instances of having to stay out in the coldness of our veranda over conversations with my housemates coming from Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Germany, Sweden, etc.
I hate doing group work, especially when I need to be more flexible with my learning and work style preferences to adjust to people from different cultural backgrounds. Language and attitudinal barriers all made it challenging to interact within groups and successfully get through group activities and assignments.
I hate the feeling of restlessness because of all the many activities to do and places to visit in Australia. Breathtaking sceneries, interactive wild life centres, colourful botanical gardens, and not-to-mention many festivals and markets in summer, winter and spring. There’s truly just so much to explore and experience here in this country. The Parliament House in Canberra, Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains, Mount Wellington in Tasmania, The Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, The Twelve Apostles in Victoria – and many more I unfortunately haven’t had the chance to visit.
Worth mentioning is how quiet it is here in Newcastle. The peace and quiet looming over Newcastle makes me just want to sit in a park or at the beach all day to enjoy a momentary sacred space while savouring the country’s clean air and surroundings.
Compounding the mental pressure of all the places I want to visit and the temptation to just hang around in parks, I have to sit for hours through journals and textbooks. Preparing for classes and writing essays and reports take so much time that I would have otherwise spent in traveling around or sleeping. Instead, I take advantage of the 24-hour section in our library to sift through the world-class comprehensive access to knowledge of our universities.
Speaking of our classes, haven’t we all experienced the most challenging professors at Uni? Professors whom we feel had made it their life’s advocacy to make our lives difficult. They’ve given us assignments that made us cry in helplessness. They’ve asked us to write reports and essays that stretched us beyond what we thought were our limits.
How Australians speak. What’s with not pronouncing R’s where there are R’s and pronouncing them when there are none? I honestly sometimes cannot tell if they are saying law or lore, saw or soar. And don’t get me started with the Aussie slang. Like how did ‘Ta’ mean Thank you? And how’s this – Australians ask you “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” and then walk away just before you start telling them how your day has been.
The food. What’s with the large servings? It’s not helping at all that fruits, vegetables and meat here are of highest quality and of unforgettable juiciness. Pair them with the best coffee, wine or beer here in Australia, and you are sure to crave for them every single meal – even when we’ve headed home to our respective countries.
The shopping. Charlestown, Westfield, Kmart, and others. There are items on sale every day, and for those of you who have braved the malls on Boxing Day know what I am talking about. How many of us have bought pairs of shoes as if we are centipedes?
I dare say, almost in a masochistic kind of way, similar to how Julia Stile’s character ends her poem, that what I hate most among all I have listed is how I don’t hate any of them – not even close, not even a bit, not even at all. The professors and my university whose commitment enabled me to be a better person, the Australian and non-Australian friends I continue to meet who constantly rejuvenate my appreciation for life, the surroundings that provided me with moments of peace to keep going on – these are the reasons I continue to learn and unlearn and see every single day as a blessing. I shall go home with a renewed sense of being and a sustainable gratitude for what I have, whom I have and what I do. My sincerest hope for you, my reader, is that you also continue to find experiences you love to hate but nevertheless hate to love.
Ted Chan is an international student from the Philippines and recently completed a Master of Human Resource Management at the University of Newcastle. He was the recipient of an Australia Award Scholarship provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.