The Real Struggles of an International Student

Words by Swati Saini 

Swati is an International Student from India studying her Masters of Commerce at UQ in Brisbane, Australia. Read her Hero Profile here!

Wherever you are today is because you chose to be there. If you do not wish to be in the state you are in or the place you are at right now, then go change it, do something about it, move, get out of your comfort zone, gather some courage and act! Now you might be thinking that ­ “I know all these fancy talks. I have heard them thousands of times! My parents told me this, my uncle and aunt told me this, I was told this at every sermon I attended and now you! All I care about is what is going on here with me and nothing else. I need a solution!”

Is your mind crying out the following? If yes, then read on! If not, still read on! Because there is every reason that you could be facing a similar situation, perhaps for different reasons.

‘I am an international student, who can only do a part time job because of the work limits on my visa. Only I am not getting hired in the first place. If hired, I am not getting the kind of job I would love to wake up everyday for. I am not adding any skills in me. I am loosing my self confidence. I am having a tough time. I get nightmares thinking about my final placement, wondering if it will be a similar experience.’


Good that you have come far away from your home country in search for a greener pasture. You are dedicated at making your life better, improving your skills and making yourself “industry ­ready”. You have dreams but nothing is working for you at the moment. All of these feelings might fill your heart and mind time and again. They may even absorb you for a while.

Let’s first get it straight that different things might be at fault for leading you to this dissatisfying experience. You have come from a different culture and things work, or seem to work, pretty differently there. You know English but Aussie slang doesn’t fit into your idea of English. You think they are racist because they did not hire you and this blame game is good for a while to appease your agitated self… but only for a while. Let’s admit that there are not as many opportunities available for international students as there are for locals.

Have you ever noticed that if you apply for a job they prefer somebody with Australian work experience and to have that Australian experience you have to have a job. Wow! What a vicious circle that is. Isn’t it? And it is not for the reasons that might have popped up in your head. Yes, I know what you are thinking (the racial thing!) and I might fix your thoughts about it some other time… But for this time, let’s only focus on what you are feeling right now.


Do you realise that there is a problem here? Cool enough! Then there needs to be a solution, for sure! Because as humans we have the power and knack to find a solution to each and every problem we encounter. We have been doing it for generations; there is nothing new about this idea. Ages ago, it was inconvenient to walk all the time so we put together a cart. It was inconvenient for us to work without lights so we invented the lightbulb. And I will not bore you to death by making you count all the inventions humans ever made, however I want to bring the point forward that, the only problem is when we do not identify what we want. Remember, I mentioned in the beginning that if you do not like something in your life, go and change it! Now, it’s obvious for you to ask, how?

So, let me share with you my story at this point.

When I first came to Australia, all I knew was that I was doing this excellent course from this excellent university and the future is very bright! Then after applying to a couple of companies for a part time job I realised that the vicious circle existed and I’ll have to do something about it if I still wanted to have that bright future.

Swati Saini

I needed to learn some extra skills that would come in handy when I actually joined the workforce after completing my degree. In the hope to find a solution, I attended career fairs, networking events and industry nights. Only to realise that there was little on offer for people like me, whom had little or no knowledge about how things work in the Australian workplace or very little pertinent skills required in the workplace here.

But then I started getting involved. I started volunteering my time and effort in order to gain the skills and the knowledge I needed. During each semester I work on projects that are worth doing for several reasons.

These are projects that are driven to bring change in the community we live in. These are projects that offer you the opportunity to learn certain skills while you work for others. These are projects that might give you an opportunity to expose yourself to your unknowns worth knowing.

Now back to you! Do you have all the skills that you would need at the time when you join the workforce? If no, then act and go get it. And the best way to get it is to volunteer your time and effort to get some experience in the field you are interested in. Find some volunteering opportunity to do what you love! Do the work worth doing, add some skills and get a face­lift to your personality and your CV.


Have the courage to volunteer (work for free) to get yourself moving in the right direction. Just know what skills you want to learn, how can you learn it and what cause you want to be contributing your skills to. Look for opportunities that you can get your hands on and start learning and feeling fulfilled. Is it administrative skills? Is it accounting? Business communication? What is it that you want to learn/improve? Go! Have courage! Abandon short-term greed and create a path for yourself!

Good luck and feel free to share your comments below and ask for suggestions.

My best wishes,


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