Putting yourself out there and why it matters to your future career

If you have recently arrived in Adelaide or are in your first year of uni and want reassurance about how to create social connections while building your resume, you will want to read this interview.

Leo is from Vietnam and moved to Adelaide in 2019 to study a Bachelor of Engineering. In the first few weeks of arriving in Adelaide, the challenges of homesickness and speaking a new language hit him the hardest.

Flash forward to today, Leo talks candidly about networking as a superpower and strategy for career development that can inspire you with the courage to create change.

What are some of the major cultural differences you noticed?

Adelaide is real laid back and I tend to do things really fast, so I had to learn to be more relaxed. Also, the language barrier made me think about how to communicate effectively and after a while I switched to speaking English completely, so I’m talking and thinking in English now instead of Vietnamese.

What was the hardest thing you encountered moving to Australia?

Probably homesickness, you miss your family and friends while trying to adapt to a new country where you don’t speak the language. But instead of fighting and struggling with those feelings, you have to start seeking a community such as clubs and volunteer or get support from friends and family back home to make sure you’re mentally ok.

Putting yourself out there and why it matters for your future career

How did you find community at university?

I visited Clubsland at Orientation and talked to people from a lot of clubs, and I was really excited to see that we have a range of hobby and faculty clubs. But I started joining clubs to get experience on a committee as I was interested in career development, building my portfolio and CV. The first club (I joined) was a chemical engineers club — which is my discipline, and it was really welcoming. We organised so many events and contacted industry to join us for social events, it was really fun. So, career-wise I’m motivated by clubs, but I’m also motivated to make friends through networking and getting to know people, especially my peers in my cohort. It’s a small cohort, there’s like 70 people in my year level, so we really connected.

How easy was it for you to make friends with people in your clubs and cohort?

I feel like everyone when they join a club, they have a really good mentality about meeting new people and making new friends. Everyone there wants the same thing, to talk to others, feel belonging, build up the club and create events.

Tell me about your role as an International Peer Mentor.

International Peer Mentors are a great group of mainly internation students and some domestic student who come together to engage and support students. I was a peer mentor in 2021and started with orientation by supporting international students to help them feel a sense of belonging. We did a lot of fun stuff, like at the International Welcome we had really energetic music playing while speaking in our language to say welcome. We had around twenty different nationalities with our International Peer Mentor group and the good stuff we do —LCE which is Language Culture Engagement — it’s just an amazing event to learn about different cultures, see many different ambassadors talking about their country, their traditional foods, and the language. (At the event) you learn so much and start to understand the value of the people.

I think my intercultural communication has improved because I’m talking to so many people from different backgrounds which helped me become more mindful and culture orientated.

How do you use your intercultural communication skills?

In my internship, there were so many people from different backgrounds on site and being able to talk with them and show a deep understanding of their culture helps you appreciate each other even more.

What advice do you have for new students about how to make friends and make the most of their university experience?

I know this is going to sound generic, but I would say, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. People in our clubs are really supportive and they want you to feel belonging and a sense of community. So, just putting yourself out there by joining a club, doing volunteering — it doesn’t matter where you’re from as long as you take the initiative.


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