Jess from Colombia

Jess shares her experience of living and studying in Perth and Tasmania. She also has some great advice for students who are settling into Australia.

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2 February 2024

Australian alumna Jess sitting on a fence with a green mountain behind her

Lifelong learner 

Hi! I’m Jess from Colombia.  

After I finished high school in Colombia, I studied a bachelor's degree in engineering.  

When I graduated, I decided to do some travel. I backpacked my way through the US and Europe for a couple of years. I made many friends along the way, some of whom were studying in Perth. They told me about the lifestyle and the quality of the education in Australia, which made me want to go there and study! 

I needed to improve my English, so I started with a year of English studies. After that, I decided to move to Hobart. I had watched the movie ‘Lion’ which was filmed in Tasmania and I loved the mountains and greenery. I just knew I wanted to live there.   

When I first arrived, I couldn't believe how cold it was! But after about six months I became accustomed to the weather. I absolutely love it here - people are so friendly and because the city is still developing, there are opportunities to grow as a professional.  

I started with an Advanced Diploma in Leadership and Management at NIET . After that, I studied Project Management at the University of Tasmania.  

The Australian education experience 

When you study in Colombia, your teacher works closely with you every step of the way. However, when you study in Australia, the teachers are more like mentors that you can go to when you have questions. This means that you need to be more independent with your studies.  

When you study at a TAFE in Australia, the learning is based on real life experience and the courses prepare you for the workforce. Assessments are like real projects that you will do when you’re working. With a university course, the teaching is less tailored to one particular job. There are more opportunities to specialise in different areas.  

Settling into Australia 

I was able to adapt quite well to life in Australia. I think it’s because I had spent time travelling, and I also had my friends in Perth who were able to help me settle in. Having people to support you is important.

There was a bit of a culture shock, but mostly in the workplace. In Australia, managers are much more flexible and approachable. You can chat to them about your weekend and other personal things which I wasn't used to. You can often make your own decisions and have ownership of your role, which makes you feel more empowered.  I think this helps people to flourish in what they do. 

When I was studying, I worked part-time. I did some waitressing as well as some pet sitting. In my first year in Tasmania, I think I met more dogs than people! 

Helping other international students 

Throughout my studies, I also volunteered as a student ambassador for the Tasmanian Government helping other international students. They created a program called ‘Connect’ which helps international students with things like resume writing and emotional support.  

Sometimes I would take new international students out for coffee to chat about how they were settling in and give them tips and advice. It’s comforting for other Spanish speakers to express themselves in their own language.  

Throughout and after the pandemic, many people have struggled with their mental health. So, we created events with special speakers who would talk about mental health and how things like arts and dancing can help . It’s important to let people know that they’re not alone.  

Starting my career in project management  

After I graduated from universityI was able to secure some contracts and internships working on various projects.  

My first project was implementing new software at an energy company. This involved, creating a safety program, integrating the software within the staff and arranging training for them.  

I also worked on a company transformation project for over a year. It was a challenging role, but I learned so much about leadership and people. 

I am now in a role as a Project Manager at a transport company called Metro. We are working across an ICT portfolio with 21 projects on the way. 

There is always diversity when you work in project management. One day, I’m overseeing a project that's building a green waste facility and the next day, I’m working on a company restructure. 

Advice for international students  

Our brains rewire when we are adapting to new circumstances and environments. This is called Neuroplasticity. When you arrive in Australia, it's the same thing - you’re out of your comfort zone and you are adapting to your new environment. This helps you become resilient.  

My advice is to get out of your comfort zone even when you don’t want to. If you don’t have support, you need to reach out and get help.  

There is no point getting upset if things aren’t exactly the same as in your country. Change your mindset and think to yourself...  

“I am in Australia, and I want to explore what is here and what the country has to offer me.”  

Change is always hard, and it may take a while. But you will grow, and it will be worth it.  

Where to get help 

Your education provider will have a wide range of student support services available to you. You can also reach out to an international student support service in your state or territory. Find out more here.

 You can also check out these helpful blog posts:  

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