Instagram becomes a Guiding Force and Helping Hand for International Students

As an international student, I’ve often wondered about my fellow foreigners here in Australia. Who are they?  Why choose to study here? Far more questions than answers.

Yet the presence of International students on social media is mostly imbued with promotional antics from University giants, testimonies from agencies that helped international students, or news reports about their growing numbers and impact.

It’s easy to feel as an international student that we are lost within the numbers. It is hard to find personal stories, genuine experience and honest advice. As a student only equipped with my sister’s testimony of Australia,  I now realise the importance of hearing stories from international students first hand.

This gap is what the International Students of Australia (@Internationalstudentsofaus) tries to fill. The Instagram profile is a platform where students can share a sentence or two about their lives in the land down under.

“So basically the account, what it does is it shares the insights, past experiences of international students in Australia and also telling international students about what’s out there in terms of education or a combination of migration agents,” says Andrew Kelly, an ex-international student and founder of the flourishingInstagram account.

Upon opening the Instagram page, you can now view international students testimonials from all Australian cities. One-by-one, their stories and experiences vary from each other, encouraging you to scroll endlessly through every one. 

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This is Wakana, she’s from Japan and came to Australia to study English! She wants to go on to do international business at University. ⠀⠀ “It’s been my dream to learn English in Australia. I want to work with people from all over the world and built interactions throughout my working life. ⠀⠀ I’ve found Australia different but in good way. They express their feelings straight forward. They don’t hide anything in their mind and communicate with people a lot. ⠀⠀ The big challenge was to break into the circle of Australian kids and talk with teachers and so on. ⠀⠀ I’m very thankful to my host family, who always try to give me new experiences in Australia. Thanks to them I’m having so much fun!”

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The style seems similar to that of Humans of New York. But the format is what makes the profile so refreshing. In one recent post, international student Wakana (@r_m_n_k_w) from Japan shared her excitement about Australian people and thoughts on studying – in another, Jao from Philippines (@jaoggernaut) shared his advice and experience finding work.

Kelly was motivated to create the account from his friend and former course mate Puneet Bhambhani. On October 16th, last year, Puneet featured as the first person on the Instagram account.

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Puneet; Master of Management (Accounting and Finance) at Melbourne University; from India. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ "I moved to Australia earlier this year and although it seemed like very a disconnected country, it’s really such a diverse and multicultural place. I’ve loved learning to integrate with a different community and culture, and I’ve enjoyed meeting new friends playing football in the park and at university social events.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Although I do miss the familiar faces and comforts back home, in the future I want to start a business in Australia to turn my dreams into reality.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ To those coming here I would say be prepared to experience a significantly different way of life because no matter where you come from- nothing’s like Australia!"⠀ ⠀ #internationalstudents #studyinaustralia #studyabroad #melbournestudents #studentlife #unimelb #studentsabroad #melbournelife #studygram

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“People ask the same questions of him (Puneet); what’s it like to live in Australia now? He was answering the same amount of questions from his friends about what it’s like to come here,” Kelly notes the curiosity incoming international students have regarding life in Australia.

But International Students of Australia does not exclusively lend itself to its name. Kelly also hopes to connect with local students, in hopes they understand the experiences and challenges international students face. With this two-way information flow, Kelly believes it will boost cross-cultural engagement.

Since its inception last year, the social media account now boasts 85 stories with an impressive community of 5000 followers. The bulk of followings, being people who wish to take a glimpse of student life in Australia.

Asking about common themes or similarities Kelly found in his testimonies, the mediator says, “the common connecting thing amongst student is ambition, the drive to step out of the comfort zone…that willingness to throw themselves out there.”

Want to ask about a good place to stay? Or want to share Uni tips? Just send a direct message to International Students of Australia and an honest, practical answer will boomerang back. Everyone who has or is looking for an international experience is welcome.

In addition to interacting with students online, Kelly also has a regular hangout spot where he frequently meets up with groups of international students.

“One of my favourite spots I like to go to is called Arbory bar. It’s just at the back of Flinders Street Station overlooking the Yarra river. That’s our meeting place when we come together and hang out with new people. It’s quite central and it’s a beautiful bar,” Kelly said.

“People in my community, can take the advice, experience and insights on board and make the move to come to Australia, to find a job or have the courage to try a new course,” Kelly passionately said.

It is easy to feel lost as an international student in Australia. But people like Kelly combat this by creating a space and a community for anyone with questions, advice, or a story to join.

Check out the International Students of Australia Instagram profile @Internationalstudentsofaus

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