“I think it’s common for international students to put all of their emphasis on the studying aspect of their degree, especially when we’re paying such large tuition fees. I was the same during my first year of university.”
Each year, hundreds of thousands of international students choose to pursue their studies at Australian universities. Given the large fees involved, many decide to prioritise academics throughout their degree – however, this can be at the expense of other extra-curricular opportunities that enhance personal development and career prospects.
Introducing Eriksson Luo. An international student originally from China, Eriksson moved to Melbourne in 2018 to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting and Finance at the University of Melbourne. Throughout his time as a student, Eriksson has completed consultancies and internships for companies across Australia, Malaysia and China; served as the Vice President of his university’s Australian Wall Street Club; and participated in many university activities including the 2021 Business Innovation Lab, Future Leaders Forum and Future Founders Program.
However, Eriksson’s journey to these accomplishments hasn’t always been smooth sailing: “In my first year of university, I was preoccupied with my study without many social engagements, but this slowly led to feeling isolated from my surrounding community. At the start of my second year, I decided it was time to change.”
At this time, Eriksson set out to take advantage of the various activities his university offered including student clubs and business experience projects. However, it sometimes seemed like opportunities were few. “There were times when my applications wouldn’t be successful. But I learned from these rejections and just kept trying.”
Eriksson shares that, on these occasions, patience paid off too. “I applied for the Practera Consulting Project in2019, but wasn’t successful. I used this as a learning opportunity and applied again in 2020.” Eriksson was subsequently successful in his second application and accepted an offer to participate on a business development project for local ed-tech company Practera.
Even in the case of this year’s Business Innovation Lab, being invited to join the program as a student facilitator – responsible for mentoring students and liaising with real business clients – came as a surprise to Eriksson. “I was originally a student participant in an earlier round of the Business Innovation Lab. However, my team wasn’t even among the finalists of the cohort.”
However, proving that an end result isn’t everything, “[university representatives] said it was [Eriksson’s] performance throughout the earlier lab that stood out to them” and resulted in the offer.
It certainly puts Eriksson’s advice for other international students who may be fearing rejection into perspective: “Don’t fear rejections or become overly disappointed about results that may not be what you wanted. Rather, enjoy the process and be reflective on your experiences. You should always find something meaningful to take away from each experience at the end of the day.”
So why should you do it?
Eriksson is quick to agree that all international students can benefit from putting themselves out there and participating in university life beyond the classroom. “I have gained so many benefits beyond my original expectations,” he shares. “Something I noticed in myself is greater confidence in my communication with others.”
“Additionally, you’re exposed to new things through meeting new people – learning about their stories and getting inspired by their innovative ideas. You start to build professional connections and open up many more opportunities for yourself along the way. You get to learn transferable skills that you can apply in your future career, and envision different possibilities.”
Furthermore, Eriksson shares that it’s incredibly rewarding to receive positive feedback from those he works with – whether it be students he mentors expressing their gratitude, or encouragement for his ideas from other collaborators.
COVID-19 has completely changed what a regular university life looks like for international students, and this includes Eriksson, who has not been able to return to Australia since the pandemic broke out. However, he chose to make the most of an unusual situation: “Actually, most of the activities and programs I’ve participated in took place after the COVID-19 outbreak. Thanks to technology, I’ve been able to see these activities as an opportunity to remain involved with my university even while being located overseas.”
Eriksson keeps himself balanced amidst his busy schedule by pursuing his favourite hobby, photography. In fact, all of the wonderfully captured photographs that you see within this article have been captured by Eriksson himself!
Having a hobby to relax reflects Eriksson’s advice for other international students: “Get involved, see interesting things that are happening around you, but still relax and enjoy life. For sure, studies are important, but there’s so much on offer besides just studying. Get exposed to other things and do things you like.”
“Just be positive and open-minded, and try to get involved in different activities around you, because the only way to see new opportunities is when you take action. Through these experiences, you start to discover new possibilities that you may have never even thought about before.”
Interested to know more about Eriksson’s story and photography?
You can get in touch with Eriksson via LinkedIn here: https://au.linkedin.com/in/eriksson-z-luo
And you can view more of Eriksson’s photography via his Unsplash page: https://unsplash.com/@newdawn
Thank you to Eriksson Luo for his assistance with this article.