For many prospective international students, the idea of leaving home to study in a different country is both daunting and exciting.
The decision to begin adult life abroad is not made lightly; some may consult with universities, Google searches and travel agents to decide which country is best for them.
But what if you could go straight to the source? What if you could see for yourself what it’s like being an international student before you become one?
Enter international student content creators.
These creators draw on their own personal experiences as international students to highlight the culture and lifestyle of their chosen study destinations. They also frequently engage with their audiences to answer questions on what it’s like to be an international student.
Content specific to prospective international students can be a useful resource and form of pre-departure information, which research has found may help to minimise the stress of a new environment and manage expectations when moving overseas.
Devarshi Desai, CEO of Internash, created the multi-platform resource for international students soon after he arrived in Australia to provide more transparency to the international education experience.
“[International students] are [usually] just excited to be in Australia, but one problem that happens is either they don’t do enough research about what their life is going to be like in Australia, or the information they rely on may not be accurate,” Devarshi said.
“A lot of people who are providing information in Australia have a vested interest; for example, education agents or a university,” he said.
According to Devarshi, he creates content that is neither positive nor negative: “[In my videos] I’d rather be like, ‘Here’s a question, here’s the answer, here’s a problem, here’s the solution,’ stuff like that, so a lot of how-to videos, and that was basically the gap in the market.”
A QS International Student Survey (ISS) in 2019 stated that advice from current students who share similar backgrounds to prospective students can help them feel more confident before arriving to study in a different country. While individual universities may not be able to provide this opportunity, the plethora of international student content creators help fulfil this.
“In the last 3 years I have seen a lot more people create content in different languages, which is really amazing, and I love that so much because it’s more people sharing their experiences,” Devarshi said.
Mashaal Hashmani, who creates content on Youtube and TikTok, believes that his relatability and specific insight is what makes his content appealing to future international students.
“I myself love to travel and explore new places, thus I keep finding myself in amazing places [around] Australia. I thought I should try making videos where I show my travel adventures, and at the same time show my daily life as an international student here in Australia,” Mashaal said.
“The reason behind [my vlogs] is that students who live here and those who want to come [here] may relate with me,” he said.
Having primarily relied on Google as his tool for research, Mashaal believes that if he had access to the type of content he creates now he “would have had better insight”.
The 2019 ISS found that 87 per cent of surveyed prospective international students used social media at some point in their decision-making process when determining where to study, with Facebook and YouTube as the most popular platforms to visit.
Alisha Fernandes, who plans to study for a Master of Social Work at the Griffith Institute next year, frequently watches YouTube videos detailing universities and life in Australia.
“When I started considering Australia as the destination I would like to pursue [my further] studies at, I would often check out various universities’ YouTube channels and uploads from students studying there; [that] helped me narrow down a university,” Alisha said.
“There have been good channels like Internash, Overseas Students Australia, and individual YouTubers who make lifestyle videos [that] also touch topics of university life, part-time jobs and more.”
“All of [this content] has positively made me want to choose Australia,” she said.
It’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Australia’s international education sector. According to the ongoing QS COVID-19 Student Survey, 58 per cent of surveyed prospective international students have already looked into studying in countries that are currently open to international student arrivals.
But as Australia gears up to re-open to international students in December, international student content creators yield a great influence for reengaging potential students.
As Devarshi reflects on the importance of international education, he says: “One thing that I believe is that international education experience has the power to change an international student’s life for the better.”
“When you go to study or visit abroad, you make friends from all over the world and your mind is so much more expanded.”