The PIE: As an international student why did you choose Australia as your study destination?
Tanvir Haque: I was looking at three countries – the US, Canada and Australia. After finishing my A-levels and SAT I got some offers from the US, but I saw the scope is very limited for international education and they work differently there. My second option was Canada but the drawback was the weather – it was very cold. My third option was in Australia.
“When you move to a different country, the first thing you need to think about is the living experience”
I saw that there are a lot of opportunities for young professionals, so I applied to two universities and Central Queensland University offered me a scholarship so it made my decision between the US, Canada and Australia much easier. I came to Australia as an international student in November 2015 to pursue my master of International Business at CQU.
The PIE: Your move to Australia was your first trip outside Bangladesh. How did you cope with the transition to a different culture, with no existing support network?
TH: There was a cultural shock. I mean you can watch YouTube videos or research and Google or whatever but there will always be some difficulties when you move to a different country.
The first couple of months were very difficult for me. I remember that I cried almost every day because of homesickness – I missed my family. The education system was quite different; the assignments, class lectures, everything is quite different and very different from my country.
There was also the language barrier. In Bangladesh, I grew up watching movies, but they were based in the US, so the language was a big barrier for me because the Australian accent is quite difficult to understand. I was actually less confident when speaking to someone who was from an Australian background because I couldn’t understand them properly. I just had to nod politely, but to be honest I didn’t understand anything!
And I didn’t have any friends, or relatives to help so the first couple of months were the toughest. I still remember that clearly.
The PIE: So what advice would you give to other international students to help them adjust?
TH: When you move to a different country, the first thing you need to think about is the living experience, so I would say to anyone who is coming to Australia that homestay is a good option for someone to get used to the Australian culture, the food, and the people – because all of the Australian families are very good. All of them will be sweet and kind and help you feel at home.
Secondly – meet people who are not from your country, but are from a different one. If it’s someone from Australia, that’s fantastic but if you know someone who’s from a different country they can share the experiences. You may find they are having the same issues that you are having and that makes you feel comfortable, knowing that what you’re going through is normal.
And the third thing is do a bit of research on how to get a part time job. Figure out what kind of jobs are available to international students – hospitality, front desk reception, or anything you might think your skills might match. Not only will it help then but it actually will add to your résumé and that might give you a full time opportunity once you graduate.
And definitely have a LinkedIn profile!
The PIE: When did you know you wanted to specialise in International Student Recruitment?
TH: When I was back home in Bangladesh I didn’t know what to do. I was working in a textile company and I was doing marketing and sales, which was something I enjoyed because I like talking to people, sharing their experience – that inspires me and I get motivated from different people who have different experiences. So, when an opportunity came up at CQ early as the International Student Ambassador I took it!
“If the borders don’t open, it will be a big challenge for international education”
I was working in that part time, while doing my studies, and I realised that this is something that I should be doing. I’m good at it, and it was very rewarding because every now and then a student would come to me and say ‘you know, you’re the reason that I’m studying at this university, you are the reason that I’m getting this full support’.
After two years I moved to full time in student recruitment. Now I’m working at the Victorian Institute of Technology, in a similar student recruitment role. My market is South Australia and Bangladesh. I can speak different languages – Hindi, Urdu, and obviously Bengali – so the subcontinent market has always been my preference.
I’ve always enjoyed marketing but with student recruitment I’m working with both education agents and students and gaining both perspectives, and helping students achieve their international education dream. Working with these groups and hearing their experiences and helping them inspires me and motivates me a lot.
The PIE: It’s been an extraordinarily challenging 12 months for international education. What do you think 2021 will hold?
TH: 2021 will be challenging if the border doesn’t open because the students that we have been working with actually came in 2019, and because in 2020 no students came, we are still working with the same number of students who came in 2019. If the borders don’t open, it will be a big challenge for international education.
But I have to say the mindset has changed a lot for international students. Initially they didn’t want to study online but now what we have seen from around November last year, they are getting interested in studying online.
They are understanding that they mightn’t get the same experience as face to face, but at least they’ll have online and they’ll get the same support and the benefits, however, they will be in the comfort of their home. Then once the border opens, they will be in the pipeline to get the visa and everything to come here first over the students who haven’t started their studies.
“Part of my role is helping connect professionals and bring them together to make a better future for international education in Australia”
The PIE: You’ve just been appointed as a Co-Chair of IEAA Young Professionals South Australia – what does that mean to you?
TH: IEAA has always been top of the list in the international education community. If you talk to anyone from international education they will talk about the IEAA being the biggest forum for people like us and also people working with international education directly or indirectly.
It will help me personally with professional development, but I’ll also be able to help other people wishing to improve international education. Part of my role is helping connect professionals and bring them together to make a better future for international education in Australia. Australia is in the top three when it comes to international education – and my aim is to make it number one!