From international student to ACU international staff member – meet Cherry Gan

Cherry talks about what to expect when you travel to Australia – and what you can do to get the most out of your ACU experience.

Cherry Gan was an international student who moved from New Zealand to Australia in 2009. Today, she’s a senior manager in ACU’s international student recruitment team, a job that takes her to China, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines to meet with students who are thinking about applying to study at ACU.

Here, she tells us about what to expect when you travel to Australia – and what you can do to get the most out of your ACU experience.

Different learning styles

One of the big differences between Australia and many Asian countries is how Aussies approach teaching and learning. In Asia, Cherry says, students tend to receive knowledge from the teacher, while in Australia, the emphasis is more on self-directed learning.

In Australia, students are also expected to take charge of their own study schedules, managing their time to ensure that they complete their reading and assessments outside of class and coming up with their own ideas for how to solve problems and complete classroom learning tasks.

“I come from a Chinese background, and back in China we’re given right and wrong answers. There are examinations, you sit down and you absolutely know what the right answer is – it’s been taught,” Cherry says.

“But here in Australia, you’re encouraged to think about the answer, and whatever answer you present, you have to back up your argument.”

If this sounds different to what you’re used to, don’t panic! ACU is home to wealth of academic support services that have been designed for students just like you.

Preparing for a career

In Australia, it’s common to work part-time alongside university study. But it’s not just a question of making money (although for many students this is an important factor): work experience is also considered an important part of future career planning.

“In Asian countries, if you’re a student, your main focus is to study hard and achieve good grades,” Cherry says.

“But in Western countries, when you graduate, you can’t just present a resume with a high distinction on it and get a job – you need to have some work experience.”

While it’s great to find work that’s directly related to your career, even common student jobs like working in hospitality or retail can teach you valuable skills like time management and teamwork, help you improve your English, and give you a unique insight into Australian working life.

And remember, as an international student, it’s a condition of your visa that you work a maximum of 40 hours a fortnight – which leaves you plenty of time to study and socialise!

The local culture

Like all cultures, Australia has some quirks that make it pretty unique, from the food (Vegemite!) to the outdoorsy lifestyle. There’s also a distinct lack of formality in everyday interactions that some international students find surprising.

“If you go somewhere like Korea or Cambodia, people call their teachers Miss or Sir or Teacher,” Cherry says.

“It probably comes as a shock to international students when they first come here that we just call people by their first names, even university professors.

The good news, Cherry says, is that Australia is generally a pretty friendly place – so even if you make a few mistakes while you’re adjusting to the cultural norms, you’ll be doing it in a welcoming environment.

“It’s a migrant country – many Aussies were born overseas or their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were born overseas, so this is a country that welcomes all sorts of different cultures,” she says.

Finding your feet

As comforting as it can be to find other students who share your language and cultural background, there’s a lot to be gained by putting yourself out there and meeting new people once you arrive at ACU.

If you need a crash course in current events and local Australian culture, Cherry suggests watching the local news, TV shows and popular movies to help get you up to speed.

“I do understand that when you first come to a new place, it’s very comfortable to hang out with your own people, because you speak the same language. But be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and make friends,” she says.

“You were brave enough to leave your country and come and study overseas. That’s a very brave thing; not everyone can do that.”

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