Why I now consider Brisbane my home away from home

Four years ago, after a tearful (and probably over-dramatic) farewell to my friends and family, I flew from Singapore to Brisbane, fresh-faced and eager to begin a new chapter in my life. Now, four years later, I am a new graduate from UQ with a degree in Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours). Living as an international student has not been without its challenges, but I am beyond grateful for the wonderful people I have met, the fun times I have had, and the growth I have made as a physiotherapist and as a person. In the past few years, I have learnt valuable life lessons that I am privileged to share with you.

It is okay to be different. During my first week at uni, I vividly remember thinking how different I was from everyone around me, and worrying that I would not fit in. Eventually, I came to realise the value of embracing your differences. Quoting Tom Robbins, “…Our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other”. I have made great friends through the mutual sharing of culture.

Take good care of your body. The struggle is real - uni students do not always have the luxury of time and money to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I can personally attest to how challenging it is to exercise regularly and cook healthy meals during school days, but investing in your health is ever so important when you are far from home. After all, mum is not here to make hot soup to fight those sniffles and sore throats.

Establish a strong social support system. All those living overseas will probably agree that your friends become family and the biggest source of support and comfort. Having good friends with whom I could share my feelings and problems with  definitely made this journey easier and a whole heap more enjoyable.

You are often more capable than you think. If you told me four years ago that I would be able to manage bills and insurance claims, maintain a car and a rental house on my own, I would have been very sceptical. Help isn’t always readily available as an international student, and when the need arises, you learn to become really independent. These encounters turned into great learning opportunities. Don’t forget, Google and Youtube are great tools for learning everything and anything under the sun.

Say yes to opportunities. Many of the lecturers and researchers I met and looked up to, all had one thing in common - they stepped up at every opportunity. Following in their footsteps, I put my hand up on many occasions. I was given the chance to be an international student representative as part of a physiotherapy student panel, embarked on a research project with leading physiotherapy researchers, and of course, wrote this blog post.

Play hard. Make the most of the chance to live in a foreign country. Australia is a beautiful country brimming with untouched natural wonders, so travel whenever and wherever you can. Setting aside time for play and travel will help recharge you with much-needed energy to perform well in your academic endeavours.

Coming to UQ to study physiotherapy has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. It is with a heavy heart that I am leaving Brisbane, which I now consider my second home. It sounds like a cliché but I now know, every ending is a new beginning. My journey in Brisbane has taught me so much about myself and the world, which I will now take back with me to Singapore.  

Last updated:
14 March 2017