Heading overseas to complete further university study can be hard but international students studying in Port Macquarie say they are feeling welcomed by the community.
Ayub Alam Khan is about to start his second year studying his Masters in Port Macquarie and said the longer international students stay, and the more that come, the more the community is learning to accept them.
“I was the first student from Pakistan who is studying at CSU in Port Macquarie so in many ways I had a harder time settling in compared to other students when they first came here,” Ayub said.
“When I first came international students were a very new concept and people in the community didn’t really know what to do with us or how to talk to us.
“But that is slowly changing as people realise we are here to stay and want to participate in the community.”
Ayub is the national post graduate officer on the Council of International student Australia (CISA) and an advisor for the international student club at CSU Port Macquarie.
He said being an international student means things that local students may take for granted are more difficult.
“One example of us not getting the same treatment as local students is we can’t get student concessions on public transport,” he said.
“It costs a lot of money to live in another country and we don’t have a lot of money so for some students it is hard to get to and from uni.
“Another issue is we are allowed to have part time jobs but local stores are not sure how to deal with us. In the beginning we were turned away all the time.
“Sometimes there is a language barrier but living in a smaller town like Port Macquarie means we have more chances to learn English more quickly because the only language people speak here is English.
“When I go to Sydney or Melbourne I meet with friends from my own country and we don’t always speak English so I feel lucky to live in a regional town.”
Ayub said despite the hardships, studying in a regional town offers more leadership opportunities that the bigger cities.
“A place like Port Macquarie is great because it is a small but growing place so there are lots of chances to develop skills and learn new things outside of study,” he said.
“I have been able to represent my fellow students in a number of different roles and that is very exciting.
“I am enjoying taking advantage of the opportunities that come up. The campus is small so everyone knows everyone and that is a good thing. At a bigger university that would not happen.”
What does Ayub hope for the future?
“I would like to see more international students in Port Macquarie because we have skills that could be used in town.
“Currently we have a lot of international students with an IT background and yet businesses have to go to Sydney to get that help.
“It would be great to see more interaction between local businesses and us.”
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