What is life really like as an international aviation student in Australia?
Originally from Hong Kong, Sally Tsang moved to Australia in order to follow a career in aviation. After completing her initial studies in aviation in South Australia, she moved to Brisbane and began her Diploma of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering with Aviation Australia.
After living in Adelaide for several years, Sally found that Brisbane felt a bit closer to her life back home.
“Adelaide is such a quiet place. In Brisbane, we’ve got more shops and restaurants, more high-rise buildings, longer opening hours in most places,” she says. “The Brisbane River nearby is just like the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong,” she added.
She also loves that living in Queensland means there is an abundance of exciting natural landscapes to explore.
“The last [national park] I went to was O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. On my way into the rainforest, I saw so many animals. There is also a tree top walk with awesome views of the sunset. The quietness and refreshing air make me feel relaxed and soothed all the time,” she says.
A day in the life of an international student
As an aircraft maintenance student, Sally’s study is split into theory sessions, categorised into learning modules, and practical sessions. Sally has now completed the theory requirements for her diploma and is working on finishing off the practical components.
During the theory components, Sally attended classes Monday to Friday, starting at 7.30 am and usually finishing at 2.30 pm, with an early finish on Fridays. Her usual routine involved popping into the grocery store after class, and then heading home for a rest and some dinner before getting started on her revision.
To revise, she would spend two or three hours jotting down notes from the day’s sessions. These notes came in very handy for exam time when Sally could use them as full summaries of the learning modules.
During practical sessions, class runs from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm. During the day, Sally has the opportunity to help work on different kinds of aircraft and in different hangers.
She isn’t required to revise for the practical sessions, so after class, she has a bit more flexibility with her schedule. Sally uses this time to look for jobs in the aviation field, where she can gain more practical experience and expand her professional network. Currently, she is working as a lounge attendant at the Brisbane International Airport.
On the weekends, Sally takes some well-earned time for herself.
“I take either Saturday or Sunday off to enjoy my life in Brisbane,” she says.
Although her study schedule is full, Sally is excited about the preparation it is giving her for a busy but rewarding career in aircraft engineering.
Out of all the modules Sally has undertaken in aircraft maintenance, she says her favourites have to be Module 15 – Gas Turbine Engine and Module 17 – Propeller. She really appreciated the deeper knowledge of flight systems that studying these units gave her.
“I thought I knew a lot about aircraft, especially because I’ve flown a propeller aircraft. But, I’ve found that even if you’ve flown an aircraft, it doesn’t mean that you know much about it,” Sally says.
Like many students, Sally’s favourite thing about the campus is its location.
“Aviation Australia is located next to Brisbane Airport. One of the best things is watching all the aircraft take off and land. You will see everyone look up to the sky when we hear an engine,” she says.
She really enjoys being on campus and getting to know her fellow students.
Life as an international student
Sally’s class is made up of four international students. Although the class is small, it has been a great opportunity for the students to really connect with one another, learn about each other’s cultures and build strong relationships with their instructors and one another.
“Aviation Australia organised several barbeques to gather all the instructors and students in the school together, to help us to make friends and build networks,” Sally says.
As the only female student in her class, Sally has also had the opportunity to attend several female morning tea gatherings to meet other female students from Aviation Australia and chat with alumni about their experiences in the field.
To help her to remain connected to her life in Hong Kong, Sally has regular video calls with her friends and family back home. One thing she really misses from home is the food.
“I miss the snacks from Hong Kong, which are pretty hard to find here in Australia. I especially miss the homemade food cooked by my grandma. I do ask her for recipes and ask her for help whenever I need to try to get the closest flavour from her,” she says.
Sally spends a lot of time with her friends from Hong Kong and nearby countries, celebrating their food and cooking for each other, which helps them all to feel more at home.
Goals for the future
As Sally gets close to finishing her Diploma of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, she is starting to look forward to future opportunities. Currently, she is focusing on landing a job in the aircraft maintenance field.
“Getting the first job is always the hardest part, thus I am trying my best to apply for any jobs that are related to aircraft maintenance engineering. My goal is to work for a commercial airline and to obtain my licence within three years’ time,” she says.