Heather’s Life in Darwin: Stories From Australia’s First International Student Charter Flight

This article is sponsored by Charles Darwin University

For Heather, travelling from China to Australia amid COVID-19 to pursue her Master of Accounting at Charles Darwin University (CDU) was a dream come true.

“The opportunity was everything I’d been praying for,” she says.

Heather was one of the 63 international students who participated in CDU’s first charter flight program, which welcomed students from Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia to Australia to further their education on-campus.

We spoke to Heather to hear about her experience with the CDU charter flight program and how she has settled into her new life in Darwin.

A warm welcome in Australia

Following the two-week quarantine period, CDU staff arranged transport to the accommodation and the students were warmly welcomed, shares Heather. 

After students completed quarantine, CDU held a ‘Welcome to Campus’ event. “It started with a traditional indigenous smoking ceremony, then the Vice-Chancellor gave his speech. And of course, there was a lot of great music and good food,” says Heather. “We felt so welcome and so well looked after during the event. It gave me a sense of belonging to the CDU student community.”

At the end of the event “We each received a big box of free food from CDU. It was so big I haven’t managed to finish it all yet!” she says with a laugh.

Settling in and staying connected

Although Heather has now been in Darwin for two and a half months, she shares that CDU’s support and connection has never wavered.

“I’ve received two phone calls from CDU Global just to check in on how I’m doing, my mental health, my physical health and if I need anything,” she says.

Also, each student who participated in the charter flight program received a survey to provide feedback on their experience: “I believe they’re working really hard to develop the next charter flight program.”

Transitioning from online to on-campus study

Heather first began her postgraduate studies with CDU through online study back in China. When she arrived in Darwin, however, she needed to adapt to on-campus learning. While many students struggle with such a shift, Heather handled it in her stride, thanks in large part to the support provided by CDU.

“[When it comes to] the transition from online study to on-campus study, I feel that there are two obvious differences between the two types: the flexibility and the interaction,” says Heather.

While online study provides a lot more flexibility, there is a different sort of interaction, she notes. On-campus study, however, requires you to be in a certain place at a certain time. On the plus side, face-to-face learning provides ample opportunity for engagement and interaction.

“I’m really excited to finally be meeting my lecturers [and to have the chance] to connect and problem solve with other students,” she shares.

While some students may be worried about the level of information and support provided through online study, Heather shares that this isn’t a concern at CDU.

“CDU provides us with a really great online study platform. We have access to information and resources as much as the internal students. Plus, all the lecturers, course coordinators and CDU staff are very approachable.”

Finding personal and professional fulfilment in Darwin 

According to Heather, there’s no shortage of ways to further your personal and professional development. What was the first thing that facilitated such growth? The inclusive communities within CDU and Darwin.

“I found it really easy to settle [in at] CDU and Darwin because the city of Darwin features very diverse communities. They’re all very friendly and welcoming, so it’s easy to fit into new groups,” she says.

CDU also features a lot of associations, student groups, clubs and volunteer positions, Heather adds.

“Extracurricular activities [like these] are a great way to discover personal and professional development opportunities. A lot of outstanding CDU graduates found life-changing opportunities through CDU and local events,” she says.

For Heather, another incredible networking outlet has been her part-time job at a backpacker hostel. There, she gets to regularly enjoy one of her favourite aspects of living in Darwin: meeting people and making new friends from all corners of the world.

CDU supports all international students throughout their CDU journey, on-campus and online. Learn more about studying with CDU.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.