Student Story: Starting a New Life in Australia During a Global Pandemic

This article is sponsored by Canning College

Moving abroad to study is a huge step for anyone. Add a global pandemic to the mix and the situation can get a little more complicated. But Canning College student Carina Yap is proof that, despite the challenges, things can work out really well.

Hailing from Singapore, Carina graduated from junior college in her home country. Afterwards, she decided to seek out international study, so she set her sights on a physiotherapy degree at Curtin University in Perth. “I was interested in becoming a physiotherapist due to my interest in sports after years on the school basketball team,” she says. “I wanted to find out more about pursuing physiotherapy as a career and chanced upon a three-month course that prepared people to become therapy assistants in the allied health area.”

She worked as a therapy assistant in a physiotherapy department before arriving in Australia. Her experience demonstrated how physiotherapy extends beyond sport and also deepened her desire to help patients. It was her colleagues who advised her to consider studying in Australia, as the rehabilitation scene is well-established and highly regarded around the world. “I decided to study at Canning College, as it offered a pathway into the Bachelor of Science (Physiotherapy) course at Curtin University.” 

Life in Australia mid-pandemic

Carina shares that it was initially difficult to adjust to life in Australia, due to the nature of how things unfolded. “I was supposed to arrive in Perth in April with my mother, and had booked flights and an Airbnb,” she says.

However, the closure of borders in mid-March due to COVID-19 changed everything. She made the last-minute decision to fly to Perth alone and altered plans that were already in place. Luckily, Carina had support from Canning College throughout the process. “I had reassurance from Canning College that the teachers would do everything they can to assist me in my schoolwork and help me catch up to the rest of my peers,” she says. 

Carina joined the April intake for the WA Universities’ Foundation Program. A considerable benefit of the program is the flexible start dates offered to students. “The assurance that Canning College would make things happen if I were to fly played a big part in my decision of coming over within half a day,” she says.

Carina’s support network pulled through during her isolation period. “I had a friend studying at Curtin University, and he prepared two weeks’ worth of groceries for me before I arrived and delivered my textbooks so I could study and catch up on work during the isolation period,” she says. 

The Canning College team also kept in touch to ensure she was OK and to help her settle in. “My teachers gave me their contact numbers so that I could ask them if I had any doubts or queries about my work,” Carina says. 

Carina also celebrated a big birthday while in Australia: “I think turning 21 during the isolation period was quite unforgettable and symbolic.”

Learnings during unusual times 

When asked about what she’s learned during these unusual times, independence was Carina’s first response. “There were lots of things that I had to do on my own, like getting groceries, preparing my meals, doing laundry, and managing my finances,” she says. Learning to perform tasks independently taught Carina to grow out of her comfort zone and become more responsible.

The importance of family is another learning for Carina, especially because her move to Perth marked the first time she had been away from her family. “It made me grow a deeper appreciation towards my family for supporting me in pursuing my dreams and for being there every step of the way.”

Carina’s last – but not least – learning is resilience. “I was afraid to take on the challenge of figuring life out in a foreign country with no one else that I knew,” she says. However, she bravely took on whatever challenge came her way, with support from those around her.

Studying at Canning College

Canning College provides a holistic experience. Apart from the academic experience, there are numerous recreational activities and facilities offered to students. The College also fosters a nurturing environment, which is largely thanks to the teachers and staff. “Not only do the teachers have a wealth of knowledge but they also always made lessons interesting and made learning more enjoyable,” says Carina. 

The fact that the College specifically caters to international students has allowed Carina to engage with a diversity of cultures. “It helped me understand more about the many different cultures and my friends, and it fostered a deeper appreciation of the acceptance of different cultures,” says Carina.

Carina decided on the pathway program at Canning College as it guarantees her a spot in the Curtin University physiotherapy course if she hits the minimum grade requirements. “I enjoy the flexibility of subjects offered,” says Carina, who is particularly enjoying Human Biology. “It has been interesting to learn more about the body systems in the human and to get a small glimpse into how the body works.”

Carina’s study highlights include gaining a spot in the top six performers for the semester one exam and receiving the Principal’s Commendation Award. “The award made me feel that my efforts finally paid off, and it allowed me to continue working harder,” she says.

Advice for other international students

Carina highly recommends living and studying in Perth; it’s safe, and there’s a good quality of education offered. But, she also highlights the need to be open to challenges and opportunities that arise: “There may be times where there is a need to step out of comfort zones, but those are the instances when growth takes place.”