After John Erick Flores graduated from university in the Philippines with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation, he decided to take on the adventure of doing further study abroad. Once he’d learned about the high quality of education that the Australian TAFE network offers, John enrolled in a MEM50212 Diploma of Engineering – Technical at North Metropolitan TAFE (RTO 52786) in Perth.
“Studying in another country is a good opportunity because you can experience different education systems,” he says. “I thought, ‘what if I did my further studies in Australia?’ I could do something different. It was a good choice for me.”
Two years on, John is completing his second qualification, MEM60112 Advanced Diploma of Engineering. We spoke to John and he shared the challenges and highlights of his international student journey in Perth.
Back home in the Philippines, John lived with his parents and spent a lot of time with his family. Knowing he had relatives already living in Perth made John’s decision to move to the city a little easier. His family members in Perth were happy to help John with his documents, accommodation, and finances as he settled into his new home.
But like any adventure, John’s move to Australia wasn’t without its challenges. Being faced with a different language, culture, and climate, John initially found it difficult to adjust to life in his new city.
“I’m the youngest in my family and lived with my parents, so I had to get used to not living, eating, and spending time with them,” he explains. “Every beginning is the hardest and once you get used to it, it becomes easier. That was my experience. It was really hard for me at the beginning because of the language. In the Philippines, we use English but we use American English. So it was quite difficult when I came here because I realised that Australia uses UK-based English. The words used and the way they were spoken were very different.”
Like many international students, John experienced some culture shock over the differences between living in Australia and the Philippines.
“When I was riding the bus to school I was wondering why people were saying thank you to the bus driver because we wouldn’t do that in my country, but it’s a normal courtesy here.”
It didn’t take long for John to make new friends and seek out their advice about living in Australia. Soon enough, his initial challenges were transformed into fascinating new experiences.
“I came from a tropical country with humid weather. When I arrived in June, it was winter, so that was really hard to adjust to. But I hadn’t experienced the four seasons before so that became a great experience,” he says.
Life in Perth
John has built a fulfilling life for himself in Perth. He studies at North Metropolitan TAFE, works part-time in hospitality, and volunteers with other international students. John says that learning how to manage his time between work and study has been a valuable learning experience.
“In the Philippines, I only focused on the study but here, you usually work and study at the same time and you have to learn to juggle everything. My work in hospitality is not relevant to my degree, but it has still been a really good experience for me.”
John also enjoys the lifestyle that Perth offers to international students and migrants.
“It’s a multicultural city. I enjoy meeting different types of people and being exposed to different cultures. I’m a shy person so going out making friends has been a good experience. I enjoy the safe environment and the lifestyle that the country values, such as personal wellbeing and human rights.”
Studying at North Metropolitan TAFE
When John finished his Aviation degree in the Philippines, he began job hunting and soon realised he would need to pursue further study to get a good job in his field.
“The labour market is very competitive so they were looking for someone with better skills and experience. I needed to further my study and get an extra qualification. I was told that Australian TAFE offered a good-quality education.”
Since beginning his first diploma at North Metropolitan TAFE, John has been very pleased with the quality of education he’s received.
“Compared to my previous university, the facilities here are really conducive to learning. TAFE assists the students with their needs for studying and they accommodate my needs as an international student. The lecturers are very specialised in their courses so the students get a lot out of it,” he says. “In my university back home, we were spoon-fed a lot of the information. Here, we have to do our part as a student and it’s harder but I learn more.”
John enjoys having access to high-quality equipment and being able to put mechanical engineering theory to practice.
“At my previous university, we didn’t have the equipment available and had to base our studies on theories. Here we have the equipment needed to do laboratory experiments and learn.”
After John completes his diploma, he is eager to gain some industry experience in technical engineering and is also open to the possibility of further study.
“I want to use my education in either Australia or overseas and progress my career. I would like to gain some experience either in an office or on-site. I might pursue some further study because I see myself moving towards an engineering field that uses designing, construction, or architecture. I used to do arts so I’d like to use that.”
Advice for other international students
Having dealt with initial feelings of culture shock and homesickness himself, John understands the challenge of moving away from home. He advises other international students to try to think positively and find inspiration to keep going in their education.
“Change is hard and every international student will feel homesick. Try to be positive about your goals and your study so that you can keep striving towards your future career. These decisions will benefit you in the future. Use your family as your inspiration and remember, we are creating our tomorrow by what we dream today.”