Arielly Cielo is no stranger to change. Originally from the Philippines, Arielly lived with her family in Qatar for most of her life and then came to Australia at the start of 2019 as an international student. Although her new home in Perth is very different from what she’s used to, she’s settled in quickly and has come to love the city.

“I’ve been living internationally for almost my entire life, so there wasn’t too much of a culture shock,” she says. 

The transition was made easier by the fact that Arielly’s sister also lives in Perth, as she studied in the city and now works there as a chemical engineer. It was Arielly’s sister who first suggested she study a pathway program in Perth to prepare herself for university in Australia. Now, the sisters live together in an apartment in Perth’s city centre while Arielly undertakes the Foundation Program at Canning College.

The Canning College Foundation Program is one of many pathway programs in Perth specially designed to meet the needs of international students hoping to study at universities in Western Australia. It is taught at the same level as the final year of high school in Australia and offers guaranteed entry into a Western Australian public university on successful completion and meeting the university’s entry requirements, as well as the possibility of applying to other universities in Australia and overseas. Using a pathway program, international students can practise their English skills and learn about Australian culture, as well as other subjects that relate to their future career before jumping into their tertiary studies.

Perth living

With a population of just under two million people, Perth is one of those special places that combines big city living with a laid-back, friendly atmosphere and lots of greenery. Over the past decade, the city has matured into a sophisticated urban capital with up-and-coming neighbourhoods like Northbridge, Leederville and Mount Lawley home to boutique fashion and design stores, galleries and cafes. Leafy South Perth and trendy Victoria Park have re-energised the city centre, while Perth’s most popular beach, Cottesloe, is easily accessible via public transport.

Arielly certainly appreciates Perth’s blend of city and outdoor living. Although her apartment is close to the CBD, it’s surrounded by trees that make it feel calm and comfortable after a long day of studying. Outside of study, Arielly likes exploring Perth in her free time; one of her favourite places is Caversham Wildlife Park (located around 45 minutes away from the city on public transport), where she took a photo with a koala and fed kangaroos on a school excursion. Plus, Arielly has found a good Filipino restaurant and is a fan of going out for bubble tea with friends.

Perth also hosts plenty of cultural activities throughout the year. Arielly says local events like the annual Arab Festival make Perth a fun place to live for students, with food markets, activities and performances happening regularly. The Arab Festival is just one of many on Perth’s annual calendar: Perth Festival, the oldest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere, is another highlight, alongside Fringe World Festival and Perth Comedy Festival.

The biggest difference from Qatar is the weather. Perth has a very pleasant Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters. It is also considered the sunniest capital city in Australia, with an average of 147 sunny days per year. “Here, I get to experience the other two seasons, spring and autumn – it’s nice,” she says.

Setting the foundations

The adjustment to studying in Perth was pretty smooth for Arielly thanks to the support from her teachers. She says the teaching style in Australia is more open and friendly than what she was used to in Qatar. Arielly is completing Canning College’s Foundation Program with the intention to transition to a Western Australian university. But, she hopes to follow a different path to her sister and the rest of her family when it comes to her career. Through her college, she takes extra art classes once a week and plans to study graphic or interior design in the future.

“Since a very young age, I’ve been into drawing,” she says. “It’s still a part of me, so I thought that I would like to continue with that and learn more about art.”

Arielly is going home to visit her parents and brother in Qatar at the end of the semester before finishing off the year at Canning College. She’s still making up her mind about which university she would like to go to when she graduates, but when it comes to deciding, she’ll be spoiled for choice. Perth is home to Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, the University of Western Australia and several other universities, alongside TAFE and many private educational institutions. One thing is for sure, though: she’s not planning on leaving Perth anytime soon.