For Rui, her first visit to Australia (which happened to be her very first trip overseas) was all about adventure and satisfying her curiosity.
“I didn’t have much opportunity to go abroad as a kid, so after I finished my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to explore places different to where I grew up, and thought about going to some Western countries,” she says. “Australia was my first choice.”
Backpacking across the country
Travelling from her home in China, Rui began a working holiday in Australia. Starting in Perth, Rui and her friends drove south, exploring Lucky Bay and Margaret River, before exploring the famous Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide, driving along the longest straight road in the world.
“From Adelaide, we went to Melbourne, to Sydney, then north to the Daintree Rainforest,” she says. “It wasn’t just us travelling, we were meeting new people the whole time.”
Settling in Adelaide
Following her journey across Australia, Rui decided to settle in Adelaide and commence a Master of Social Work at Flinders University. Of all the cities in Australia, Rui was drawn to Adelaide’s laid-back lifestyle and community spirit.
Having seen much of Australia, this community, and the friendliness of the people in Adelaide, stood out to Rui as unique.
“One of the main differences I found in Adelaide was that people know each other and are open to sharing their experiences – they love to provide information so you avoid making mistakes. They’re just so friendly,” she says. “That made me a more open person as well. Normally we just focus on what we’re doing and not bothering with others, but now if people are asking questions I’m happy to answer. I like people being really connected to each other and not isolated. I enjoy being a part of the community.”
Rui was also intrigued by Adelaide’s architecture and felt there was more to discover about the city that she hadn’t had the chance to during her brief initial visit.
“When I first got here in Adelaide, I was walking down the street and noticed all the unique buildings. I felt that there were stories in this and I really wanted to explore more. I wanted to know more about the stories of Adelaide.”
Of all of Adelaide’s incredible heritage buildings, the State Library of South Australia’s Mortlock Wing is her favourite: “When I first walked into the library, I gasped.”
By studying social work, Rui began to notice differences between her teaching in China versus Australia.
“Social work is not as developed in China as it is in Australia – social work was more about surveying people in society. It didn’t focus much on the people’s mental wellbeing and how they are living, just focusing on studying their academic life or working life.”
Rui knew that she needed to be interacting with individuals, rather than simply looking at population statistics.
“We need to focus more on what people are doing out of study and out of work,” she says. “We have a gap back in China and I wanted to study in Australia and learn from what Australians are doing and how to support people and then take these skills back to China.”
Through her Master of Social Work, Rui has been able to undertake work placements, giving her plenty of real-world experience.
“My last placement was in a primary school and we did a lot of group work with a pastoral care worker,” she says. “I found that in real-life practice, we need more empathy and we need to care about the people we’re working with, not just gain knowledge. Every child is individual and unique and we can’t treat them equally. For example, we can’t apply a specific relationship-based theory to everyone, so we’re trying to adjust different knowledge and practise skills.”
Rui has since been able to find a new work placement, which she will commence shortly.
“I am so lucky that even during these circumstances, agencies are still open to having international students for placement,” she says. “My placement agency is a community centre in Mount Barker. There are a lot of projects and activities going on, so I’m excited to get involved.”