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My Career as an International Student

Walking through the searing hot weather of Brisbane, without data, without a map, I can’t help but wonder,

“What am I doing here? Did I even make the right choice?”

That was my first day in Brisbane. Drenching in sweat, with no protection against the sun, it was my skin against the UV rays of Australia. My goal that day was to find and set up a bank account. After half an hour walk, I reached Newmarket and encountered my first bank, Commonwealth Bank. From then on, my first supermarket was ALDI, and my first phone provider is Vodafone.

Two years ago felt like yesterday, and so much has changed since then, my main bank is no longer Commonwealth Bank but ING (Thanks Barefoot Investor), I go to Woolies way too often, and I changed my phone plan to Kogan.

Career Goals & Actuals

My goal ever since coming to Australia was to get permanent residency (PR) and I had developed a master plan towards that goal. The plan was to take on a lab position at QUT after my 2nd semester, become a tutor after the 3rd, and complete an honours year, it was my master plan to get enough experience for easy job finding after graduation.

Obviously, that plan didn’t work out, but not in a negative way.

The First Internship

I ended up finding myself with my first internship within 4 months of arrival in Brisbane. Over the winter break, a scale-up company called RedEye Apps was looking for interns and had advertised over in a Facebook group. I applied and was invited to an interview.

Shit was scary as I have never once done a job interview. I researched on all kinds of typical questions they ask in a software engineering interview for weeks, and I ended up taking an anxious dump in my friend’s apartment just 30 minutes before the interview.

When it came to the interview, things went smoothly and there were no technical questions. In the end, they just wanted to know me better and take a look at my portfolio.

I interned with them for 1 month over the winter break but wasn’t given a return offer after my contract ended, looks like I didn’t work well enough.

After The First

Nevertheless, I started working again the next month after, working casually in a startup at The University of Queensland (UQ). Yuck. I got the job through a connection I made when my team and I won a hackathon, AngelHack Brisbane. I was lucky, grateful, and most importantly, really happy to be working again, the work-life balance between studying and working was really fun and challenging.

As the work at UQ comes to a close, I interviewed with several companies in which some I reach the final stages, including Amazon, PwC, and Woodside. I ended up going with Woodside’s Summer Vacation Program in Perth because I needed a retreat from Brisbane.

The Woodside Vacation Program

Interning at Woodside was a life-changing experience for me, I never expected myself to enjoy business analyst work as a computer science major, and I ended up wanting to become a business analyst in the future despite my fantasies about being a rockstar software engineer.

When the vacation program ended, I head back to Brisbane to continue my studies. As the Woodside vacation program leads into their graduate program, I was anxiously waiting for an answer from them. Whether to hire me or not.

March arrives and I was taking a dump at home, 7:56 pm, my butt smacked right on top of the toilet seat and my phone rang.

“Hello?”, I answered

“Hi! This is ******* calling From Woodside. How’s it going today?”

My heart sinks, what’s it going to be? Yes or Yes?

“Good, how are you yourself?, I replied.

“Good. This is regarding the graduate program and I’ll like to let you know…”

Yes, you’ll like to let me know?

“That we’re pleased to offer you graduate offer with Woodside.”

My mind couldn’t comprehend it! It was mad, I’ve done something once in my life that’ll make my parents proud!

When the call was done, I told my supervisor at Woodside who was just messaging me, to my friends I met in Perth, and to my family back in Malaysia.

After The Job Offer

As an international student, I would never have thought of getting a job before even graduating. It was as if I was living a fantasy. Maybe it was and I’m still hallucinating. Hopefully not!

Regardless of what happens now, I’ve got a job secured. The only thing left, was to complete my degree.

However, completing my degree was no easy task because of 1 unit…

The unavoidable compulsory unpaid “industry placement”.

It was probably one of the toughest units to work on as:

  1. It was unpaid so I had -100% motivation
  2. I was doing the work alone

While I understand that my teammates during that placement were not used to industry projects, it really frustrated me to carry the whole project. It might as well had been a solo project.

Once the industry placement was out of the way, it was the end of my career as an international student. The fateful day of graduation comes, and my mum, dad, brother, and Aunt shows up.

What’s left now to do, is wait for my job to start.

Final Thoughts

I know I made my career life as an international student sound simple and straight forward, but it was actually no easy task. It took a whole full year and a half of university before landing my first internship, I built countless programs to complete the FreeCodeCamp curriculum, and I was rejected many times over companies over the years.

For me, I understand how tough it is for an international student to land a job, and I would like to see more international students succeed. My goal this year is to write more, but not just short stories and about my personal life, but advice on how international students can make the most of their international experience, whether they want to stay overseas or not.

I hope my writings can prove useful to someone, even if it’s just one.

2 Comments

  1. […] I didn’t have the privileged the travel much around Perth as I was interning at Woodside Energy, most of my time was worrying about work and what I was going to cook for dinner.[…]

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