An emptiness so far way: Graduation Day

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By Supriya Paul

On the 2nd of May, 2022, I graduated from the University of Wollongong(UOW), with a post-graduation degree in ‘Master of Business Analytics’ as an Indian international student.

Indian International Students:

According to the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment( Australian Government) in 2022, there are around 422,000 international students with over 92,000 from India. We come with a similar motive of making a difference, creating a unique identity, and investing significantly in international standards of education.

We leave behind family and friends and start a journey in a new country, culture and education system. We also advocate multicultural cultural ideas and not just a token representation of ‘inclusion and diversity. In the real world, the life of an international student is not as easy as how it seems, due to cultural, social, and personal challenges. Way more challenging than Hollywood and Bollywood college life movies. And for many, it remains only a dream.

Today, Indian international students like myself are flocking to Australia for quality education. Historical evidence suggests, that Indians have started their international student education journey many centuries ago. Many Indians got their international education in the United Kingdom including Dr. Soorjo Coomar Goodeve Chuckerbutty (1845, to be the First Indian to Join the Indian Medical Service ), Gnanendramohan Tagore (1862, the first Indian to have been called to the bar in England), Romesh Chandra Dutt (1868, studied with friends Behari Lal Gupta and Surendranath Banerjee), Piera Lal Roy (1901, Barrister and Director of Public Prosecutions) and many more. Followed by the rush of international education in the United States of America( USA). In 1886, Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi was the first woman in India to complete her studies in western medicine in the USA. Today millions of Indian international students across the globe (from war-torn Ukraine to modern-day China to amazing Brazil) are studying and graduating.

I have presented my views regarding the Indian international students with a SWOT analysis to understand their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in Australia.

SWOT Analysis

Strength: Australia being one of the best countries for international students to receive a degree, has a lot of great offerings, which help the students to achieve a lot studying in this country. The Indian students get to experience the best memories of their life studying here. The top-ranking universities, highly specialized courses, employability rates of the universities, and the chance to explore the country are highly beneficial for the student. Being an Indian international student is helpful as it doesn’t only mean having a graduation degree, but it also means how well the students lead their independent life in Australia. It equipped international students to better handle emotional, intelligence, social, and adversity outcomes.

Weakness: International students face a lot of challenges while undertaking education. It affects them both emotionally and psychologically. For them, this education journey often is lonely. Without family and friends. The culture of independent living is relatively new in Indian subcontinent society. The best moments of their college life are often empty without their family. And the loneliness on their graduation day is a sad reminder.

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Opportunity: The Australian government’s offer to the international students is great in terms of studying and living in Australia, where the students get a lot of opportunities to experience. The Australian government has a lot of offerings for the international students, as they support them financially when needed, medically, applies offers on transportation, student discounts on products and services, police assistance in emergencies, etc., which all turn out to be the aspects of strength for international students.

Apart from the perks that they get from the government, they get to make new friends, visit some outstanding locations in the country, experience some outstanding benefits in terms of dining, travel, purchasing products and services, getting discounts on certain things, experiencing the phenomenal campus lifestyle, and many more. Any of them can become full-time lifestyle bloggers! However, international student life is full of experiences beyond expectations. It is a chance to nurture new ideas make new friends and learn new life skills.

Threat: There are many uncertainties but the pandemic made the international student’s experience extremely challenging. Challenges such as studying online, having no face-to-face interactions with friends and teachers, and being dependent on family for expenses( as no part-time work due to Covid-19). Also, no socialisation to relax from study pressure. International students who went to visit family during semester break couldn’t return to Australia to finish their studies in time. International students struggle to cope. Loneliness increased many folds.

Even then, for every Indian international student, Graduation Day is what matters!

Graduation Day:

During my graduation ceremony, it was an honour to meet and listen to Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, (the Chief of the Australian Navy). His advice was to apply the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) strategy to everyday student life for success. I was happy to see a cohort of graduating Bengali background international students on the same day. According to Joimini Seal, (Senior Recruitment Advisor – South Asia, Middle East & Africa, University of Sydney) said, “While a majority of incoming international students are concentrated from a select few tier-1 cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai), the recent few years have also seen a rise in student numbers from India’s eastern zone, particularly Kolkata. The general overview of students from Kolkata reflects an honest interest in education, strong educational background, and high proficiency in English.” Across the globe, many congratulated us on Facebook, including Ritwij Bhowmik ( Convenor of Fine Arts Discipline, Department of HSS, IIT Kanpur) who said, ‘ That’s awesome. Congrats!’. So did Deirdre O’ Loghlin from Potts Point, Sydney.

My guest was Mr. Indranil Halder (ex-international student, globe trotter, and alumni), which filled my heart with joy. He didn’t let me feel the absence of my parents. I could relate this feeling of mine to his.

In 1999, neither did Indranil have his parents nor anyone from his home city of Calcutta or any Indian diaspora for his UOW graduation. However, it was his then Australian girlfriend Jane Wilkins and her family stepped up to celebrate this milestone day with him. For him, at that very moment, an irreplaceable IndoAustralian bond was created for a lifetime. It helps him even today to pave the way for future Indo-Australia bilateral relationship development in every aspect of life. This simple but significant human-to-human interaction is identified as one of the three pillars by diplomat Peter Verghese in An Indian Economic Strategy to 2035. This also makes me realise that the Indian diaspora lacks the concept of empathy for international students on their graduation day.

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Indian Diaspora, Empathy, Indo-Australian Benefits

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 721,000 Indian diaspora calls Australia home. This community is active across all aspects of Australian life including in business, politics, the judiciary, government, civil society, academia, science, medicine, arts, and sports. Benefits Australia and India long standing relationship. During challenging times, this community has shown a great sense of civic responsibility and resilience, where they provided support to people in need amid Australia’s bushfire crisis, flood, or Covid-19 pandemic. The community’s contributions to Australia’s social cohesion are highly valued. Now, the question is that, being such an effective community on Australian soil, why don’t they reach out to support Indian international students during their graduation ceremony?

I think it is very important for the Indian Diaspora community to show empathy to us on our graduation day across Australia. We, as international students are somehow missing out on this essential community support. I believe it is beneficial for both India and Australia. Diaspora population with Dosti (friendship) and their Diligence( energetic effort) need to step up. According to the Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government booklet, Australia’s Indian Diaspora: A National Asset, they are an asset and it is perfect for them to care, show genuine concern and provide core community support on our graduation day, to overcome the disconnect away from home and improve our psychological well being. Maybe government and private partnerships with universities or community leaders from various Indian associations or Indian professionals from various organisations can take a day in lieu as part of yearly approved social activities and attend graduate day ceremonies.

It is time for the Indian diaspora community to be the pillar of strength and make a cohesive effort to celebrate with us, Indian international students after all India will be the youngest country in the globe, and more Indian international students like myself are likely to graduate across Australia and our progressive will also enhance benefits in geopolitical, technology and cultural understanding for Australia and India significantly.

About the author:
Supriyo Paul is an international student at UOW ( one of the best universities in Australia, having a rank of 13th in Australia). Graduated with ‘A Master of Business Analytics with distinction.