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Why Study Languages Abroad?


There are so many benefits to learning a new language.

You’ll develop a brand new set of skills, immerse yourself in a different culture and discover a new way of thinking. Having more than one language on your CV is also very impressive to employers, and it can open up a world of opportunities for work, travel and leisure.

Nowadays, you can learn a language pretty much anywhere. You can study languages at college, undertake a modern languages degree at university, or study online with the help of popular websites and apps. But there is nothing better than studying a language in its country of origin. Here’s why you should always consider studying a foreign language abroad.

1. Meet new people

Moving abroad can be daunting. But when you study languages abroad, you’ll meet people from all over the world. There will be other language students in exactly the same position as you, and finding a group of friends to help you get to grips with the language is important.

2. Learn the local lingo

Studying overseas will open up a whole world of language that you can’t learn in a textbook. You’ll equip yourself with a different type of language – one that’s informal, chatty and full of common phrases and sayings. You’ll become a confident communicator, with a whole wealth of knowledge.

3. You’ll speak it every day

Practice makes perfect! When you study a language in the comfort of your home country, it’s easy to become lazy and put off practising. But abroad, you’ll have no choice but to speak it every day. This can seem scary, but it’s one of the best ways to get outside of your comfort zone and get talking to people.

4. Understand body language

People don’t just communicate with words. When you can see someone’s body language, it’s easier to take in what they’re saying. Languages like Italian for example, rely more heavily on gestures and facial expressions to communicate. This is important to understand if you want to communicate fluently with a new culture.

5. Immerse yourself in culture

Repeating phrases from a textbook can only get you so far. But getting out into the world and immersing yourself in a new culture will improve your conversational skills. Simple tasks like ordering food in a restaurant, asking for directions, buying a bus ticket or going to the cinema can suddenly become fascinating and exciting parts of life.

6. Boost your employability

If you’re looking to work abroad at some point in your life, give yourself a head start by studying abroad too. As an international student, you’ll gain a level of understanding about what it’s like to work and study in your chosen country. Having these customs and experiences can make you much more attractive to employers.

7. Learn to observe

Moving abroad might be scary to you, but you’ll gain skills that you never knew you had. For example, if you’re used to being the centre of attention, you’ll learn to sit back and observe. Overhearing conversations that other people are having – at university, in lectures or in the street – will open your eyes (and ears) to a new way of thinking.

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How to Get Better at Creative Writing


Like a lot of things, writing is a creative skill that needs to be learnt. No one is a ‘born writer’ any more than they are a ‘born mathematician’ or ‘born athlete’. But with dedication, time and practice, anyone can teach themselves to write creatively. So whether you’re just starting out as a beginner, or studying creative writing at university and looking to perfect your techniques – here are our top tips on how to get better at creative writing.

1. Read, read, read

The more you read, the easier it will be to write. Most writers will want you to think they’re naturally gifted. But there’s a technique to creative writing, and the secret lies in learning what other people are doing. So don’t be afraid to pinch (or ‘borrow’) creative writing styles that you like, because no one is truly unique. So take a look at the latest books, blogs, poems, articles and short stories that you’ve read and enjoyed. Write down what you like about them – the voice, structure, characters, tone, words and phrases – anything that you’d like to replicate in your own work. This will give you a starting point for your own work, and it will help you to develop a writing style of your own.

2. Thinking and planning

Creative ideas won’t magically come to you overnight. You need to go and find them. The trick is to start small and write about the things that interest you. Chances are if they interest you – they’ll interest someone else. Once you’ve chosen a general topic, you can start planning your story ideas. Whether it’s on paper or online, on post-it notes, brainstorming, bullet points or prose – get your ideas down in a way that works for you. Let your mind be free, and remember to always question ‘why’. Next, create a storyline that shocks and surprises. Most storylines start off as a few bullet points, so you don’t need to go overboard. Work out what’s going to happen, and in what order. Just be clear and concise.

3. Creating characters

If you’re creating a piece of writing with characters, don’t be afraid to go wild. Think about who they are – What do they look like? What’s their personality? How do they walk? What kind of jokes do they make? Where do they live? You can never go too far with this, so go into lots of detail and have fun. Make sure that you’re making intentional decisions that are based on your characters traits and flaws. Human beings are fascinating, so having good characters with developed personalities can really carry a piece of creative writing. Create a character ‘profile’ that outlines the basics of who they are.

4. Know your audience

Knowing who you’re speaking to is one of the most important ways to develop your tone as a writer, and it will help you to develop your own voice. Consider the age profile of your audience, this will help you to make choices about certain words to use. Are you writing as yourself, or are you also part of your audience? You should also think about whether your audience will already be knowledgable about your topic? This will determine how much explaining you need to do, or if you can get away with using highly technical words and phrases. When you write, imagine that you’re talking to a friend. This will help to keep your words flowing.

5. The dreaded first draft

Good writing always starts off as bad writing, period. So you’ve got to let go of any embarrassment that you might feel. Take yourself out of the equation, and get your head into the storyline. Break it down into small sections – what do you want your first paragraph or introduction to say? Make sure that you get your ideas down in an order that makes sense, regardless of the words you’ve used. Once you’ve made a start, you can always go back and edit, redraft and refine it. If it helps, start in the middle, or at the end! Do what comes naturally. Whatever you do, don’t cross anything out – you’ll be surprised at how useful it might be later on.

6. Fresh eyes!

If the purpose of your first draft is to get your ideas down on paper, your second draft is for developing the words and structure. When you look at your creative writing with fresh eyes, you’ll read it in a completely different way. So consider what’s on the page, as well as what’s missing from your story. This is where you can start to add personality and flair to your writing. So have a go at playing around with sentence structure and speech. This is where the magic happens, and the more times you can go back and re-edit, the more concise and accurate your writing will be. If possible, always try to get a second opinion, because two brains are better than one!

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Huong’s time at Box Hill Institute of Tafe


Huong went to Box Hill Institute of Tafe in early 2012 to study Business Management, where she studied for 2 years, achieving a Diploma in Management followed by an Associate Degree in Commerce. 

It was her first trip out of her homeland, Vietnam, her first time on an aeroplane to a far destination, and proved to be a life-changing experience.

Why Box Hill Institute for Management and Commerce?

Despite having been offered another opportunity to study Hospitality Management in Sydney, Australia, I opted for Box Hill Institute as my study destination. At the time, I was working as a Marketing and Communication Executive in Vietnam and my mentor advised me to go for a business studies course as it was more relevant to my work. Box Hill was offering a scholarship and I was told that Melbourne was a great city to live in, easy for a first-timer like me.

Even so, Australia was still a big culture shock for me which was increased by the shock of being a ‘formal’ student struggling to adapt to the language barrier: I had never studied formally before and this was a place where, unlike my own culture in which you are told what to do, I was expected to be a proactive, independent learner.

The Course at Box Hill

As a mature student, I had the advantage of having experience when I came to study and some parts of it were easier as a result. The course gave me an overview of small business operations, from resources allocation to finance and marketing. Although these are fundamental in business, I had never studied them before. The diploma in management was easier for me as I had the practical experience. Some of the majors were a little difficult because I had not followed the traditional educational route, with gaps in subjects such as maths and English. However, BHI provided wonderful support to help me overcome these problems.

I loved studying marketing, event organisation, business ethics and economics; they are very relevant to our day to day life as well as to business, especially business ethics which is something we did not have in the curriculum in Vietnam. Marketing in particular was helped by my background in this field: my practical experience really made a difference.

Huong’s Swinburne University of Technology – A Life-Changing Journey


Huong went to Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia in 2015, and graduated with a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This is her story.

Why Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne?

“These weren’t sudden decisions! I studied my first year at Box Hill Institute in 2014, but I always wanted to equip myself with the skills to start a career. In a way, I was quite lost; I wasn’t clear which subjects I needed to pursue or how to fund further HE study. But one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to continue to work in a sector that had a social impact.

“Coincidentally, I was invited to attend the Global Shifts: Social Enterprise Conference at RMIT. There I was, listening to one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Pamela from Oxford University, speaking about Social Entrepreneurship, and at that very moment, everything became clear: I wanted to study Entrepreneurship to pursue my dream to continue working for a social enterprise. So my hunt for a scholarship began!

“I loved my course from the beginning; it went beyond my expectations. There was a nice combination of core subjects, a wide range of elective subjects and also practical studies. It includes a wide range of studies rather than being focused on one major which was a huge advantage. I was learning how to initiate a start-up idea, to apply innovation into an existing business and the fundamentals of running a business, from creating something new to law, sales, marketing, grants and philanthropy, governance and compliance etc.”

Finding a way

“My first plan was to transfer from Box Hill Institute (BHI) to RMIT and study for a bachelor degree after finishing my course at BHI. However, I could not get enough credits nor a scholarship, so I started to look for opportunities at other universities. 

“During my second year at BHI, my teacher, John Ferrito, was constantly urging me into social entrepreneurship as he knew I had worked for KOTO before. He cited Swinburne as having the best entrepreneurship course, ranked in the top 20 globally. My other teacher, Rosemary, also did some research to help me get a scholarship at Swinburne to do a research master’s and these factors set me on that pathway. One day I went to Swinburne campus with a friend who was studying there and I immediately loved the campus vibe. She strongly recommended it, based on her own experience. Swinburne is also well-known in Vietnam; it is the home of all the winners of a well-respected TV show in Vietnam called “The Journey to Olympia Contest” in which the smartest students participate. However, there was a problem: despite all these nudges towards Swinburne, there was no scholarship available for the course I wanted to do. 

“But I didn’t accept that! In 2014, I made a visit to Swinburne and sat with a course advisor, trying to convince him to give me enough credit for the bachelor degree course that I was going to transfer from BHI, but to no avail. However, when I tried to explain my past experiences, things changed: he was really supportive and advised me to apply straight into the master’s programme, which I did, despite it being extremely unusual for an international student to jump into master’s studies without a bachelor’s. Swinburne’s great flexibility enabled an exemption for my work experience, allowing me to do so with the same amount of time and money that I was supposed to spend on just getting the bachelor degree if I transferred. 

“I chose Entrepreneurship and Innovation because I love to see how existing social enterprise can apply innovations and creativity to tackle social problems using social business initiatives. Interestingly, I was the first and only Vietnamese student who studied the course back then, and one of the very few international students too, as most of the students on that course are local and mature students.”

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Huong Dang Thi – A Formidable Career Path


Here’s a story about how to hitch your wagon to a star and never let go (against all odds).

Huong was born in a small village in Vietnam, but her dreams were anything but small. She left home aged 12 and travelled to the buzzing city of Hanoi to work so that she can, one fine day, pursue her goal of getting an education. It was a tough start to what was to become a story of resilience and hope.

Her success wasn’t due to luck. By all means. It was blood, sweat and tears all the way. Against some considerable odds, Huong fought tooth-and-nail to navigate her way to a degree from Box Hill Institute in Melbourne, Australia, one from Swinburne University and an impressive professional career with Know One Teach One (KOTO), a social enterprise and charity located in Vietnam, Asia. She was present every step of the way to take that lucky opening that not many get the chance to. Huong certainly has a story to tell and there are many lessons we can all learn from it.

We managed to catch Huong in between her trips throughout Europe, just a couple of hours before hopping on the next train to London Gatwick airport. This time, she was checking in for Amsterdam. Working as the director of Marketing and Partnerships Engagement at KOTO as well as the founder and managing director of HopeBox—a social enterprise focusing on numerous social projects in Vietnam—fitting in Huong’s schedule any time soon would have been close to impossible. The clock was ticking. Still, she looked more relaxed than ever. She was ready to share her story. The question was, were we ready for a life lesson?

With a box of hope, that’s how everything began

We started our informal chat talking about what she’s been up to lately, slowly going down memory lane. HopeBox quickly came into view: an initiative that she currently oversees 24/7 alongside a team of enthusiasts. The goal of the project is to provide jobs to women who come from a domestic violence background. This initiative began years ago and was materialised in 2017: “I feel that this year was just the right time to launch it.”

With Huong, everything comes down to helping this and the next generations at the same time. She puts it much better than we ever will. “I firmly believe in the power of education, which is key to change kids’ lives in order to inspire them to take leadership in the future.”

Despite the fact that Huong’s story never followed a straight line, she never goes off track. She believed (and still does) in the laws of the universe and how everything ties in together. “Since I can remember, I was an advocate of the idea that things happen for a reason but, at the same time, we need to work hard to get where we want to be, where we want to go. You can’t simply demand and order the universe to provide you with things. You can’t simply rely on a dream. Life is more about having dreams and working hard to make them happen. If they don’t materialise, you have to accept it and move on and, why not, make other things happen.”

“Nothing is more powerful than seeing a once disadvantaged person come back and tell the next generation of KOTO trainees ‘I know what it’s like to be sitting where you are sitting, but look at me now’. Through education and opportunities, Huong has become by far one of the leaders in the area of social enterprise movements in Vietnam.” [Jimmy Pham, Founder and Executive Chairman of KOTO, Vietnam]

Persistent and ambitious, she really wanted to get her high school diploma while studying at KOTO, therefore asked Jimmy Pham (the founder of KOTO) for a chance to study at both schools. He said yes. “And I did it”, Huong says with a humongous smile on her face. “I graduated in late 2017 from high school and from KOTO. It was so hard allocating time for all the exams. Nonetheless, it was by far the best time of my life.”

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An international student in Australia: Sahil’s journey to Melbourne


Sahil Puri is from India. He studied a Bachelor’s degree in IT at Victoria University. This is his experience as an international student in Australia.

Why did you study Information Technology (IT)?

“I did a lot of online research, comparing universities and it was not an easy task. My family had invested in me and it was my whole future at stake, so I felt I had to make the right decision. It was overwhelming at the beginning, as Australian Universities have a lot to offer. But the number one thing that drove me to choose Victoria University (VU) was that they provided some of the best IT programs back then. The second best thing was the campus, which is right in the heart of Melbourne CBD. It is so convenient with a two-minute walk to public transport and one of the biggest train stations – Flinders Street Station. It ticked all my boxes for a great university, so I went ahead and decided on it as my destination.

“The course itself was great. It was very practical and, most importantly, I had huge support from my teachers to help me study and understand everything. They always had an open-door policy and we could go anytime with questions to seek assistance and help.”

Check out our article on IT degrees for tech wunderkinds.

What challenges did you face being an international student in Australia?

“I was very excited, but I faced a few challenges that made it difficult to start my new life. I did not have any friends or family in Melbourne so making new friends was not easy. Especially given that I was an international student in Australia, coming to study abroad for the first time. The language barrier was also one of the biggest challenges, and it prevented me from getting full exposure to international life. Since English is my second language, I was not able to fully understand the culture at first. Also coming from India, I was a vegetarian and that was not easy. Life was like a Rubik’s puzzle when I first came but, fortunately, I had wonderful support from VU. The teachers and the International Student Service staff really helped me brave all those challenges.”

Some special friends and teachers at University

“Although it was tough to get to know people at the beginning, I must say I was very lucky to quickly adapt to the new environment and meet lots of great friends. I would like to mention four people who helped to shape my life: My International Coordinators Danielle Hartridge, Vinshy and Esther Newcastle. They were amazing. The most important person who helped me and my classmates was our course coordinator Jackie French.”

Voluntary and community activities

“I was very lucky to be involved with volunteering activities thanks to my amazing mentor Nana. She was the president of the International Student Association (ISA) at VU. Soon, volunteering became everything for me, as I made so many friends who are like family now. I also became the Vice President of the ISA, and I participated in activities for Study Melbourne, including the Lord Mayor Student Welcome Event every year.

“As an international student in Australia, I was extremely happy to contribute back to the community here in Melbourne and help other students to feel welcome. I was born in an Asian country where responsibilities and voluntary work equates to looking after your family and relatives. But coming to Australia has opened my eyes and shown me that social responsibility is bigger than just family and friends. In return, I have gained valuable experience and skills. But the most important gift was the people I met during my volunteering time. We still keep in touch and often check in to see how each other is doing. They are my friends for life.”

Victoria University
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From business in Australia, to travelling Asia: Elise’s study exchange


Elise decided to study business in Australia at Griffith University, before travelling around Asia. This is her story.

Elise Giles is from Queensland and she decided to study business in Australia, at Griffith University. She was awarded a Business Achievement Medal for being the graduate with the highest overall achievement. Following her studies, she travelled to Asia and now works as a Capability Development Manager for AsiaLink Business in Melbourne. I asked her about her time at university.

Why did you study business in Australia?

“Growing up in rural Queensland, I saw the fundamental role that small businesses play in the local economy and I aspired to do just that – create my own business. I knew I needed to undertake tertiary education to provide me with the appropriate skills and experiences. So I started looking for a program that would help me develop a unique and competitive skill set. 

“I was attracted to Griffith University because it offers a wide range of business specialisations that were of great interest to me. The Griffith Honours College was also of interest to me. It’s a program designed to help high achieving students that display leadership reach their full potential. Ultimately, I chose the program because I knew it would help me achieve my goals.

“As a whole, I felt my program at Griffith was actually more practical than I expected, but I learned more effectively because of this. From work-integrated learning to community engagement and real-life examples presented by leading academics, I could genuinely translate these learnings into the real world. It has prepared me for my engagement in government, and the private sector.”

Check out our article on work-integrated learning in Australia.

Brisbane signCreating a professional network

“At Griffith, I was able to develop strong relationships with academics as I had a real interest in their research interests. I am still in contact with the professors, and they continue to provide guidance to me in a professional setting. In particular, I have stayed connected to Associate Professor Peter Woods, Director (International) of the Griffith Business School. Peter delivered a course called “The Social context of Asian Business” in my first year, and coincidentally I undertook the elective course.

“To this day I still remember the stories Peter told of how to engage with Indonesia – Australia’s closest neighbour. He expressed the importance and value of South Korea’s chaebol in their economy. I found the cultural complexities intriguing, and I wanted to learn more about the Asia region. I had never stepped foot out of Australia however, this course really planted the seed for me to begin this engagement. Peter’s teaching really helped to pivot my career – from a purely domestic focus to a global one. He taught me how to capitalise on the opportunities Asia presents.

Griffith University
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From China to Australia: Janice’s Hotel Management degree abroad


Janice studied her Hotel Management degree at Griffith University, Australia. This is her story.

Janice has just turned 25 and is from Guilin in the Guangxi Province of China. She’s full of energy and optimism. Her openness to talk about why she studied her hotel management degree abroad is admirable. I asked her why she chose to leave China in the first place.

Why study abroad?

“I would say I have always wanted to study overseas. But what made it happen was partly the system in China. Back home, I would have had to study a major that I didn’t like, at a university I didn’t like, and even in a city I didn’t like!

“In China, the education system is quite extreme in terms of competitiveness because of the large population. I had a really tough time in year 12, and no matter how hard I worked I just couldn’t get a score that would get me where I wanted to go. You can study for 12-16 years for a college entrance exam which determines your university. If you’re not happy, you can’t change it unless you go back and do year 12 again. I was so stressed with severe anxiety and major issues with self-worth.

“Basically, I almost failed to get into any university, but eventually I got into one which I didn’t like. It felt like I had no choice but to study there and I just wasn’t enjoying life, so I quit. That’s when I started applying to universities overseas. Luckily, I had a good IELTS score which I took originally just because I wanted to improve my English, not apply overseas, but it became very useful. 

“I knew I wanted to do a master’s abroad one day and I realised that the difference in cost between a master’s and a bachelors wasn’t that great. This made me see that I did have a choice, so I just changed my mind and my family fully supported that. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Why study a hotel management degree in Australia?

“Well, I didn’t want to go to America or Canada because it was four years to finish a degree. And the reason I didn’t choose the UK was that (I don’t want to offend you) but I do like nice sunshine!” 

I assured Janice that I wasn’t offended!

“Yes, I just thought that if I chose a rainy or gloomy place my whole mood would be heavily impacted, so I felt like I needed a place that’s got nice weather. Other factors that helped me choose Australia was the flexibility over changing courses, and the ability to work on a student visa. Here, if you apply for a hotel management degree at the beginning, it’s quite easy for you to change your mind. Also, universities here have strong connections internationally, so you can always do an exchange for one semester or something like that.”

Find out more about Janice’s time at Griffith University here.

Griffith University
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Janice’s degree in Business and Hotel Management in Australia


Janice studied her bachelor’s degree in Business and Hotel Management at Griffith University in Australia. This is her story.

She’s an international student from Guilin, Guangxi Province in China. After graduating, she decided to stay in Gold Coast, Australia where she works in high-end retail. We asked her about her time at university, and why she chose to study Business and Hotel Management.

Why Business and Hotel Management

“I wanted to study Business and Hotel Management as it’s a very practical course. I thought it was very well organised because it deals with the financial side, marketing and even the front office. This offers every perspective on how you run a hotel. They also taught me how to use the programs that hotels use. So students are fully prepared before they actually work in a hotel.

“The lectures, like the course, are very well organised. I really liked the tutorials here because they are small which meant they gave their full attention to every student. For example, I found the topic of Legal Issues very hard, but I received a reference letter from my lecturer. He said that I was very hardworking and that I had put a lot of effort into this course. He gave me lots of recognition for my work which really pleased me and motivated me to continue to work hard.

Why Business and Hotel Management at Griffith University?

“Although I am from a very small city back in China, my city is very famous for tourism. I had always wanted to do something related to that field, like Hospitality and Tourism Management. Unlike Canada and the USA, a bachelor’s degree in Australia is a three-year degree, not four. So that was an advantage because it shortened the time that I spent overseas, reducing the costs.

“While my parents had always wanted me to go to a famous University, I was more interested in going somewhere that would teach me something useful and practical. Whenever I told agents that I wanted to do Hotel Management, they referred me to Griffith University. Even though this initially did not grab my attention, so many agents continually reaffirmed that it was an outstanding and very real-world orientated. So good, in fact, that I began to look at student reviews. Immediately, I noticed the diversity of students at Griffith. What really enticed me was the local students, who gave really positive reviews of the university. The rest is history, as they say. In the end, I did lots of research before I came to Australia and I definitely do not regret my choice.

“Since my parents had to pay my tuition fees, costs were important. Griffith is not super expensive compared to other Universities in Queensland – it was nearly half the cost. International students like me, whose families have to pay all the tuition fees, really have to take that into consideration. The application process was pretty straightforward and because I made sure I achieved a high IELTS score, I could go straight into my degree and avoid studying at a college or language school.”

Find out more about why Janice chose to study in Australia here. 

Griffith University
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