Aiming for The Top by Going “Down Under”: Study and Career Experience in Australia

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Stevanus during graduation ceremony at The University of Melbourne. Source: Personal documentation
Stevanus during graduation ceremony at The University of Melbourne. Source: Personal documentation

“Starting study and career experience overseas is not an easy undertaking for international students. However, many international students successfully responded to the considerable challenges. One of them is Stevanus who completed both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, as well as internship and professional employment in ‘Down Under’. Read his full story in the article below.”

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Beginning My Journey in ‘Down Under’

My time studying in Australia as an Indonesian student was easily the most thrilling and memorable experience. As with many of us who are aspiring to or just started their studies in Australia, my hope was to maximise my career prospects by studying in a world-class university in a country with a well-renowned science and technology. The journey is difficult, but I would like to show you that it is not impossible by sharing my story of aiming for the top by going down under!

I first arrived in Melbourne in July 2014 to begin my Bachelor of Science (Animal Science and Management major) study. I was finding my way around the campus in my first two weeks or so and I felt a mixture of both fascination and intimidation. Naturally, I was fascinated with the architecture, the size and the great atmosphere of the campus. But at the same time, I had these questions on my mind: Will I be able to survive and succeed in here? Do I have what it takes to join this “league”?

I’m telling you that these feelings are perfectly normal. Acknowledge it and just carry on doing what you need to do for the planning and preparation of your studies. I took things step-by-step and tried to make as many friends as possible to help me settle. I have to admit that my first semester, particularly the first 3-4 weeks, was very tough because I have not found my rhythm, emotionally I have not settled completely and on top of that I had to get used to the academic expectations.

To deal with this challenge, I tried my best to stay organised, planning my study times and spent all the time I could to understand all course materials, day in day out. I always sit at the first row of every lecture. I asked lots of questions and actively participated in class discussions. I always read lecture materials and prescribed textbook chapters before lectures. I revised my lecture notes everyday.

Stevanus presenting a project at The University of Melbourne. Source: Personal documentation
Stevanus presenting a project at The University of Melbourne. Source: Personal documentation

As time went by, my confidence grew and I gradually got better grades for my assessments. By second semester, I have felt totally comfortable with my studies and getting First Class Honours (H1) grades for my assessments started to become the normal. From this, I learnt that every rough ride has an end. If we hang on long enough, we will get to enjoy the better roads ahead. Feeling optimistic and eager to finish my degree faster, I took summer and winter classes and overloaded two semesters (did 5 subjects instead of 4). Eventually I completed my undergraduate study in 2.5 years.

Master’s Degree and Internship Experience

Immediately after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree, I took my Animal Science qualification further by pursuing a Master of Agricultural Science (Animal Science major) still at The University of Melbourne. I had a great time during my postgraduate study. I maintained my study routine and discipline from my undergraduate study and it worked perfectly. Where my undergraduate study was just about studying, I dedicated time learning new things and seeking opportunities to kickstart my career during my postgraduate study. I got into public speaking by joining Melbourne University Toastmasters.

Having learned so much technical knowledge from my studies, I realised that I needed to complement my skillset with the ability to deliver great speeches and presentations. I got my first hands-on experience in the animal industry when I did a two-week internship as an aquaculture technician on a fish farm in Werribee. I heard about the farm from my classmate who had done an internship with them and I contacted the farm directly to apply for that internship.

From that experience I got my first glimpse into how farming works and feels like on the field. As a student, I think nothing beats getting our hands dirty to see and experience how the theories we learnt are put into practice. One of the most exciting things that happened throughout my life as a student in Australia was meeting and having an industry mentor.

When I was doing my Leadership subject, my university organised an industry mentoring program. I saw it as a golden opportunity for me to network and get guidance from a seasoned industry expert and I managed to be mentored by the CEO of Australia’s largest animal feed manufacturer. Midway through my Masters degree, I applied for so many jobs and thankfully I got a job on my field Agriculture as a graduate dairy farmhand on a dairy farm in Wyuna, Northern Victoria, right after I graduated with my Master’s degree.

Stevanus during his professional job at a farm in Australia. Source: Personal documentation
Stevanus during his professional job at a farm in Australia. Source: Personal documentation

My new life in the countryside as a beginner in the workforce was challenging yet very rewarding. Working on the dairy farm for a year gave me a wealth of practical experience caring for animals and effectively collaborating with workmates to accomplish a day’s tasks. Most importantly, the farm work taught me resilience during times of crisis, to be able to toughen up and think straight to get the job done even under the most demanding of situations. Working on the farm also made me feel empowered, as my team relied on my ability to accomplish critical tasks such as correctly herding the cows and managing the dairy’s computer system.

As a student transitioning into the professional work, I believe that feeling empowered is important because when I had zero work experience, I often felt daunted when talking to people in the industry or during job interviews because I didn’t have a clear idea of how I can contribute to a team in a work environment.

Transitioning My Journey to The Next Stage

In June 2019, I left the farm to move on to the next stage of my career. Maintaining a good relationship with my industry mentor paid off well, as my mentor helped me secure an internship with Australia’s largest animal feed manufacturer as a nutrition intern. Working for the company had always been my dream since I was at university so this was a dream come true. During my ten month internship, I have developed a good understanding of the inner workings of the animal feed industry and was given ample opportunity to apply my animal science knowledge and data analysis skills learnt at university to complete exciting projects.

Stevanus and his university professor during a lab project. Source: Personal documentation
Stevanus and his university professor during a lab project. Source: Personal documentation

I completed my internship in mid 2020 during the pandemic. During the transition to my next career step, I decided to upskill and complement my Animal Science background by studying Data Science at RMIT University. Based on my previous academic achievements, I was granted an International Merit Scholarship by RMIT. I have completed my first semester of Data Science and got High Distinction for all my subjects. Now I am about to start my new work as an animal feed formulator back in Indonesia.

Concluding The Conversation

From my six years of my study and work life in Australia, I would like to conclude my article with some points of advice:

  • Always remember to reward yourself for every little milestone, be it finishing the day’s required textbook reading or making good progress on your essay.
  • Exams and assignments are tough, so do not make it tougher by thinking of failures or poor grades. At the end of the day exams are just exams and if you prepare for it and give your all to it, you will get through it before you know it!
  • Knock and the door will be opened for you. Ask and you will get your answers. You are the customers of your university and the lecturers are there for you. Ask questions as soon as you have any doubts because no one will ask it for you.
  • Career and industry networking events organised by your university are definitely worth spending your time on. Try your best not to miss out!

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Editor: Yogi Saputra Mahmud

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