My name is Mohammad Sami Baadarani; I am an international student, studying my Master of Technology (Software Engineering). I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, where I attended a French language school, and a French language university for my bachelor degree. This is my fourth semester at Fed Uni, which means I have been in Australia for a year-and-a-half now.
I chose to go to Australia to do my Master’s degree because I had family members and friends all over Europe, Canada, and the US. I had no one in Australia and I picked Ballarat to be away from people with the same culture as me. I chose that to challenge myself, to see how well I can manage on my own in a new culture. I had no expectations of Australian culture, and no idea how people would react toward a new international student; all I wanted was a good challenge to test and improve my social skills.
Since arriving in Australia, I have met a lot of people and made plenty of friends. I was forced to speak nothing but English, which is my third language, all the time and back then, my least practiced one.
It was a little bit tricky to understand the Australian accent at first, and I think most international students face the same problem. When I met my Residential Advisor for the first time on Peter Lalor North, I couldn’t understand any Australian slang. I couldn’t even tell if ‘good bloke’ was an insult or not. Living in uni res allowed me to hang out with a lot of people, and I’m sure some of them will be lifetime friends.
I have also met international students from different countries which allowed us to share our cultures amongst each other. I have been surprised that most people do not know much about my country, sometimes they don’t even know my country exists. So, I love sharing some Lebanese food with my friends, showing them what the country looks like in pictures and giving them souvenirs from Beirut when I visited last year.
I have been part of the 2017 FedUni international committee, because they helped me once I arrived in Australia: answering all my questions, giving me advice on how to settle in, and organising amazing trips that allowed us to explore different areas of Victoria. I feel that I wanted to help and do the same for the upcoming international students, allowing them to settle in and meet new people that had the same experience they’re about to have.
In my country, people love to spend time in cafes smoking shishas for hours, which is very unhealthy. What I love about Australia is the sport culture, where every person I met is at least a fan of one type of daily sport and/or exercise. This sport culture helped me change and improved my habits. It allowed me to work out regularly and eat healthy, and the best part is that I can always find a group of people ready to play soccer, basketball or badminton, when I used to struggle to organise two futsal teams in Lebanon.
Living in Ballarat for two years was a wonderful experience, most students at FedUni come from different parts of Australia and have to make new friends and meet new people, which allows us to easily make new groups of friends as there are no pre-existing groups. I don’t think this experience could have happened if the uni was in the city, as most students would be coming from the same schools and have already made groups of friends.
Finally, I am sad that my journey at FedUni is about to end, since this is my last semester. But this also means that there will be greater challenges ahead of me.
By Mohammad Sami Baadarani