Australian journey

Control vs hope

Studying a creative career is not as rosy as a lot people think, especially studying Fine Arts in a foreign country like Australia: there are no guarantees for immediate employment and there is no direct pathway to becoming a permanent resident. In this interview, Ingrid is talking about her journey of becoming an Australian citizen. This content will be especially useful for international students who study Fine Arts or graphic design in Australia, and who are considering to stay in Australia permanently. Ingrid is sharing her experience of what it was like to be an international student studying graphic design at TAFE, then studying Fine Arts at UNSW and finally studying a teaching degree at ACU. It took her about 8 years to become an Australian citizen, and it wasn’t a smooth journey, but now when she finally feels settled in Australia, she wants to share what it was like to undergo cultural and linguistic adjustments. She also raises an important point of having a part-time job while studying: the challenges of finding a flexible job that doesn’t clash with the uni timetable. 

Ingrid was born in El Salvador and moved to Australia in 2010. She studied graphic design at TAFE in Melbourne, then moved to Sydney to study Fine Arts at UNSW Art & Design (known as COFA). She also studied a teaching degree at ACU, which helped her to settle in Australia. She’s been working as a graphic designer in Sydney and Melbourne and now she is ready for her next big adventure!

You can get in touch with Ingrid via her Instagram.

If you would like to hear an answer to a specific question, please, jump straight to the question that interests you.

Q1: What do you think about the fact that university websites in English-speaking countries promote students’ life as a glamorous positive experience that will culminate in an amazingly successful career? And how does this one-sided representation compare with your own experience as an international student back in a day?

Q2: Being an art student in Australia is not like being a student studying business, primarily because art schools in Australia are attended by roughly 80% Australians (it’s not the official statistics). As international art students surrounded by Australians, we had no choice but to compare ourselves to their lifestyle and to their life journey. What kind of ideas did this environment provide you in terms of building your own life in Australia, surviving in the country and starting a career?

Q3:There is definitely pressure from the community back home (El Salvador, Russia) to conform to defined milestones in life: by 24 – finish university, by 30 – have an established career. But international students have to push these deadlines back a few years, because adapting to a new culture takes about 5 to 7 years. How did you philosophise about these contradictions: on the one hand, there is an image projected by your native community, and, on the other hand, there is a reality of being an international student, which meant being patient and not having the certainty of achieving life milestones by a certain stereotypical age?

Q4:When we just arrive to a new country as international students, we can’t say straight away that it will become our home. We try to survive and do our best, but it is not always the case that we want to stay permanently in Australia. Do you remember when you decided that you want to make Australia your home? Was this realisation sinking in gradually or there was a special aha moment.

Q5:Going through a university, being immersed into a 100% English speaking environment is not easy. Although being bilingual opens up a lot of doors, gives access to a very special creative flow, it can also generate perceived ubiquitous confusion, doubts and even loss of self-esteem. Tell us, how did you progress through university years, and how important peer support was? Did you have a motto that kept you going in difficult times?

Q6:Tell us about your experience studying at TAFE, COFA and ACU, what were some differences and similarities among these three institutions? Which place gave you a sense of achievement and which place gave you the chance to grow as a professional? You studied creative subjects in all these places, but how easy was it to be constantly creative and constantly producing original work? I think, there is a stereotype of creative professionals: somehow people from other professions think that studying a creative degree is immensely enjoyable and easy-going. Was it true based on your own experience?

Q7:When you received the teaching degree (and prior to that you already had two degrees under your belt: graphic design and fine arts), you had a few options: to teach, to work as a graphic design, or to be a professional artist, what made you choose to be a graphic designer? How did you imagine the identity of a graphic designer in Australia? What kind of lifestyle did you think this profession would provide you?

Q8:When you did start to work as a graphic designer in Sydney, did you realise that it would lead to something substantial, or you felt that it was only a temporary stage in your life?

Q9:Have you ever experienced a feeling of being settled in Australia, and if yes, then what did it feel like? And when did it happen?

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