Sekar's Passion for the Humanities

I first started my journey as an international student when I arrived in Brisbane, July 2017, when I had to continue pursuing my study as a part of the international program from my home university. I can recall how it felt very different, and how I was struggling to survive my first day trying to fit in. Despite my love of traveling and my previous abroad experiences, coming to a city where I had never ever step foot in it was quite intimidating. Nonetheless, I remember feeling excited and challenged, though I had no idea what tomorrow or the upcoming year will bring. Little did I know that the first day of my arrival was the beginning of discovering my true passion for culture and leadership.

Looking back to my first orientation day, that was the time when I realised, I wasn’t the only “outsider” that was trying to fit in. I met diverse people from different cultural backgrounds, with different languages and different personalities. I made new friends, where I was almost forced to update my Facebook account because apparently, unlike where I came from, people my age, especially students, actually use it a lot. The more diverse people I met, the more I got interested in getting to know their culture. Despite already having some friends and connections from my own country in the city, I was determined to make as many friends as I can from all around the world. However, what I didn’t realise was I felt very decisive to fit in the community when I didn’t even know myself just yet.

It wasn’t until one of my friends suggested me to continue her role as an International Student Ambassador, representing my country for UQ and Brisbane. The role was perfect. It offered a fantastic opportunity to introduce myself and to fit into the international student community. However, I remember how I doubted myself thinking, “there is no way I can be an ambassador. I’m not good enough to represent my country, especially here, where I barely have a lot of international friends.” Fortunately, my ambition was too strong; it defeated my fear. With the help and trust from my peers, I took a chance on myself and nailed my first ever professional interview and got both the roles. I developed my self-confidence, and since then, I realised that I am capable of doing anything as long as I am willing to commit. I started to actively search for other opportunities for international students.

After finally doing some research, I found that there were so many opportunities for me to be involved in, both on and off campus. There was this adrenaline rush inside me that kept encouraging me to be a better version of myself day by day, and I knew I could only be better if I kept learning. I took every challenge and learnt from it. I did my first ever presentation with an audience from more than 60 countries. I got myself into a challenge where my team and I won a problem-solving pitch. Together with my colleagues, I delivered events for HASS that resulted in a significant turnout. Furthermore, I challenged myself most when I was given the trust to be an international student representative speaker at the HASS’s orientation day. I developed myself throughout the journey, and the faculty has been very supportive. It felt great to be able to conquer my fear that I had the first day I arrived.

After a while of socialising and networking—finally discovering myself and my passion for culture and leadership—I started questioning myself. What am I trying to prove by doing all this? Then I realised my answer has been there all along. I slowly forgot my decisiveness to fit in. As a matter of fact, I didn’t want to fit in. I realised that I love doing what I do because of my passion for culture, and my excitement towards the international community. I want to be a part of the community and participate in creating a positive impact. I feel the need to help others, especially fellow international students that experiencing anything for the first time, especially in an area that we’re not familiar with, can be nerve-wracking. However, everyone is unique and deserve a chance to embrace their culture. I want to be involved in giving a hand by encouraging and proving others to experience their passion by not to fit in, but to stand out with their own cultural uniqueness.

Coming from a developing country where multiculturalism is not yet a big thing, I discovered that Brisbane, especially UQ, offers more than just a fascinating educational experience. I was given a precious opportunity to discover myself; my passion, a cause, and what actually matter for me. I found the essence of self-development, the importance of strong leadership skills, and how to utilise it to help others. I accomplished my goal, which was making as many international friends as I can, that are not just on Facebook, but stays in my heart. Believing in yourself is a big deal and trust me, it is far from easy. But if I didn’t step out from my comfort zone from day one, I would never know how amazing it felt when I did.

If I could give any advice, it would be to always try. Try as if you will always succeed. And if you don’t, try to learn from your experience, and try again. Find a cause for you to desire; hence you will never want to stop. Trust me, it works.