‘Li’ Cheng’s family sent him to Australia to live the dream many Chinese set for their children – an opportunity to study overseas and gain a broader education than they would attain at home in China. Parents have realised that the focus on academia in their home country does not allow the student to identify their own strengths and ultimately, career desires.
To live and study in Australia broadens the student’s horizons, and, parents believe, makes them more appealing in the competitive global jobs market.
When Li arrived in Australia, he felt the weight of his parents’ expectations on him to succeed, but also knew that he would benefit from the advantages here, including becoming fluent in English. So how did it all pan out for him?
“I was so frightened to leave my family,” Li tells. “Being an only child, it can feel almost like a betrayal to walk away from my parents and leave them alone. But I knew I was doing what they wanted for me, and I can always go home.”
Having successfully applied for a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), Li understood that once he graduated, he could stay in Australia for up to four years, without the legal requirement to be sponsored by an employer.
Li says his University studies for his Bachelor of Engineering were difficult at first, primarily because of the language struggle. “I did pass the English test but I decided to also go to English school so I could keep up with what I was learning at Uni,” Li explains.
“I was studying day and night and it was very hard but it became easier as my English improved.”
This visa is offered for eligible international students who graduate from an Australian University with qualifications that relate to an occupation on the Skilled Occupations List, or SOL.
A would-be applicant may be eligible to apply for the 485 visa if they:
The evening of Li’s graduation, his parents (who had travelled from China for the event) sat proudly in the audience, eagerly awaiting his appearance on stage. Unable to understand the English presentation, the first words they truly comprehended were “Li Chen” and they could barely contain their excitement, bursting with pride.
The next day, Mr and Mrs Chen asked their son what he was going to do now that he had his degree.
“I explained to them that under the 485 visa, I could stay and work in Australia for as long as four years.
My father was very proud that I could be accepted here to earn a living but my mother was obviously disappointed that I wouldn’t be coming home right away.”
Li had begun investigating his career development path from his first year at Uni. “I knew that if I wanted to be an Engineer in Australia, I would have to understand how Australian business runs and what kinds of organisations I wanted to work for.
I did some research, spoke with my University’s Careers Counsellor and joined a group at Uni for engineering students, who would get together and discuss career goals, help each other with studies and even do field trips to sites where engineers would show us through real life examples of their work.
Through doing these activities, I started to gain a contact list of people I could call or visit to learn more.”
As part of his course, Li was required to participate in work experience and made an excellent impression at two firms in particular.
“Yes, the Managing Director of one even asked if I would be interested in an entry level position once I’d graduated. I was so happy.”
Though initially shy upon his arrival in Australia, Li found that by interacting with other students via extra-curricular activities on campus, he was able to make friends and identify likeminded people.
This was the start of his networking experiences and gradually, his circle expanded to included engineers already working in the industry, owners of engineering firms and associated professionals such as architects, project managers and even scientists working in the field.
Today, Li says he is able to draw upon those resources when he has questions, needs advice or wants to discuss complementary solutions.
Ultimately, Li did decide to go and work for the firm where he had done his work experience and to this day, is thrilled with his decision.
“They really saw in me that I have passion for the industry and they encourage me so much. I’m learning a great deal and because this firm has also branches in Singapore and Malaysia, they are very keen to dispatch me to one of those headquarters because of my fluency in my native language, Mandarin.”
Li attributes his career development to taking an interest at every step of the way, trying to learn at every opportunity and, as an international student on a 485 visa, remembering the gift his parents gave him, to study in Australia.
“How I got where I am today is all thanks to my parents’ support, although I’m pretty sure I played an important role too,” he laughs.