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  • Writer's pictureMo Zaatar

From Student To Permanent Migrant: Chau Tran’s Story And Australian Experience

Australia became a major destination for Vietnamese immigration once we opened the borders in 1975 to assist those fleeing from the fallout of the end of the Vietnam war. To this day any given university will have a significant percentage of Vietnamese students, and many of them stay on for years afterwards, if not choose to stay here permanently, and in doing so continue to bless us with their culture, heritage, and brilliant ideas.

Chau Tran is one example of someone who has come here through this pathway. She came to Australia to earn her master’s in marketing, and has remained ever since. Having spent time working in a migration agency she has seen the best and worst that Australia’s immigration system and processes can do to migrants, and she shares that experience here.

What’s the story of your journey to Australia?

I have been in Australia for approximately six years, initially arriving on a student visa to pursue my master’s degree in marketing. The program was three years long, including some English language requirements. After that, I worked for a migration agency for about five months, often assisting Vietnamese students seeking education opportunities abroad while witnessing the challenges they faced.

Unfortunately, there's still a prevalent mindset in Vietnam that making money in Australia is easy, leading many parents to take high-risk measures, such as securing loans, to send their children overseas. Upon arriving in Australia, many students find themselves juggling work to cover living expenses, tuition fees, and remittances back home.

Personally, I consider myself fortunate as I did not experience the same financial pressure from my parents. When sending money to Vietnam, it was usually in the form of gifts for birthdays and special occasions. However, I understand that for many others, whether they are students or permanent residents, the obligation to send money home remains a significant aspect of their financial responsibilities.

Why are parents so keen to send their kids to Australia?

For me personally, that traces back to my grandmother's dream of having her children overseas. While it was a dream for her, the financial constraints of her time made it unattainable. My parents, however, saw an opportunity to fulfil that dream through me, hoping to provide a chance for a better education and future.

Despite these positive aspects, there are moments when my parents might feel a tinge of regret, perhaps because my attachment to Australia has grown, and the motivation to return to our home country isn't as appealing as they might have anticipated.

Is it really that difficult for some people here on a student visa?

Yes, there was a girl that I helped that came to me crying at one point because she had come here on a student visa, but found herself working too hard to raise money to send back home to help pay off the loan that her parents took out so she could come. She had failed a few units and needed to apply for an extension, otherwise her visa would have expired and she would have had to go back without getting her degree.

It's not just student visas either. I know a lot of people who come here on a working holiday and end up having to work much harder than they wanted to, because they need to send money back home and it’s not that easy to make it here, with living expenses being so high.

But then you talk with your relatives and friends back home, say that you’re working here and they respond “oh, you must be making a lot of money and you’re well off,” but it’s really not like that.

And it wouldn’t help that the process to send money back home is traditionally so complicated and expensive, right?

Traditional bank transactions, while something you can trust, come with high fees and less favourable exchange rates.

Coming across Bless was useful. It's quick, easy, and offers competitive rates, making it a viable option. Although I don’t send money that often, it provides a convenient way to send money, as I've experienced firsthand by sending a quick couple hundred dollars to my parents. Another example is that I was recently able to send my brother some money, and it landed in his account in just seven seconds! Based on that experience, I can easily see its potential benefit for friends who regularly need to send money back home.

So, all-in-all you don’t regret coming to Australia – you’ve found a lot to like about the country and that’s why you’ve stayed?

Yes, I have found Australia to be a truly welcoming place, especially in terms of the people and the overall atmosphere. From the moment I arrived, I noticed a friendly and laid-back vibe among the locals. One vivid memory is when I was initially confused about public transport, standing there unsure of what to do. A kind individual approached me, providing guidance and helping me navigate the system.

This positive and helpful attitude extends beyond random encounters to my experiences at university, interactions with lecturers, and friendships with fellow students. The overall environment has been conducive to fostering positive relationships. Living in Western Australia has allowed me to explore the stunning landscapes. Witnessing kangaroos hopping around in their natural habitat was amazing. One of the things I truly appreciate about Australia is its multiculturalism. The diversity here is not just about meeting people from all over the world; it's about learning from each other and embracing various cultures.

Did you run into any difficulties in getting settled in your new home?

Initially, one of the significant challenges I faced upon arriving in Australia was the language barrier. Despite studying English overseas, I found myself struggling with even basic communication, such as asking for a bill in a restaurant. The colloquial vocabulary and cultural nuances presented a learning curve, making simple interactions more complex. It took me a few moments to figure out how to express something as straightforward as ordering a drink.

This language barrier not only affected day-to-day activities but also made it challenging to connect with people. While I was eager to make friends and engage with the local community, expressing myself became a hurdle. The desire to communicate and socialise clashed with the difficulty of articulating thoughts and ideas effectively. It’s all a part of the migrant experience though and I had to adapt fast.

Now that you’ve been here a while, what are your longer-term plans, and do you see Vietnam as part of it?

That’s evolved, and funnily enough, the ability to send money home has been part of it. Initially, my parents discussed the idea of using the funds I was sending for property investment on my behalf. To do that successfully, though, they suggested I send money regularly to facilitate this investment.

At first, I was hesitant because I was avoiding overseas transactions. However, after experiencing the ease and efficiency of using Bless Payments, my mindset has shifted. Now, I'm more open to the idea and if I do go down that path, I’ll have a deeper link back to my home country as well.

In the meantime, I actually have a large family, and my brother is currently living with me here in Australia where he too is going through his masters. Usually, the younger brother is the more spoiled, but I think he was sent here by my parents to cook and take care of me!



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