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Lunchtime Stories was a live storytelling event at Curtin University. It focused on sharing international students’ stories to inspire understanding and empathy between Curtin peers; and to energise the Curtin community–leaving a positive impact on storytellers and listeners and to refresh their day and minds.

Reena Devi Seedhari is a post-graduate student at Curtin University studying a Master’s of Education. In 2018, Reena was faced with the terrifying possibility of being deported after struggling with improving her grades. After a series of difficult situations, Reena soon learned that sometimes you have to lean on others to help yourself. Reena shared this story at Curtin University on 14 May 2019.

[Transcript]

So hello everyone, I’m Reena. I’m actually doing a Master of Education at Curtin University. So, last year I almost got deported and it was all my fault. So, I’ll tell you how it all started, the year in 2017, I came to Perth, left everything, my home, my job, my country and came to study in Perth. So, I came during the orientation week, which was very good, so it was very busy, I was busy, I was a new student sorting out my things. And then, as the orientation week ended, I realised, “Oh, hang on, this is not what I thought it would be. It’s actually very isolated.” So Perth is a very isolated area, and I didn’t realised until I came here. So, I started felling lonely, sad, depressed, missing home. It was a culture shock for me. I mean, it’s not a bad thing, being isolated, but it was very different from where I was. So, I used to go to the classes, and couldn’t understand anything, and at that time, I had difficulties communicating with people, I didn’t realise it was actually my English. So, I thought it was only my culture shock, or me being sad, and I just went to classes without knowing what’s happening, and I ended up having three fails in my first semester, so I thought, “I have to do something about it.” And somehow convinced my partner at the time, “Okay I need to feel at home, I need to be with people from the same community.” So I convinced him to move in with an immersion couple, it was okay, I started feeling better, but nothing changed, and I was still lost. So I ended the semester with two more fails. That was very hard, and I couldn’t tell my partner because obviously he’ll be paying for it, and I was going to be in trouble. So I kept silent and I said, “I’ll keep moving on.” The people from the university came and said, “If you have any issues, personal issues, you can still go to the counselling people.” So I said, “Yeah, I’ll give it a go.” So I went to the counselling people, and I had that thing in  my mind that the person would be judging me, or she wouldn’t believe my story, she would think that it was a made-up story.

So, when I came there, when I went there, I actually felt worse than before, so I said, “No, this is not for me.” And then, obviously that was my last session, so I never went back. The upcoming semester, I had to pay for the failed units, so I somehow had to tell my partner, “Okay, look, I failed.” But I couldn’t tell him that I failed so many units. So I said, “Okay, I’ll tell him part of the truth,” and told him, “I failed two units.” Which obviously meant that I had to pay for the other units. So how did I do that? Obviously I couldn’t converse well, so I had to find a job, and the only job I find at that time was a cleaning job. It wasn’t bad, it was good money, but the only problem was that it was odd hours, so I had to work at night, and then study during the day. So I did that, I worked the whole night and then come home, sleep, come to uni. And eventually I started feeling very tired, I had all sorts of symptoms, like nose bleeding, dizziness, and I started feeling weak. So I said, “Probably it’s time to go to the doctors, as I might fail again.” So I went to the doctors, and then the doctor said, “Look, you can’t work like that, it’s killing you, so you’re dying from the inside, you have to stop.” And I thought, if I can’t work, I won’t be to pay. I still owed the university some money, so I’ll have to give up, and I didn’t know what to do at that time. And, at the same time, because I was submitting my university assignments late, the university came to me and said, “This is not your cup of tea, so we’ll give you a choice. Either drop your studies and leave the country, or convince us that we should give you another chance to complete your course.” So, as an international student, dropping your studies meant it has consequences on your visa, so if I get deported, my visa cancels and I get deported, I might not come back to Australia for another three years, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I had to something, but I couldn’t, and I just decided to give up. I called my Mum and said, “Look Mum, I give up, I wanna come back home. I’m coming home.” And thankfully she said, “No, you can’t do that, you’ve been for two years now, almost two years, you can’t look back now, you have to find a solution.’ SO I tried and every time I was trying on my own, I didn’t realise I was digging my own hole, digging a hole for myself. So, I went, I knocked on a few doors, asked for help at that time, and I didn’t get anything out of it, I was still stressed, I was still depressed. So I said, “I don’t know what to do.” And then at that time, I realised that I have my best friend who is in Sydney, and he has been in Sydney for twelve years, he’s been studying here. So why not try asking him for help? As a last resort, I said, “Okay, I’ll ask him for help.” So I pick up the phone and called, and told him what had happened. And he swore at me so bad that I started crying, but then he was still my best friend, so he said, “Okay, I have to travel soon, but I’ll make sure to come and see you.” So he did that, he came to Perth and stayed for one week, and after a sleepless night, we managed to sort the university issue out, and he said, “If you have to, if you want to succeed, you have to look for help within the Perth people. So the main problem here is you communication. So you have to find a way to communicate better.”

So I decided to join a gym at that time, and then, like I said to my friend, I started asking for help from other people, talking more in English, and asking how to pronounce certain words. I started to get more confident, feeling more positive, so I went to my classes even more confident than I was and started asking my lecturers for help and guidance, my assignments got better and I still owed the university some money and I had a mentor at that time, or a friend who helping me with my assignments. And he said, “Look, because you need to study and focus on your studies, I’ll give you the money. So I’ll pay the rest of the fees and you give it back to me on the break or something.” So obviously I  had no choice, because I had no money, so I said, “Yes, okay.” I took the money, payed the university, and sorted everything out. So I eventually finished the course with a few distinctions, and yes I realised then that the only thing that I had to do was ask for help, which I wasn’t doing. So yes I would say life gets hard for everyone, and you have to sort it out on yourself, but don’t think that you’re alone because I’m sure that there’s help available, even when you knock on the wrong doors the first few times, I’m sure there will be something for you. So don’t give up, and ask for help.

Copyright © 2019 Reena Devi Seedhari

These stories have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of these stories, please contact the Centre for Stories.


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