Returning to Australia and COVID-19 information for international students -

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Born in Hong Kong, Heibrance moved to Australia as a child. She completed most of her studies in Sydney, graduating with a Master of Professional Accounting in 2019. After finishing her Master’s, she decided to take a trip to Tasmania. Although she had heard a lot about it, she had never visited, so she wanted to see what the fuss was about.

“That trip became the main reason why I decided to study in Tasmania. Tasmania is very different to Sydney, and it came to me during the trip that it would be a good place for me to explore,” Heibrance says.

Heibrance appreciated the calming energy that Tasmania offers, compared with the hustle and bustle of Sydney. It felt like a place that she needed to spend more time getting to know, so she started to investigate how she could make that happen.

“I told my partner about it, and we started doing research and looking into courses to study in Tasmania. The next thing I knew, I was moving from Sydney and heading to Tasmania!”

Heibrance decided to study for a Certificate IV in Web-based Technology (now Certificate IV in Information Technology) at TasTAFE. She had no background in coding or web design but was pleased to find that the course material was structured in a very progressive way, with a lot of hands-on learning.

“I never felt rushed or overly pressured during the course, and I did see a progression in my coding and design skills as the course continued,” says Heibrance.

Heibrance also used the international student support services available through TasTAFE, something she advises all international students to look into.

“The international student advisor team was very helpful and friendly. They do give great advice to help international students settle in Tasmania. They have also set up a Facebook page for the community of international students to ask questions, seek help and interact.”

After completing her Certificate IV, Heibrance decided that she wanted to learn more about the back end of websites, specifically in setting up safe and operable online environments. She will be starting her Diploma of Information Technology with TasTAFE later this year.

During her time at TasTAFE, Heibrance was offered the chance to volunteer as a student ambassador, an experience she looks back on with great fondness. Student ambassadors help other students settle into their studies and Tasmania if they’re new to the state.

“I was mainly involved with the ‘Ask us’ initiative, virtual info sessions and vlog as a TasTAFE student. We also got invited to Government House to receive our certificate of appreciation, which was very exciting,” says Heibrance.

Outside of her study, Heibrance also found time to volunteer within her local community, assisting a terminally ill woman with day-to-day life during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I got to experience a lot of things that would be hard to come by as a ‘city girl’. For example, I learned about rainwater tanks, septic tanks, collecting kindling, lighting a wood heater, chopping wood and more,” says Heibrance.

As part of her study, Heibrance was awarded the Ueno Award, a prize that commemorates the life of Hidetaka Ueno, who passed away during his studies in Tasmania in 1998. The award is presented to international students studying with TasTAFE in Launceston and who have shown great commitment to their studies and involvement with the local community.

“I was honoured to be awarded this prize. It is reassuring and an acknowledgement of my effort in learning a new skill set, plus the involvement I’ve had with the TasTAFE student ambassador program and in the community.”

Advice for international students

Heibrance has three pieces of advice that she would give to any international student moving to Tasmania.

  1. Be open to speaking English. “Even if you are not confident in speaking English, most people are very friendly and are willing to hear you out,” she says.
  2. Get your driver's licence. There’s so much to explore around Tasmania, and it’s a lot easier to get around if you can drive.
  3. Involve yourself in the local community. Heibrance suggests joining a local sports team to help build your network.

Future focus

After completing her diploma, Heibrance plans to continue developing her knowledge in the ICT field to help grow her family business.

“I will use my knowledge to improve and integrate its operations from traditional manufacturing to a more flexible business that would also utilise e-commerce platforms.”