University of Canberra alumni are part of a global community of graduates who are expanding their horizons, pushing boundaries, chasing dreams and building careers in locations all over the world. We spoke to a number of graduates about why they took the leap and whether it has paid off for them.
"When I first moved to London, I made sure I said ‘yes’ to every opportunity. Want to have dinner with Portuguese friends at a pop-up restaurant in Brixton? Yes! Want to come to a speed-mentoring night at a wine bar in Fulham? Yes! Want to do an early-morning yoga class at Sky Garden with a view of the city skyline? Yes! All these opportunities allowed me to meet extraordinary people with extraordinary stories, and I’ve been inspired, challenged and refined as a result. It sounds a bit #eatpraylove, but being a part of a vibrant, progressive, global community has expanded my perspective, spurred new ambitions for my career, and opened doors into experiences that are beyond my expectations.”
No one could accuse Suzie King of speaking tepidly about her international adventure. She is incisive and insightful, but injects just the right amount of excitement and zest to sweep you up in the journey from suburban Canberra to inner-city London. Having graduated from the University of Canberra with a Bachelor of Communication in 2008 and again in 2013 with a Graduate Diploma in Education, Suzie has built a career that weaves together her skill in communications, her passion for social justice and her love for education, all of which were consolidated when she moved to London in 2015, where she now works in marketing for Vibe Teacher Recruitment while also freelancing for a few start-up not-for-profits.
While unique, Suzie’s story is not uncommon as more and more university graduates consider overseas jobs, postings and even short stints of international work to be a crucial part of their career success and aspirations.
In 2016, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Headline forecast that more than 91,000 Australians will emigrate for a permanent or long-term period – nearly 5.5 per cent increase on the previous year. University of Canberra alumni are certainly part of this trend, with almost 20 per cent of our alumni base living and working outside of Australia. In fact, we have alumni living on every continent across the world. Yes, that includes Antarctica!
Professional and personal growth, proximity to industry hubs, expanding professional experience, family reasons, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity are just some of the reasons given for migrating overseas. Some, such as law graduate Ray Zhou, spoke of a karmic “right place, right time” feeling, where the momentum of their careers swept them into positions overseas. Ray, a UC international student who graduated in 2010, moved back to China to take up a position in a global company, working in compliance, antitrust and anti-corruption.
Even though Ray wasn’t able to secure a law position in Australia when he completed his studies, he is very happy to have an international focus in his work, and looks forward to possibly returning to Australia to work in the regional headquarters his company is setting up in Melbourne. His hard work has paid off too.
I have gained an important position in a leading global company, which was my dream when I decided to study at UC
Like Suzie King, University of Canberra alumnus, Jason Lu, also moved to London after graduating, but now lives in Vietnam working for an Australian architecture firm as a senior architect. Jason says working in Vietnam has accelerated his career.
"There is a shortage of expertise in developing countries like Vietnam, and employers are happy for you to take a bigger lead compared to if you were working back home." For young graduates, this means they can gain a wealth of experience with higher duties and increased responsibilities that might not have been made available to them in Australia’s more developed (and crowded) skilled labour market.
Other alumni working in niche fields also seek greener pastures overseas, largely because the positions and international recognition just aren’t accessible in Australia. This is especially true for research scientist Scott Thomson, who graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science
from the University of Canberra but has since moved to the Museum of Zoology in Sao Paulo, Brazil to complete his PhD on fossil turtles. Of his international move, Scott says: “There is an unfortunate history in Australia of defunding taxonomic research and museums, making it difficult to do the work I do in Australia. It’s actually easier for me to work on Australian turtles from Brazil.” Employers are increasingly recruiting talent from global markets and studies have shown that potential employees with international experience on their resumes demonstrate a range of desirable skills such as initiative, cognitive flexibility, resilience, and intercultural communication skills. A study released in 2015 by the British Council suggests recruits with international experience increase the collective innovation, productivity and problem-solving of a workplace and that those with international experience continue seeking opportunities for further overseas work, travel and study.
For Kate Tolo, a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Fashion at UC’s Holmesglen, Melbourne campus, getting international experience on her resume was a massive career booster. Kate made the move to New York straight after graduating in early 2016 and took on an internship with major fashion label Proenza Schouler. The experience and skills she has picked up while working in the frenetic and talent-soaked New York fashion industry has in her words, “elevated her resume tenfold, especially since working with global well-known companies”.
The drive to build a resume or portfolio that showcases international experience is clearly a key motivating factor in the minds of many professionals across different industries. And yet, our alumni stress that the most critical factor is a love of travel, a desire to sail uncharted waters, the thrill of exploring the unknown, the happiness you can find in challenging yourself to live a life less ordinary.
“I was always interested in learning about new countries, religions, cultures and ethnicities,” Olivia Cribb, a 2014 graduate of the Bachelor of International Studies, says. “There is a large world outside of the immediate bubble in which all of us live that is there for the exploring.” Olivia has built a career for herself in the international humanitarian field, currently working as a consultant to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Jordan Mission, responding to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Her path has not been clear-cut, and she urges anyone to consider working in international relations or international development to be creative in their approach to work. Despite the hardships, Olivia wouldn’t have it any other way.
I believe that experiences shape you as an individual, both good and bad and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone abroad provides you an immense opportunity to grow as an individual
It takes courage, determination, grit, sacrifice, resilience and a healthy amount of hustle to leave everything that is familiar, comfortable and easy and move overseas into the unknown and make it work. It will be tough and it might be complicated, but the professional and personal pay-off is too great to be dismissed and no matter where you go in this world, there will be a University of Canberra alum to welcome you into our ever-growing international network.
Words by Chloe Diggins