Denisse Gonzalez from El Salvador is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University.
When she moved to Melbourne, Denisse says that the fact that she moved in with relatives really gave her a head start in her new city.
‘Not only do they know how life in Melbourne works, but the fact that I was still speaking my native language (Spanish) at home, made me feel better,’ explains Denisse.
But even though she had a lot of help to settle in, there were many things that Denisse says you need to get used to when you arrive.
‘From the weather, to the use of public transport, roads, language and ways of doing things. You need to face challenges every day, and I guess that is what makes you stronger and makes you get used to your new life. You will have misunderstandings, errors, and things that don’t end up as you would’ve liked, but it is all part of the process of growing up.’
According to Denisse, La Trobe has really helped her to settle in and meet new people.
‘When you first come to La Trobe you’re curious of what the University and Australia have to offer. Although the social aspect at the beginning is a bit of a struggle, La Trobe provides you with plenty of activities which are perfect to meet new people and feel settled in. The first step is the most challenging one because some of us don’t know where to start. It’s just a matter of attending activities and events inside and outside university to expand your social environment,’ she says.
Talking about her favourite memories in Melbourne, Denisse says that ‘being a part of activities here at university has been a highlight of my time here, from being a Connect Mentor to participating in societies. It is an enriching environment which makes you feel satisfied and remain enthusiastic.’
To get help and support others, she says that university opportunities and resources have truly helped her in the past.
‘I think just being at university is a social and cultural experience every day. Being an International Host provided me with the opportunity to create professional contacts, as well as helping and [getting to know] new students.’
Coming from El Salvador, Denisse never imagined she would meet so many people from different cultures at La Trobe.
‘Australia’s multicultural environment definitely changes your perspective about the world and yourself. I can now see back and realize how fortunate I am to be here and learn about different cultures, beliefs and experiences from other students,’ says Denisse.
Denisse’s background led to her interest in international development, which is the topic she is currently majoring in.
‘I chose that path because I’ve always been interested in the social and economic aspects of countries; including positive and negative experiences of the population, role of the government, but moreover people’s thoughts, aspirations, and level of satisfaction and happiness.’
She says that her interest in the subject relies on the actions taken by residents to deal with those issues, taking into account the psychological aspect, and how they can overcome adversity.
But her favourite thing about the course is the global approach that it takes.
‘Not only am I learning about Australia’s view on development, but also about how developing countries view their own development. I like how in the subjects you’re not given one direct answer, but there is rather room for discussion and deep analysis.’
After completing her degree, Denisse will look at moving back to Latin America and can see herself working for a development organization.
But for now, she feels that the international experience has been the right choice, and has truly opened the world up to her.
‘The international experience helps you view the world with different eyes. From my perspective, studying abroad will expand opportunities and make you consider new horizons that otherwise you wouldn’t have thought about.’