More than just a party
By Kazuya Muto
I finished everything that had to be done before mid-semester break, and set about organizing a party with my friends to celebrate our (sadly temporary) freedom from work. We decided to have it on Saturday, and our number included Xuan and Jack (both of them very close friends), and Sandy and Freddy. Everyone except me was Chinese or Taiwanese.
The party got going around six. Drink as much as you can; eat as much as you can; talk as much as you can — that was our slogan for the evening, and we certainly lived up to it.
I can hear the more disapproving readers mutter, "You should study more! Too many parties." But I beg to differ. I think parties are a great opportunity to learn new things, to deepen existing friendships and to engage with new people, finding out what they think and feel. And most importantly, it's a place to laugh, and there's nothing better than laughter to relax people, open them up, and bring them together. Laughter relieves stress and gives color to your life.
Not that it's easy for foreign students. Sometimes it's hard to find the right company, and, once at the party, you have to be open-minded and outgoing, even if you're feeling awkward, uneasy or homesick inside. Many people think that it's simple to just go to a party and enjoy yourself, but for foreign students, it can require a bit of effort.
Then there's discrimination. I haven't encountered a lot of it, but yes, it is there, especially if you can't speak English too well. Sometimes I have the feeling that Australians look down on me because I can't speak fluently. This is probably an inevitable part of living abroad, and of course, not everyone is like that. There are a lot of people who go out of their way to help me.
A good way of getting around this problem is to have parties with other foreign students, especially those from countries other than your own. Despite coming from different parts of the world, you have a lot in common, by virtue of being students in a country where your native language isn't spoken.
These parties, though, come with their own set of dilemmas. First, you do feel odd being in Sydney and spending a lot of time talking with Asian students or students from other countries. Also, many of the foreign students have strong accents, so it can be even more difficult to understand them than it is to understand Australians.
But once you make a lot of mates, life become much more fun. I guarantee it. You go out together, you drink together, and before long your friends will be saying things like, "If you come to China, you don't have to worry about anything. Free accommodation, free transportation, free meals. You can stay with my family. Come on, mate. Come to China."
Can you imagine how happy I felt when I heard that? My mid-semester break had definitely got off to a good start, and what's more, my friends were coming from Japan to visit me. I couldn't wait to see them.
Shukan ST: Oct. 13, 2006
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