Community Highlight: International House

Jaden Lee University of New South Wales, Australia


March 3, 2020
Currently Studying at: University of New South Wales, Australia
Homeschool: Bucknell University

Many aspects of Australian university life differ substantially from the US. First and foremost is residential culture - not all students live on campus. In fact, only between 10-15% of students live on the UNSW campus, which significantly affects extracurricular activities, academics, and community building.

When I applied for housing (known in Australia as a college), I intended to live in an apartment-style accommodation. What nicer way to live abroad than in an apartment? It offers independence, an urban style of living, and beautifully overlooks the campus.

By happy accident, I was not placed in an apartment-style accommodation. I was placed in the International House, a college that houses people from 35 different countries and fosters community like no other.

The opportunities for friendship and networking are astounding in IH. While my previous provided limited opportunities for community interaction, this college is centered on it. On my first night, I was greeted excitedly by the residents like they’ve known me for all the time I’ve been in Australia (approaching three months). 

Their energy was addicting. Off the bat, I watched them jam out on the piano and play pool and ping pong like there was no tomorrow. During meals, residents sit together at round tables to discuss all manners of life: politics, drama, culture, academics, and philosophy. My discussions have centered on topics such as business, artificial intelligence, and even the US election.

I was so intrigued by their receptiveness that I decided to do what I did best: form a choir. I proposed the idea to the college group-chat, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Hence, I formed a 10-piece vocal group to sing for a formal college event, consisting of traditional and non-traditional performances, speeches, lots of photos, and an afterparty (as pictured above).

Inspired by a choir that brings strangers together to sing in pubs all over the world, I named it the IH Pub Choir. Coming from a classical background, I thought it would be hard to let my hair down for this pop music ensemble.

I'm glad that this experience proved me wrong.

We had three really fun rehearsals before our performance. I was driven by their enthusiasm to work together. I mean, how often is it that we can form a group of 10 people to perform voluntarily?

This trait alone is what differentiates Australian students from American students. We often try too hard to obtain something from a friendship or a connection. As a person who is currently looking for internships by connecting with people directly, this is too true in my own life.

When do we get to step back and see that relationships are more than quid quo pro? 

When will we see that friendships are eternal yet finite, that we must savor them while they last? 

We lose people every day, whether intentional or not. Relationships are the most important aspect of our lives. How is an achievement worth celebrating when there is no one to celebrate it with?

Use your best skills and talents to make everlasting relationships.

Build a reputation for collaboration and love, not competition and discrimination. Speak out against xenophobia. Be critical of hypocrisy. 

It's a fact that human connections create happiness. So, let’s be happy together.


Australia Semester