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Melbourne Beginnings: Fiona Wu

Presented in partnership with Study Melbourne, this annual storytelling competition is open to all international students living and studying in Victoria. This year, entrants were invited to write or create a visual work that shares their Melbourne story.

Winners will be announced at a virtual award presentation ceremony on Thu 21 Oct. Book your place here.


High School Shortlist

Melbourne Beginnings by Fiona Wu

This is how my story began.

21.10.2018, on flight MU737, travelling to Melbourne, 8326 kilometers from Shanghai, I became an “international student” as I started my journey to Australia. After suffering the nine-and-a-half-hour-long flight feeling nervous and upset, fearing the unknown future, I felt so proud of myself. That was 14-year-old me, heading for a totally new beginning, with my parents’ expectations on my shoulders.

After landing safely on the ground of Australia, my first two words were ‘Oh God’. I realized that I had to turn myself into a self-sustaining girl from that moment, to deal with all sorts of problems with ‘foreigners’. My new life caught me off guard, but in a way that was expected. I was like an unimpressive ‘made-in-China’ seed being sowed in a foreign country.

The underground process of a plant’s growth, called ‘taking root’, plays a vital role. As I settled into my new soil, I experienced various ‘first times’ in Australia: my first time to have vegemite, my first time to write a comparative essay. Putting lots of stress on myself to become a ‘perfect’ student with high scores, and an ‘independent’ daughter who never worried my mum, led me to feel a sense of the impossible. However, those ‘first times’ are like nutrients that provide support to a plant while taking root.

Gaining courage and resilience is crucial throughout the following process, ‘sprouting’. During the 2020 lockdown, my most overwhelming issue was depression and isolation, as I was limited from freely and frequently hanging out with my friends, from even chatting with them, and from gathering with my family for more than two years. The most effective way for me to conquer these difficulties was to force myself to escape these limitations, to stay connected with sources of support by communicating with people I trust. ‘Beyond the fear, start fresh’ was how I encouraged myself to stay resilient during this time.

Budding is the next important process of a plant’s growth, when it begins to show signs of promise in a particular environment. It is essential to remember that we cannot thrive alone without the unconditional support of our family. As the saying goes, ‘No man is an island’ – everyone needs companionship and a shoulder to lean on, especially in a tough situation while maturing. I could not grow up in a healthy way without nourishment; nor become strong enough to endure the blows of the wind without energy from the sunlight. Being physically apart, something that keeps me connected is the strong sentiment of family affection. No matter how far the distance is, and how long the time we haven’t seen each other, there is always someone who is waiting for you.

All these unprecedented experiences have laid a firm foundation for my future to help me reach the next horizon – adulthood. As Michael Josephson once said: “Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”