Alice came to Sydney as an international student from Taiwan in 2005. She studied English first for three months and lived in a home-stay as she adjusted to life in Sydney. While she was studying, she worked in a souvenir shop and did some voluntary work in aged care centres as a way to contribute to the community and get to know more about Australian life. Alice graduated in 2008 with a double Masters degree in Commerce and Logistics. She had always planned to go back to Taiwan after graduation, but as she qualified for a temporary graduate visa, she thought she would see what it was like to work in Australia for a while. After the expiry of her student visa in 2009, she was on a bridging visa for about 6-7 months, before she moved on to a temporary graduate visa.
Although she had full work rights, it was really hard for Alice to find a job in her field, and she ended up working in administration for a private international college. She later moved into a marketing role at the school, which, over time, enabled her to apply for a permanent skilled visa on the basis of her education and her marketing experience. While her permanent residency (PR) application was being processed, Alice remained on a bridging visa for roughly two and a half years until her PR was granted in 2013. She didn’t feel like her boss was treating her well or that her career was benefiting from her job, but she didn’t want to make any new career moves until she had a permanent visa.
Alice felt like there were many constraints on her when she was on temporary visas, especially when compared to her friends – from getting loans and contracts to travelling freely. She describes the PR application as a very stressful process and she had a lot of self-doubt and insecurity about her visa being rejected. She used a lawyer because she thought she needed professional assistance in navigating the system. But when she looks back, she feels that she could have done the application herself if she had the confidence. Alice had to get a high score in an official language test for her PR application. She had to sit the test multiple times, which was stressful and expensive. Finally getting the score she needed was one of the most emotional experiences in Alice’s journey. Alice thinks in the end that Australia’s immigration system is a fair one, despite the challenges. But she also thinks that there are employers and education businesses, including the English testing businesses, who take advantage of temporary migrants along the way.
In 2012, Alice found a new job at an employee benefit company. Although her first office job at the private college had very "international" staff, Alice was "the only Asian" at her new job, which she found a bit hard at first, mostly when colleagues bonded by talking about pop culture or childhood references that she wasn’t familiar with. Once she got her PR Alice finally felt the freedom to pursue different career options, without worrying about her visa. She found a new role in search engine optimization (SEO) in a travel company, which she really enjoyed, and started a side business with her friends selling Chinese street food at markets around Sydney. In 2015 Alice became a citizen of Australia. She enjoyed the ceremony, but it didn’t make her feel very different, other than knowing that she could now vote. She feels really lucky that she can keep dual citizenship with Taiwan, because she might want to live back there one day.
Alice really feels like Sydney is her home and loves the lifestyle she now has. But she enjoys visits back to Taiwan, and when her family comes to see her in Australia. She sometimes feels sad to be missing out on important milestones in the lives of her friends back in Taiwan, like their weddings, but she has close friends in Sydney too, who she met mostly at university and through her hobbies. Alice feels like it’s been a long and often difficult journey for her to make her life in Australia, but she appreciates all the life experiences she has gained and the different things she has learnt along the way.