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About the AuthorI learn languages, teach Australian English, and love all things science and nature!
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By pete — 8 months ago
Learn Australian English in this interview episode of the Aussie English podcast where I chat to my mate Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com about how to stop using subtitles to watch movies & TV shows.
Watch the interview + subtitles (haha) here:
AE 445 – Interview: How to Stop Using Subtitles with Cara Leopold
What’s going on, guys? Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today I have a great interview episode for you with Cara from Leo-Listening.com.
In today’s episode, I think it’s going to be amazing for you guys, because you’re going to learn how to stop using subtitles. So, if you rely too heavily on subtitles at the moment, you’re going to learn how you can stop relying on subtitles to understand TV shows and movies.
Let’s get into it!
So how did you end up with Leo-Listening.com? Did that come out of learning French and moving to France or was that a side project, something like that?
Yeah, good question. It kind of… Well, I mean… So like I said, you know, since I’ve moved here, because I’ve been here like 10 years almost 11 years. So I…
Yeah, it’s a long time! so I’ve mostly been teaching English in that time. I’ve done some other things and then went back to university myself and stuff, as well. But, like, that was my main thing. And then I started getting interested in the idea of teaching online. About as far back as 2012, actually, was when I first thought I could do that and that was actually during a time where I was working in Switzerland. Because where I live is really near the Swiss border. So, yeah. So we’re really close to them. And yeah… And then I was sort of playing around with that idea and it didn’t really take off or anything. And then I got serious about it in 2015 and actually quit a job, that was a non-teaching job, that I had had for a bit, and I went back to teaching and I was starting to teach online, and just kind of figure that out. So at the time I was like “Well, people do Skype lessons…”
A friend sent me a client saying, you know, “This lady has wanted to work with me for three years, but it’s just now worked out,” you know, “do you want to work with her?” And she was okay with doing that on Skype. So that’s how I kind got into the whole… The whole thing and then… Yeah, working with her we kind of discovered that what was really bothering her, to do with English, was not being able to understand people when she was going to conferences, because she’s a doctor, she’s a dermatologist. So the issue… The issue wasn’t like… Obviously if she goes to a conference and she’s sitting in the sessions and watching presentations to do with, you know, skin problems… Obviously she understands that. You’ve got the slides. It’s the technical terminology. A lot of the words are similar to French, like, it’s fine. But the issue she was having was more, like, you get to the breaks. It’s a coffee break, it’s social. People are standing around talking and you’ve got native speakers in the mix and, like, you just can’t really… After a while you kind of, like, you can’t really follow what they’re talking about what’s going on.
Yeah, you get that threshold, right? As soon as there’s, like, two, three, four people you’re just like, “ehhhhh!” Like, the level of… The advanced level here required to follow everything is just too high.
So, yeah! so we started exploring, kind of like, “Okay, what can we do about this?” So that, you know, you can go to these conferences and sort of chat to people and, you know, not… Not be able to participate in the conversation. Not because you can’t speak, not because you can’t get by, but because you can’t actually understand what they’re saying to you. So that’s where it started , kind of like, playing around with this idea focusing on listening for that for that purpose in particular.
It is one that is almost, like, the most crucial part of any language, right? Like, you would imagine when you… Most people would say speaking. And it’s like… Well, you can’t really speak unless you can sort of respond to these things by understanding what’s happening. I mean you can… You can instigate it but whatever answer you get back, if it’s not just a, you know, an order that you’re giving someone, if you can’t decipher it.
And I think a lot people run into the problem when, like, they’re learning a new language and they’re like “Okay, I’m going to memorize these phrases so that when I get to the hotel I can say that I want or I booked a room.” And the thing is, like, that’s very one sided, because then the person is going to respond and you’re not going to…
You know… even if you seen… This is the big thing, because even if you seen the words that they’re going they say in a book or something, or in a dialogue in a textbook… Okay, that’s nice, but that’s very theoretical. And the problem is when somebody says it back to you, when they’re speaking in a normal way, that’s when you’re not going to understand words that you already know and that you’ve already seen and you’ve maybe even already heard it, but in a very carefully spoken way. And this is the big thing that I tried to get across, is that it’s often the words that you do know that’re causing you the most problems.
Exactly, right? They disappear. You’ve got connected speech. You’ve got all sorts of different accents, and people rearrange things. So… It is funny, and I guess it’s no more truer for English because it’s so… Just not phonetic, as a language, right? So you can learn these words that you read, but if you haven’t heard them you’ve got no… They could sound completely different. There could be syllables left out. The emphasis is in different places, the schwas in there… Like it’s…
It’s a bit of a mess isn’t it? Because like… I mean if I was learning… If I were learning a new language now, what I’d probably do is really focus on listening early on and pronunciation, and making sure that I know the rules… Kind of how the spelling and the sounds correspond. But it’s true that in a language like English, yeah… I mean there are certain spelling and sound correspondences. There are.
That’s the worst thing, I think, for English, is that it makes sense. Like 60%, 70% of the time… So just enough for you to always think it makes sense, but then there are rules, against rules, against rules, and you end up screwed.
Pretty much. So yeah… That’s… And, I mean Leo is in the name of the website because I am actually always wanted… So my full name, without my middle names… But my name is Cara Leopold. So Leopold is my name. And I mean it’s not like… Some people think it’s my partner’s name but it’s not. We’re not married. He has a very French name that’s quite difficult to pronounce.
I just thought it was your star sign!
You thought it was what?
Your star sign!
My Star sign? Oh right – Leo! No mine isn’t… Yeah that would be good wouldn’t it? Astrological English. No it’s not my star sign! So yeah, I wanted to use my surname in, like, the name of my website. I just… I was looking for a way to do that. Like, LeoLanguages or Leo… You know, because obviously most English teachers, they put English somewhere. And I haven’t done that. Maybe that’s not so smart, but oh well… I like the way it sounds.
It’s working right?
Yeah exactly. And it… It quite stands out, is quite unusual as a name. Yeah, so that’s why I’ve been talking about for the last couple of years. And last year I really got more into… Yeah, the whole subtitle piece because I… You know, I really am a big TV series fan and film fan and, you know, I’ve had sort of disappointing experiences in the past sort of like watching films in foreign languages and being like… You know, I don’t really know what’s going on or… Either they were a bad choice for me. Because like, at one point I was learning Portuguese, and I had this film, City of God. And you know… I know like… I’m trying to watch this, and even when I put the subtitles on, it’s like, “What the hell?”, and it’s like…
So for those of you listening who don’t know, this is like full of slang, they’re in favelas, it’s, like, very informal. Even I, when I watched that, I was just like… Even with subtitles on, I need to translate like, every sentence. I have no idea what’s going on.
Yeah. You know, it’s like “Why are you doing this to yourself? you’re a beginner. Go find something you know easier that’s, designed… And then worry about films, you know, later on.” And even in Spanish, as well. At one point I had kind of like a B1 level in Spanish, but, you know, films are still a bit… A bit tricky, you know. And they’re probably better watched, in some cases, with subtitles, or with kind of… Maybe subtitles for some scenes and no subtitles for other scenes, that kind of thing. Because you’re still not 100 percent there with like, you know, even just your knowledge of grammar and stuff like that. Sometimes you just don’t have enough structures and things to really be able to understand. But there does come a point where you have to like, kind of, take the training wheels off your bike up, you know.
To be let go.
And you have to be like, “Okay, so what is it that happens in Spanish, or any other language? When people talk quickly, when they join words together, when, you know, what’s going on.” Because it’s not just… After a while it’s not just about the words, because I’ve had people say to me “Cara, I switched the subtitles on with what I’m watching and I know the words, but I cannot catch them if I don’t,” you know and there…
That’s a big thing too, right though? Where you get used to just… You don’t have to focus so intently on understanding every single word. You get the message, right? Like, that with me in French, where when I first started and was, you know, B1/B2 I was always a fixator. “Damn! I didn’t hear every single word he was saying,” and then it was more… I kept asking myself, “But did you understand what he was saying?” And it’s like, “Yes, you can follow it, you know it,” and it’s, like, that’s the first thing, as you say letting go and being like, “I don’t need to understand every single word that’s said and be able to transcribe it word for word as they’re speaking. I just need to understand what they’re talking about.”
Yeah. And I think that works for a while, but then like as you get even more and more advanced, and you still kind of noticing some things you can’t hear or can’t understand, that’s where you really have to dig into what’s going on. “Why is it that I can’t understand it? What is it about the way it’s pronounced that I’m not catching words that I know, or expressions I know.”.
So what is Leo-Listening, and how will it help people learn through subtitles? How have you set the system up?
Well it’s… What I’m sort of doing is… With the people I’m working with, who are usually quite advanced and they have a specific TV series that they wanted to understand. You know, we work on just helping them to get rid of the subtitles for that series. Because that’s what they want to be able to do. They want to be able to watch it… As far as possible without the subtitles, because they actually enjoy the whole experience of the series, and all the visual elements like, you know, like we talked about Game of Thrones earlier. And you know, that’s not a series when you want to be, kind of, poring over the subtitles. You want to be like watching the action. So yeah, that’s kind of how we work. And we also going to work on like, you know, giving up any sort of guilt or shame or whatever around the subtitles, because I do work with people who are very competent in English and the, kind of, needing of subtitles is kind of making them doubt their ability…
It feels like riding a bike with training wheels. Everyone…
Exactly! And, you know and some people are frustrated because they’re like, “Well I understand other stuff, I understand you, I understand…” Even like, podcast things like this, like, that’s okay but, you know, films and TV series; they’re still really, really hard and I’m exploring the reasons why I think they are even harder than other forms of spoken English.
Why do you think that is? what have you found so far?
Yeah well there’s like… There’s different reasons. What I think is you can already separate films and TV shows. So, I would always say, like, “Go find a TV series that you want to watch and you want to follow every week.”
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You know. Or even binge watch, you know, watch back to back, because that is going to make your life so much easier, because you’re going to know what’s going on, You have the context. I think this is really important. I don’t like the over-emphasise it but it is still important to have a clear context. And, you know, when you’re seeing the same characters every week, when you’re watching a story develop, like, you are going to know what’s going on. Like, even if there’s some stuff you’re missing. And you know you’re not catching it… Like you’ll feel a bit more reassured. You’ll know what’s going on. It’s less confusing. you even hear the same expressions week-in, week-out, you know, like, a lot of comedy series… The characters, they have their catchphrase that they always use or, you know… So everything is just a bit more grounded in a clear context and you’re more likely to know what’s going on. You know, what happened last week, you know how it connects to what you’re seeing now. Like, everything’s just going to be a bit clearer in the series. And then the thing is when you watch a film… Like, I used the example of sort of getting chucked out of a helicopter in the middle of nowhere, you know. Sometimes they have these programs, like with a guy called Bear Grylls in the U.K. He just got chucked out of a helicopter and he has to find his way back to civilization, right? And he’s in the middle of nowhere. You don’t know where you are. You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know your next move. And it’s a bit like that when you start watching a film, and you know, I say this even for, you know, French films, which I can understand, or obviously films in English; Sometimes in the first 10 minutes of a film I really do not know what’s happening . Like, it’s so confusing. You don’t know who these characters are. you don’t know who that… You know, even if you’ve kind of read the back of the DVD or maybe you’ve seen the trailer, you have a rough idea of what it’s about. But, yeah, with films they definitely don’t make it easy. They don’t always explain really , really clearly, you know, “This is the hero. This is this is what it’s about.” And I mean that’s like… That’s an artistic thing, you know. They don’t want to make it obvious, because then it would be boring. So I think, yeah, that’s an issue in a lot of films. Like, unless you’re watching like a sequel to a film. You already know… The characters are the same or whatever.
But I guess that emphasizes the fact that you should have watched it previously and sort of, I guess, it’s a luxury for us where we can watch it in English, and then potentially get dubbed in French. But I think for me, at least, when I was learning French and Portuguese I loved reading Harry Potter, because I already knew the story. So it wasn’t a matter of working out who’s this, what’s this, and how does it fit in. It was just “Now I know the story. I can just do it in French I can do it in Portuguese.” So would you recommend that they watch it with subtitles in their own language, or with dubs in their own language first to get an idea and repeat the process?
Yeah I think that’s really really helpful. So it all depends kind of where you’re at in you’re learning. So if you’re more, kind of, into media… It depends how you feel, really. You could watch it dubbed. If you’re not that confident let’s say, and you know that there’s still some bits of English that’re shaky but you’re starting to get into the whole connected speech thing and trying to understand that. You might want to watch it dubbed into your language first, and then come back to me in English with or without the subtitles. And there’s always… There’s always options. There’s options every single step so it’s not like it’s either all subtitles or no subtitles. Like, it’s never… It’s never about that, it’s about you know what helps you. So it might even help you to watch the whole thing through with the subtitles in English. I’m not a big fan of the subtitles in your language because I think that’s too… It’s too confusing, you know, your reading in your language but you’re sort of processing the audio in English at the same time.
You need it you need the whole thing in one sort of language or the other, right?
One language, yeah. And, you know… and then, you know, that I’ll give you the time to like… You’ll get the chance to say “Okay, what’s going on here? Are there genuinely expressions that I don’t know that are new?” That’s one thing. Or are you saying to yourself “That’s interesting. I know that word and it sounds a bit different to what I expect. It’s good to have the supplies to us to make the link sometimes.” So you can watch it like that, and then you could even come back a third time and, you know, take the subtitles off and see what you remember , or what you’ve forgotten or what is still hard to catch because this is the worst thing for me… Is when students, you know, even when I go through a clip with them, and I explain everything and they’re… They’ve got the subtitles , or the transcript, and they’re like “I still can’t hear that,” like some stuff… It just… It’s going to come, but it doesn’t always come straight away. Even…
So, is the key here though, no matter what you’re watching, repetition? you can’t just go one… “I watched it once and then I got bored, and then I go to the next thing.”
I think it’s repetition and it’s also, like, just doing some work. Because it’s very, very tempting with so many films and shows, and the whole idea of passive listening… That you’re just going to, like…
Absorb it and use it?
Absorb it . .. It’s just, like, going to magically… Like, we all… We all want the magic solution to language learning. We all think that if we just did this it would work. If I just moved to the country. I mean, I did that and I realise now I probably didn’t have to. I mean, I don’t regret it! I’m very happy with my choice because I like living here, but at the same time… With other languages now I’m like “I can’t really be bothered to improve my Spanish because I’d have to move to Spain if I really want to get really good.” And that’s just an excuse. The reality is that I’m not actually that motivated to do it. But if I wanted to have… Maybe not the level I’ve got in French, but certainly a better level in Spanish, there are ways I can do it without having to go to Spain.
Well, that’s it. I did that with French. I mean my French is a bit rusty now, but I got to a very high level from just at home. I’d been there once when I was 16, I hadn’t studied for 10 years, picked it up again, and just through studying… Like, I was watching TV series that I liked but actually writing down words, expressions that I didn’t know, learning them, not just doing the passive thing, and that’s how I really took off. I felt, because I was putting in the time, you know, two, three, four hours a day and it’s…
I think that… That kind of stuff, you could do that anywhere in the world with the Internet now, and it can totally dominate people who are immersed in that culture, but not exposing them to the equivalent amount of time with native speakers. there are plenty of people who don’t make the most of these opportunities when they are even in country, right? So…
Oh yeah, like even for me it was difficult at first because, you know, I was teaching English. All my colleagues were English teachers, and even if they were French their English was, like, way better than my and French. Although my French was quite good, because I could pretty much say what I wanted to say, it’s just that it wasn’t very idiomatic and there were still some lingering mistakes…
There is always the path of least resistance, right? Even if they don’t realize they’ll just go “Ahh, this is the one that we can both communicate in easier.”.
Exactly. So like, you know, and that happens to a lot of people when they go abroad they end up in that, kind of, expat community. Because it is hard to immerse yourself in local culture. So yeah. So I mean there’s absolutely no reason, and I think your example of living in Australia where you’re so just geographically isolated… Like, you can’t just… The nearest French speaking country to you. ..
The fortunate thing for me is that you’d have places like…
Haiti! French Polynesia!
Exactly, you’d have, like Vanuatu or whatever, but you’d never meet people from there. But the good thing, I guess, was I was living in Melbourne and knew a lot of French people and there were language meet ups, so I could… So long as I actively pushed myself I could use it with native speakers but if I sat on my arse every day it wouldn’t happen. Just the same as if I was in the country sitting on my butt or surrounded by English speakers. It just it doesn’t happen on its own I guess is the key point.
No it doesn’t happen on its own and it’s tempting to sort of be like “Well I’ll just immerse myself” and it it’s like . .. Even when you were kids, you know, you got three years of just full on contact with your parents or caregivers, you know, and they are communicating with you all the time, simplifying the message like… You know, it’s designed so that you learn the language, you know, no matter what we say there’s probably a bit of neural wiring or priming for language that helps us but ultimately you get a lot of help when you’re a little kid and you’re really encouraged to speak and if you don’t speak you don’t get the things you want. So you’ve got that motivation.
But the funny thing is to with them, right, they’re during passive listening for two years before they start speaking. And it’s not like they just suddenly start speaking fluently, they start speaking one word at a time.
Even little babies they make… Before they make the first word they did this thing called . .. What’s it called? “Reduplicated babbling,” or something or…
When they’re working their mouth out?
“…Bababababa, dadadadadada”. They’re not saying “Dada”, they are just like they’re just playing around with different sounds and there is a period, apparently, when you’re a baby where you’re like playing around with… You can make all the sounds in the world, and then you narrowing down to the range of sounds you need for the language that you hear, and I think it’s amazing! When you’re a baby you’re a linguistic genius, like you could pronounce anything!
It’s incredibly hard work afterwards. So what would you say if I came to you and I said “Okay, I’m moving to Australia, or I’ve just moved to Australia. What do you suggest I do if I’m intermediate to advanced level in English and I want to use TV series or movies with subtitles or, you know, ultimately get rid of the subtitles.”. What advice would you have for them for how to go about doing that, and obviously how Leo-Listening can help them do that?
Okay so I always start off with like picking sort of one series you want to follow. Because kind of going around with the logic of, like “Well I want to watch all these series,” or like, “One of these series is going to be easier than all the others.” And ultimately like they’re all going to have their difficulties if they are normal TV series designed for native speakers of the language they’re going to have some difficulty somewhere. You know what I mean? Like… So just pick one that you really want to watch and that you’re really interested in and that will motivate you to watch it. And then I think after it kind of depends on you – how you want to use it. Because you can use the series in different ways because you could say “I am going to switch the subtitles on for this one but I’m going to use it to kind of mine it for new language,”
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“So I’m going to write… I’m going to write down new expressions or I’m going… going to practice pronouncing, so them I’m going to replay sections and try and kind of copy the way people are speaking. And it’s really good when you have that visual element as well because you’ve got, you know, you can watch the lip movements and gestures. Then if you’re working more on the listening piece what I prefer people to do is, you know, kind of watch without subtitles initially, try and get what’s going on. Kind of self evaluate as well to say, you know, “How much can I catch?” Because for me kind of the magic number is if you feel that you’re getting about 80 percent of what you hear without the subtitles for me that’s a sign that you are good to go. You can keep them off. The other 20 percent… It’s going to be unknown expressions it’s going to be cultural things that you just don’t know. Either you don’t worry about them or if it really bothers you go and ask someone about them and then a bit of . .. Did I mention unknown vocabulary? Yeah that would be yeah… The rest is going to be unknown or a really weird pronunciation of something… Things that aren’t important and then once you’ve got 80 percent you can just use all the visual element s to give you the remaining 20 percent.
And so how do you turn it up and start, like, if you do get to that point where it’s 80 percent or more, how do you recommend getting to the next level? Should you go out and actively look for things that are harder or just keep… Find a new series – repeat the process.
I would… Yeah, I would start repeating the process. You could also do… I mean after . .. Once you’re at that level then you can really start using the series to kind of enrich your English. So at that point you might want to switch on the subtitles again because you’re like “Ooh, that sounds like a new expression. I want to learn how to use that. I’m going to take that and I’m going to test using it in the real world to try and figure out what it means from context.” And I interviewed another teacher a couple of… a couple of years ago… No, a couple of weeks ago I interviewed Tricia from Vagabond English, who is big on reading in English and then also journaling so she was talking about how to do that for TV series and her idea was you know you could just take an expression and then just decide I’m going to journal a little story with this expression or I’m going to you know just practice writing something or I’m going to take what happened in this scene in the series and I’m going to predict what’s going to come next or I’m going to write just something basic…
That pairs really well right? With the listening especially because your doing the passive thing and then you’re doing the active thing creating with this stuff that you’ve just learnt.
But there’s loads of other ideas as well for creation.Like, again last year I interviewed Anne Marie from Speak Confident English and we were talking about this idea of like listening to a podcast and listening to it with a friend. So like, you kind of both go off and listen to it and then you meet up and you have a chat about it. And you could so do that with TV series and it’s what happens in the real world if you go on Facebook. I’m in various groups for different TV series. So the fans are in the group that are discussing the series. They are discussing the actors, what they’re up to you know. So there is another example of how you can take what you’re doing on your own and what could end up being a bit passive if you’re not careful and making it something really active where you then use… You know, the language that you’ve… And where you can also ask questions you know. You know I’d be happy to help somebody in a film or TV series group like you know tell me what this means or I didn’t really understand what is going on. There’s so much potential for that kind of like all over the Internet because there’s fans of series discussing things all day long like you know especially for a series like Game of Thrones where everybody’s like what’s going to happen. There’s so much potential there for, like, doing creative writing, discussing meeting people who are fans, like, there’s just so much potential.
And so what length of time does this process usually take from them going from, I guess, having ah… doing okay they can follow it as long as the subtitles are on there. How long does it take for them to sort of go training wheels free and remove the subtitles usually.
Well with the clients I’ve worked with we we get going. The idea is we do it in four weeks. But I’ve had people I’ve worked with, I had one person who after a week she was like “do you know what? Saturday Night I watched series without the subtitles and I felt good. I didn’t get everything but now I realise that I can use actors lip movements and other elements.” And you know it’s fine but again people… It comes back to people maybe being too hard on themselves or expecting too much of themselves. Obviously we all want to go for it like continual improvement. But listening takes a long time to fit… Doing proactive things and not just kind of passively.
Sorry, I lost you there. what’d you say?
I’m trying to figure out is I think that it’s just there is that . .. Yeah i was saying that with listening, you know, obviously you do have to do practical, and it does take time to figure out but at the same time… For some people there’s just the confidence piece that’s missing.
They just need a little push to let go and give it a go.
Sometimes it is just a matter of they just need to be told or taught to let go and just try it and then all of a sudden they’re like “Oh I can do this. It’s not that bad.”
It’s not that bad and you know I know I’m getting them to do practical things like try to pronounce things like the character said them because that’s going to reinforce your listening. Even if you’re not going to say that in real life and then that gets your ear training. But then there’s also just the confidence piece I think as well as big… Is a big one. So… So yeah, you can go quite quickly I have sort of surprised myself… But sometimes we also have to accept that like I was working with someone else on True Detective where you’ve got Matthew McConnell he is one of the actors. So yeah, amazing actor but he is Texan I think so already that’s kind of a difficult accent from the U.S., because it’s not a standard one and he’s just somebody who doesn’t articulate very clearly and his character…
And so in True Detective I was just like you know if you want to put the subtitles on for his scenes like I’m not going to blame you nobody’s going to… There’s no judgment here because he’s really hard to understand. Like, there just some there are some situations where, like, it’s really not your fault.
I think natives have that right? I remember watching Billy Connolly, the comedian from Scotland, and having to ask my dad or watch with subtitles because I didn’t understand his accent and I was a native speaker who was in my early 20s.
It’s not always your fault that it’s a big thing of what I’m trying to help people with . You know, you have to judge, you know, you have to kind of judge for yourself where you’re at. You know if you can only catch 50 percent of something there’s probably a lot more going on than just… It’s a mixture of listening problems , just not knowing enough English, and you know other things going on. That can obviously be fixed but you have to kind of figure out where you are and most people never stopped to take the time to actually assess what do they know what they don’t know they just kind of listen and hope that it will fall into place one day.
Exactly, you’re doing it blind, right? But that’s the long way.
That’s it, and, you know, a lot of learning is to do with feedback and reflection , you know? Feedback, reflection. You know that’s how you progress but if you’re not getting either of those… Well it kind of just nonsense.
Just one quick anecdote before we finish up. This happened with me doing jujitsu, right, so jujitsu is this martial art where it’s very complicated. You’re effectively wrestling in these submission holds and you would tend to have two kinds of people that would show up to class. They’d be the kind of person who would just wing it and he didn’t give a shit about anyone else, what they thought. He didn’t ask why did you get me. Why did you submit me what did I do wrong. He would just show it… Show up all the time, every day. He never asked for feedback. He never asked what am I doing. Never looked for his mistakes and then there would be the other guy who would come in and every time he was caught he got submitted. He some sort of mistake obviously happened. He asked. He adjusted and he fixed it and he sky rocketed with with his skill. And so I think that’s the kind of thing with English; a lot of people just go Whoa I just need exposure. So I’d just go all the time and I use it all the time. But it’s if you’re not trying to actively improve your errors and fix the bits that you’re weakest at, there needs to be that active process involved. Otherwise it’s a lot longer to get to the top right.
Yeah exactly. Even though you are… You’re on the right track and you’re motivated to immerse yourself. Yeah you do need to take a step back as well. Yeah have to think about it. So we learn.
So where can people get a hold of you?
So they come to the website. The website address is a bit annoying because it’s “leo-listening.com“. I mean if you…
It’ll be linked in the transcript guys and on the websites so you’ll be able to find it at or below in the description if this is on YouTube. So
Exactly, if this is a video just go under the video. I have my website and then I am on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest as well, for people who like visual things. So yeah those are the main… Those are the main places where people can find me.
Brilliant well get on it guys, if you like watching TV series and you want to get subtitled free, go and harass Cara at leo-listening.com for some tuition and within four weeks hopefully you’ll be seeing some really good results. So thank you so much Cara, for coming on the podcast today. It was lovely.
Thanks Pete, bye.
See you guys.
Alright, guys, I hope you enjoyed that interview. Remember, if you would like to see the first part of this video make sure that you click the card up here. Go and check it out where she talks about French culture, learning French, and moving to France.
Also, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button and the bell icon if you would like to stay up to date with all the new episodes coming out on this channel every week.
Guys, thank you so much for sticking around and I’ll see you in the next one!
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By pete — 1 year ago
Learn to speak with confidence in this episode of Aussie English where I talk about the importance of speaking even if you suck!
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By pete — 4 months ago
AE 490 – Interview: How to Get Permanent Residency in Australia with Mai Medina Part 1
G’day, guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.
I have another interview episode for you today. It’s going to be broken up into multiple parts as it ended up being quite a long interview, and I know that it can be hard if you want to listen to certain parts and it’s an episode that goes for an hour or more, right. Anyway.
Before we get into the interview today and what it’s all about, I want to let you know that today’s episode is brought to you by the Native English course. So, this was the course that I was interviewing Justin Hammond about in episode of 475: How to Become an Advanced English Speaker. Native English, the course. You can get access to this course for 15% off if you use the coupon code Aussie, that is A U S S I E at lingova.com, that is L I N G O V A.com. All other links will be in the transcript. Anyway.
This is of course designed for intermediate English learners who are trying to get to an advanced level in English. If you are wanting to sound more like a native speaker when you speak English or you want to understand native speakers when they speak English, I really recommend this course if you are an intermediate English learner who is struggling at the moment, especially, if you’ve just arrived, say, in an English-speaking country.
This course is so good in my opinion, because it focuses on things like culturally-focused speaking, the kinds of words and phrases that men will say that women won’t say or that women will say that men won’t say. There are other components to like speaking-focused grammar, the way that grammar can change when speaking as opposed to writing. I really, really like that section. And then, obviously, it covers things like slang, phrasal verbs, and reductions. I love that it covers reductions. So, saying things like “I’m gonna” or “I’mena” instead of “I am going to…”.
So, it’s a really good course. Remember, you can save 15% if you use the coupon code AUSSIE. That is A U S S I E. Just head over to lingova.com. Anyway.
Today’s interview is with my dear friend Mai Medina. Mai is a girl from Columbia, in South America, and she came to Australia a few years back. I stumbled upon her when I found her on YouTube talking about this process and how she got permanent residency in Australia, and I thought, you know what, I need to cover this subject in an interview. I would love to have you on, Mai. And she said yes. And the interview ended up being incredibly long and that’s why I have to break it up into a few parts. So, we had such a good time chatting about how she ended up in Australia, what she was studying, how she got into different universities, the English courses that she had to take, and the exams that she had to pass, and then the journey to getting permanent residency in Australia. So, if that is your goal, this interview is going to be really helpful for you.
So, let’s get into it. Mai Medina from Mai’s Journey on YouTube.
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G’day guys and welcome to this episode of Aussie English! I’ve got a special guest for you today; this is an interview with Mai from Mai’s Journey on YouTube, and that is “Mai’s Journey,” right?
Did I get it right? Alright, awesome! And so you are a Colombian, originally, from South America.
And you have… I guess you’re in the process of migrating to Australia I take it?
Well I already migrated and I’m not going back so…
You’re not going back, it’s sorted, it’s done!
No, I don’t think so!
Mai, what can you tell us about your story? How did you how did you end up living in Melbourne enduring this bullshit cold weather that’s outside currently in 2018? How did you end up here? What’s the story?
So I first thank you for having me, it’s kinda… Really nice, this is my first time in a podcast so I’m really excited! So yes, so I’ll just say I’m Colombian and I arrived to Australia five years ago. So I came to do my Masters in marketing. I did it all at Deakin University and then I was very lucky to find a job that is sponsor me, and then after few years they help me with the PR process and now I’m a permanent resident of Australia, and I just like… Two months ago I apply for my citizenship…
…That’s like… I’m staying for good. I got PR, it’s kind of like deal, like “done deal,” like yeah.
So that’s the hard part, but we’ll get to that, we’ll get to that at the end. But so tell me, where in Colombia were you originally from? What was it like? And what made you decide to come to Australia, out of all the different English-speaking countries?
Yeah okay so uhm… I was born in a town called Ibague, which is not very famous. From all the cities in Colombia, that’s not a famous one. But I did my uni years in Bogota, which is the capital. And Australia, well… I don’t know, like I always was very into koalas and kangaroos and uhm… And yep… And then I also read one book when I was at uni. I read a book called “The Voices Down Under,” or something like that… Something “Down Under,” and it was like a book talking about… Like explaining how a journalist went to the outback and they spent a week in the outback and she kind of went through these amazing experiences with indigenous people there. And I remember reading it and I thought “One day I would be there, I will go there and live in Australia,” and funny enough, I’ve been here 5 years and I haven’t been back! So when…
It’s on the To Do list? It’s on the To Do List?
It is definitely, yeah. And then so when I graduated I tried to come to do my master right away, but coming to Australia five ye- no, seven years ago was almost impossible…
Why is that?
Because you needed… This is kind of like visa processes, but basically before, you needed to prove that you have the whole money that you needed for your uhh…. For your tuition fee and your living expenses and everything. So in theory I had to prove that I had, I don’t know, like $30,000 in my account, which I did not! So I worked hard.
I’ve never had that amount of money in my account either Mai, so don’t feel bad!
I worked for a couple of years and then with my family, and I got a loan and I finally decided… because I was working very very hard in Colombia, like I… My days, my working day started at 6 AM and it will finish at 11pm.
And what were you doing? What did you study for your bachelors and what was your job over in Colombia?
I did industrial engineering and uhm bus-… uhm… Administration or business management.
What is with that every Colombian girl that I meet I swear is an engineer? Why is that? why you guys are so into engineering. There are no girls in Australia who want to be engineers!
Okay. So let me tell you why. So there is a big difference in the education system here and in Colombia. When I graduated… Like… You if… Okay, how can I say it? You, first you need to do… You need to go to uni. I mean, going… Not to go to uni is not an option.
In Colombia or here?
Right? because if you want to get a job you need a degree. With… So that’s not exactly the case in Australia. But in Colombia you need a degree. Second: You don’t get… You know how in Australia you get like the first year out of uni, you get to take different disciplines, like different units, across different things that may be, like may interested in you, and then you get to pick what you are actually going to study.
In Colombia that’s not the case. In Colombia when you are in year 11, which is the last year of high school, you take a test, like a national test and with those results you start applying but there is no… Oh no, I think now there are those programs but most likely… Like back in my time you actually needed to pick a career right away, like before graduating high school. And in Colombia you are either an engineer, a doctor, or uhm… Engineer, doctor… Or a manager, like business management. Those are like the three top… Because there are so many engineers, like… I don’t know, ten different engineer- type of engineers. So I went with industrial engineer, which was kind of like one that wasn’t good in… Like, because I always have liked maths,… something related to that, but also related to business or… Industrial Engineer was like that mix of everything.
It was the thing that bridge- those two subjects, huh?
Yes. So back to my story of why I came back. Why I came here. So I was… I was working in my research agency. And the industry in Colombia, It’s really like… The employment and in Columbia there is no life… life/work balance.
Yeah yeah. It’s just work work work work work and that’s it.
And in my industry, agency side was worse than everything.
It’s funny that you say that, my girlfriend Kel has the same kind of story. She was in Brazil working as a journalist and says the same thing. She would start work at 5am and she would finish at 11 p.m. and it’s just like… It seems crazy that you guys have to work so hard and, you know, that’s just to get by.
Yes exactly. And I was even working on Saturdays and Sundays, going to the office. But that’s the normal, right? Like you don’t know anything else.
That’s how the market is. So there was one point in 2012 when I was like “That’s enough,”… The other thing is that, like is very… That surprised me a lot when I got to Australia is that if you want a better job in Colombia or if you want to get a raise or… Yeah, if you want to get paid more you need a master. The master, if you want to get paid more than normal, you have to have a Master from overseas. It is not the same if you do the master in Bogota as if you do it in Barcelona, or in Greece, Australia. So I started looking at different places… First I wanted to leave Colombia, because I was just sick of it, although I know my country but I was just like…Tthe traffic and everything I just needed a… I needed to rest and I needed like a different environment.
Just a change of scenery right? You just want to say something else, and I even feel that from time to time in Australia. When I was in uni I was always like “I just want something different in front of me,” you know, a different country, it could be any country, but just a change in scenery.
Yes. So U.S. was never a consideration. I really don’t like that country.
So is that… Is that because of the, sort of, of you not liking the country? Or is it a lot harder to get a master’s degree happening there and to get permanent residency and citizenship? Or it’s just that you were just, “Mmmm, not into the U.S.,”?
Not into the U.S., in general. I never even consider how hard will be to stay in, just… No.
What about England? What about England? Do you- Same sort of thing as..?
Yea, so my two considerations were UK, and… A university in Brighton or something like that, I can’t remember… And Australia.
And then uhh… And then I went to one of these fairs or, like, uni meetings, they, like, many unis come, and you can ask for the curriculum…
Like an open-day or something is it? Where they tell you about everything.
Yeah. I went to an open day of universities in Australia and I met a lovely girl from Deakin University and she gave me like all the information on the master. The master was only one year which um… Wasn’t that expensive, it was…
Was this in Bogota? Or was this in…? Yeah.
In Bogota, Yeah.
So a girl came from here, went to Colombia to do that open day.
And then I decided to come to Australia then. I was like “yes this is it. I’m going to Australia now,” because I remember the UK was more expensive… Going to the UK was more expensive than coming here, because in the UK you can not work.
So you have to have saved up all of that money before you can go there and study? And had Australia… Obviously at this time Australia’s visas had become more lax. They’d become relaxed; you didn’t need the 30000 dollars at this point?
Oh no, I needed it.
Oh wow, okay.
But… But then, because I was… I had already worked for a little bit, and I got some money from my family, so and I got a loan from my dad’s side; so I got the money. But now you don’t need that. Now, the things have… The rules have changed. SO That’s why There’s so many Colombians in this country now. Because it’s easier to come now.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh great, so what was the process? You went to this open day, you met this Australian girl representing Deakin, you spoke to her. Obviously you didn’t just say “Okay, I’m in,” and bam you’re in Australia. What was the process from deciding this is what I want to do to actually getting your feet on the ground in Australia and stepping off the plane, you know? What was that initial step like? What did you have to do?
It was a very long process because… Okay, so first I decided Deakin but then I also wanted, like, all the options. So I did a research of all the same… Like similar programs, Master of Marketing, but in different universities. So I… if I have had the money, I will have gone with Melbourne University, but the price was double the price, the cost of Deakin, right.
Wow, okay! For the same thing!
A university vs another agency. But then I was like, “You know what. At the end of the day it’s what you do with that information.” And I just didn’t have the money.
I can’t imagine having to pay full fee for… For reference for people listening right now, for an Australian citizen I get paid… It’s paid for by the government, and then I owe the government a certain amount of money and I only ever have to pay that back if I make past, I think it’s like $58,000 a year, and then they start taking it out by just charging you slightly more tax. But yeah you guys… Foreign students have to pay… Complete the full fee, you know, upfront right? Or at least a semester by semester fee, I take it.
So for example… And you… We pay more. If you are international and you pay more for education.
Yeah yeah yeah exactly. So there’s no discount and it’s full-fee. You have to pay upfront. And what were the prices, if I can ask, just for reference?
Yes. So for my masters I ended up paying… Okay thr Masten was one year only. Because it was only one year, it was… I think was $28,000.
Wow and so for Melbourne Uni it was twice that for one year equivalent?
Melbourne uni was like $57,000. It was something crazy. I was like “no!”.
Jeez! That’s more than a thousand dollars a week! Wow!
It’s higher because the Master in Melbourne Uni last one year and a half.
Ahh, okay gotcha.
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So it’s one semester more. But then yeah… I didn’t have the money anyway. So I decided to do Deakin, and you have… When I apply you have to write like an essay. And then when you… To get your visa you need… Oh no no no, Before applying, You need to take the IELTS.
Right? because you need to prove that you are… And back then was rank 6.
Yeah. So you have to show you are competent in English before you could even enrol in the university and go for a visa?
That’s correct. Because if you didn’t have the English, what you can do is you can come, but to do like uhh… One semester English first and then you can do your Masters. But that semester will be really really expensive If you do it with Deakin.
And did you still have to do the IELTS at the end of that semester? Or that’s ignored?
No that’s ignored. Just… You can just… They grant you pass right away…
As long as you pay upfront!
I started… What I did was… Like I…
Sorry, it broke up. What’d you say before the IELTS? Sorry just go again.
I already knew how to speak English. I have been in the U.S. working on working holidays, and I studied English different institutes on the… Over the weekend since I was kid. So that’s why my English was quite good at the moment, like back then.
But then… I wanted… Because the IELTS… One thing about exams, English exams, are they don’t test your abilities, they just test how good are you at that exam. So what I did was I prepared. So I paid for IELTS course, and I prepare because I knew… Like all exams are different, so I needed to understand how the writing was… Like what are the expectations when I’m writing.
How are they’re assessing you for each of the different components. Because, as you say, because if you did Cambridge vs. IELTS vs. PTE… All these exams are assessed in a different way.
Yes. So I took that course. it was a 3 month course. It was very good and I took the exam ,and I got very good at scores for everything but writing.
That seems to be the story for everyone though.
Yes, so it was very disappointing because I needed… band six with nothing below 5.5.
And I got… in reading I got nine out of nine, so very good. Speaking was like eight out of nine. But writing was 5.5.
Yeah. But that’s good then, right? So you go through by the skin your teeth.
No I couldn’t! Because you couldn’t have any band below 6!
Oh okay, “below 6,” gotcha. Damn.
So I wrote to university saying “,hey look this is like… All the other bands are so high. Can’t I just apply with that?” And they say no you need to actually pass.
It was a good try. A good try.
So I had to do it again. And then the second time I pass all the bands, But then because I was nervous, I think I got worse… Like as good scores as at the beginning…
But not all of them above six, obviously, or six and above?
Okay. And then after that… And then and then you apply to university. You have your English, you have the essay. There’s an essay that you have to write saying why you want to study there.
So is that important? If you… Say you do absolutely crush the IELTS, you have all the money that you need, how much… How important is that lette,r that essay, for the university? Is it still required that that could, you know, they could decide no or yes? Or are you just…
I don’t think so, because money is money after all. Like… I don’t think so. It’s just like uhh… Like “oh let us…” Yeah it’s not a competitive entrance. It’s not like in Barcelona, there is a marketing university that is very competitive. You have to actually show that are worth for university. I don’t think Deakin is like that.
Well they have more than enough spaces so that they could yeah… So you still just have to have gone through the process of writing that letter to show that you’re serious and then go through the process. So what happened? You had the money saved up from a few years of working your arse off. You had contacted this uni through this girl who came over at one of these open days. You had gotten above six on everything in the IELTS in order to be able to… Is that just Deakin University or is that all Australian unis?
I think it’s all Australian unis. Yeah I think so.
So for anyone who is thinking about doing a masters or some kind of uni degree in Australia, it’s more than likely you’re going to have to have done the IELTS before trying to enroll or get a visa. So what do you do then for getting a visa in order to come over here? You had those things sorted out. I take it, do you need to get the visa before you enroll? Or do you need to enroll before you get the visa?
You need to enroll… So you send your papers and when you get your confirmation, like your letter offer, like offer of position or the based in uni. Then with that letter you apply for the visa.
So you don’t say anything yet. You just get an acceptance letter saying that if you do come to Australia you’re in.
Yeah, I think… No no I think you have to pay like a portion. You have to pay 50 or something again to get… No, but you get a letter. But if you have to pay something to actually say you apply for the visa, you have to have accepted that position.
So these two things kind of have to be done simultaneously?
Then for the visa, you also have to write a message saying why you want to come back to your country.
Oh! Really? is that you know that Australia feels comfortable that you’re not going to try to overstay or..? So is that… What were you thinking at the time then? were you thinking “Oh, this is all bullshit. I’m not coming back. I don’t want to come back,” Or were you thinking “oh yeah no, of course I’ll do my degree and I’ll come back?”Llike what was your mindset like?
No my mindset was : “I’m not going to come back.” Who goes back? I mean no… I mean yeah. There are people that go back, but 90 percent of people stay so… Yeah no… Of course I… You have to write something, so of course you say that you would be alone in Australia and family ties are in Colombia, and you want the country to grow and you want to contribute to the prosperity of the country and you want to know the culture there, but then bring the knowledge back, and all that BS.
Alright, so you did that process and then how much did the visa cost and how quickly did you get it?
Ooh the visa costs…
Roughly, it doesn’t have to be exact but just to give people a reference.
I don’t remember. It’s not that expensive.
A few hundred dollars is it?
I can’t remember, but I remember… like… I don’t think it’s that expensive. I think it’s like 400 yeah like $300 maybe 250.
So after having paid the tuition fees for the university it was effectively nothing. You were like this is not an issue.
All right, sweet, so you got on the plane. You had all that sorted. What did you do with regards…
Oh yeah then before that, for all the listeners that want to come to Australia to study a Master, I really recommend you to check if there is any grants or any scholarships for international students. Because I won and just by applying like I apply. When you get acceptance, you get the chance to apply with the letter acceptance you can apply for International Scholarship. And that was four thousand dollars for my tuition fee.
And so what were they looking for and how did you find information about whether or not those scholarships were available?
Well… when I did my research I talked to the girl to see if there was any scholarship that could helped and second, all the universities have the information on their website. Sometimes it’s really hard to find them and that probably the actual information because there are so many different like links and the scholarships are by Departments so like Business Department or whatever Department. So but then yes, you just have to look online and see the scholarships and normally they do have a scholarship for International Students. And if you have like a good CV and you have like good grades back in uni because that was another thing. You have to show, you have to send your grades, like how you did in uni. And I got the scholarship and it was just by e-mails.
Yep. So literally, you know, you could have just ignored applying for that and missed out on 4000 dollars which would have been you know what like at least a month or two worth of tuition.
Crazy! So what happened to with that, if you… did you just have to fill out a form online, submit it to the university with those forms, your grades, the acceptance notice and everything.
Yeah it was… yeah I don’t think it is… I think it’s just an e-mail to the Department saying that you have been accepted and that you would like to apply for the scholarship, International Scholarship, and these are the papers and this is why I think I deserve it. And that’s it.
And so was it specifically for that Master’s degree and there are like scholarships offered for all of the degrees or is it just a university wide kind of international student scholarship?
I think the one that I got, I think it’s for Business International so any Master under the Business Department. And it was only for International students.
That’s a good point and I think too even if you’re in Australia right now, after having you know gone through and done my Bachelors, Masters and PhD, during those degrees you can still apply for these things. So I think even if you forget to do this and you’re listening right now and say you’ve just arrived or you’ve been here for a year, if your degree is ongoing, still you’ve got six months a year ahead of you, you might still be able to get one of these, if you apply. So I’d probably say yeah do a search for International Student Scholarship and then the name of your university so and you’ll find it on Google I would recommend. But that’s crazy, so did the money just get put straight into your account while still in Columbia or did you come to Australia and then you received it?
No because I only pay half at the beginning. They discount it to just four thousand, and then the other half I just pay the taxes.
So in this case you didn’t receive any money and it was up to you to do whatever with it. It was just that they reduced the fees that you had to actually pay?
That’s interesting because there will be some I think at least with the girls that I went through my PhD with where some of the scholarships they received although these were four Australians but there are international ones they would just get a certain amount of money sent to them every six months and it would just go straight into their accounts. So there are those kinds of options I believe.
Awesome. So did you sort that out obviously before you came to Australia? So you already got the discount?
Awesome. Then what? What did you do? You got on the plane?
Then I got my Visa, and then for the flight, this is another tip for people who are coming from Latin America, if any, there is an organization, OTA, I think.
Yeah… it’s organisation… I will have to check. It’s an organisation, it’s called OTA something.
But what does it do exactly? What’s the function of it?
So I got my tickets half of a price.
Yeah, it’s for students, and it’s the students that are doing Masters overseas and you get discounts on tickets. The only thing is that they buy the tickets. So, you don’t have a say on what’s that route or what’s the date, like, you just give them a range of dates, and they… and the papers, again, like, why do I do deserve the discount. And then, they go back to you saying okay this is the ticket and you just pay half of it. So, my tickets were two thousand dollars and I only have to pay $1000.
Oh wow. So, another way of saving. So, you’ve already saved five thousand dollars and you haven’t even arrived in Australia yet.
And another good point too would be to contact some of those English schools. What are they? I mean if you’re studying English. Maybe not if you’re doing a Master’s degree, but like Go Study English or Go Study in Australia in Melbourne, I know they were saying, I was interviewing Lorena from Go Study recently, and she was saying if you contact them, quite often they have discounts they can get you through different airlines too. If you’re coming to South America or Europe, they can often get you 10 or 20 percent off if you go through a certain airline that they organize.
Okay. So, you got the ticket, you got on the plane, you arrived in Australia. Had you organised anything else before arriving here like where you were going to stay or…?
Yeah, so, the only thing was where to stay the first week because my university was Deakin in Burwood.
Which is very far away from the city.
It’s about an hour away, right, by public transport from Melbourne, from the CBD.
So, it’s not easy to find accommodation online, like… Yep. So, what I did is one of my friends, my high school friends, is living… she was living in Melbourne, and she contacted me with a guy that had like a balcony with a bed.
Jeez! Any port in a storm!
Well, it was January. It was February so it was easy. Well it was a balcony but it was like a big balcony, and I slept there for two, for one week, one week and a half.
And did you pay rent for that or was that just a…?
Yes. I had to pay per week. I remember that it was quite expensive for…
Yeah I was going to say what do balconies go for these days with regards to rent? I don’t think I’ve seen a balcony available for 50/100 bucks a week.
I’m grateful that he agreed to do it. But like I didn’t have… the walls like I had one of those curtains but they are like clear curtains.
Okay so you were protected but it was still somewhat like the ambient temperature of outside. You wouldn’t get rained on but you were sort of a victim of the outside temperature whatever that decided to do.
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Yes and everyone who was outside could see me sleeping.
Okay gotcha but I guess beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Yeah. But I was grateful I didn’t know better. I mean I didn’t have any other place to arrive and I didn’t have to pay for a very expensive hotel so I stayed there and then the first three days I went to Deakin to the invitation day and I dedicate myself to look for accommodation in a student house.
Okay so too what would you do if you went back and you didn’t want to do that? Would you recommend say people who don’t have friends in Australia whether they’re from Colombia or not, how would you recommend that they find accommodation for or short term accommodation? What kind of options do they have?
Well I was not very well-informed when I did the process but I know that some universities, at least Deakin, they have a community service that they allocate homestays. So homestays where you stay with a family and the family gives you the food and a room and WIFI. Of course it’s a little bit more expensive than just renting a room because you are like with a family. But I didn’t know that was an option. Otherwise I would have payed for at least a week on a homestay near close to University instead of. Because that place was… I was living in Bundoora which is like opposite side.
That’s also quite a fair way out of the CBD as well for those listening.
Everyday, 2 hours from home, I mean 4 hours to get there and back, yeah.
So do you know the prices off the top of your head for, roughly, weekly prices for homestay? Like a week 200 bucks?
I think it was more because I ended up paying 180 for my room.
For the balcony?
No, no, 180, when I found a place near Uni I ended up paying 180.
And was that shared or was that just you?
No, it was just me but it was a house with 10 people and one toilet and one shower.
Wow. Okay so scraping the bottom of the barrel there, a little bit.
It was bad but I didn’t have much money so I had to go with that.
It’s a learning experience but I would suggest if you don’t have anyone that you know, obviously check out these homestay options through the university, so contact them, look online. But also hostels short term, if you can handle sharing a room with other people tend to be a pretty cheap and affordable option and they’re everywhere in Melbourne and they’re probably 20 or 30 bucks a night.
Yes. Also I didn’t know back then but now I know that Facebook, there are lots of communities. So Colombianos in Melbourne or Chileans in Melbourne or I don’t know Europeans in Melbourne. There are tons of groups that you can join and most of the time there are people offering like a room or a bed or something. So you can just ask.
What would you say, if that’s the case though, because I know you’re right and I’ve seen those, how much do you think it’s important for people coming to Australia who want to study and study English here to avoid living with fellow people from their homelands like so that’s the tradeoff right you want someone to stay but would you recommend that they maybe only do that if they have no other options because then they’re probably going to end up in a house full of Colombians for example.
Yeah so what I will recommend is that for the first two weeks or first week that you’re in Australia, definitely go with those, if you can with a house with other Colombians, or whatever is your nationality, because you not only get to like I mean you get kind of… how can I say that? Like you get to a safe place.
Yep okay, so you can feel comfortable you find.
Comfortable. They can explain how everything works, the tram and everything. You don’t have to figure it out yourself if you haven’t done it on online before arriving. But I would recommend that for just one week up to two, until you find something on your own.
So you need to keep in mind, okay this isn’t permanent. I’m doing this for a short period, don’t get too comfortable. You know, it’s kind of like getting too close to the fire and then falling asleep and you fall in the fire.
Okay. Alright so once you found a place, what was your experience like with sharing this house with other people? And do you have any advice there for people who would be obviously looking for a share house?
I will say that if you don’t have patience and if you are not very into… like if you are very picky, I wouldn’t recommend a house with lots of housemates. Because one thing that… like cultures are completely different and I was sharing my house with people from Russia, people from Asia, like different parts of Asia, also people from Europe and all of them have different habits.
And expectations, right? Some of them are probably comfortable with dirty like plates sitting around and laundry out and others are probably like “no I can’t handle any of this”.
Even with hygiene, like I use deodorant every single day but there are other cultures that they don’t use deodorant so of course they have a natural smell, that for me that’s a really bad smell but for them is normal.
So it’s just to have that expectation in mind and realise if you live with a lot of foreign people, it’s the more of them that they are, the more difficult it may be for you.
Yes. So if you have the money because everything comes down to how much money you have per week. If you have the money what I did after getting my first job in Australia was moving out of there and moving into one apartment with another girl, only the two of us. I found her on flatmates.com.au. She is from the Maldives. And it was just the two of us, it was way better. We had space in the kitchen. The hygiene for both was the same and but then of course that was way more expensive than the little room within the house that I was sharing with 10 other people.
That’s the tradeoff, right? I think that happens where initially you’re like “ok I’m going to find somewhere cheap so I can save money” and then you realise it comes at the cost of mental well-being, your psychology, you know. So, what advice would you have for people trying to find these houses? Where were you looking, where did you find this one with the girl from the Maldives? And what are the prices, if I can ask, that you’re paying just so that people have a reference?
So I think I was wrong at the beginning when I said it was 180 per week. This house, the share house, it was 160 per week. And the first house I found at… like Deakin has a website with all the listings for international students. And just an advice, landlords are kind of dodgy sometimes. So, just be careful not to sign anything. My landlord wanted me to sign a one year lease and I was like “No, I can do only six because” and I said “oh I’m just doing one semester at Deakin and then I’m going to change” something like that. Because yes like… landlords are tricky, especially in those student homes, they’re tricky. So I found that one by our university listings, because yeah it was right next to uni. And also I would recommend if you’re looking for a place…
Sorry what did you say? It broke up there for a sec. You recommend?
I recommend that if you’re going to study in Australia, you wait until you are actually here to actually find or sign a contract or commit yourself to stay in a place because for example Deakin is really far away. So it would have been really bad if I had committed to rent a place in the city because that’s two hours away. Or maybe… yeah like I mean, apartments and houses and rooms can look really nice on the pictures, on the photos, but the reality could be completely different.
I think that’s a good point to make too : make sure that you go in person and inspect a lot of these places, don’t sign up online before you’ve seen them because they can tend to be different and photos can be doctored. They can be made to be a lot nicer than reality.
That’s correct. And then if you really want just to go with a normal flatmate, like you want to rent a room in an apartment that is not like with other students, I really recommend flatmates.com.au. You will have to pay like a subscription fee, getting on to the listings. But that is why it’s so good. Because there are no rubbish, there are no dodgy adverts in there. Whereas if you go with Gumtree, expect the worst because you never know what is in Gumtree. I wouldn’t recommend Gumtree, unless it’s like your last last resort, but I would go with Facebook or or flatmates.com.au.
Oh brilliant, alright. And so, you had that sorted out. What was studying at university like in Australia? Did it meet expectations? Was it difficult? Was it easy? Was it a nightmare? What was it like?
It must mix emotions because I have so much expectations. My expectations were really high.
And what were you thinking? What were your expectations after you got off the plane? What were you thinking it was going to be like?
Well I thought it would be like, yes, multicultural. I knew that, but I didn’t know the extent and I was expecting to study with local people. More Australians, which was not the case because I was doing a full time Master. That means that my classes where during the day and unfortunately during the day, Australians don’t go to class, they go to the class at night. So my team, like my…
Yes, the people who I was studying with, were from everywhere but Australia. I found two of my best friends, I found them there, like I met them there. But it was hard because, I don’t know, we Latin people, we are very open. We tend to be really nice and open to everyone, but I found that some cultures are more close. So, the Asians for example, the people from China or from Japan, they will always like close together like they didn’t talk to you, they didn’t say hello. And…
I think it’s very very difficult too, because at least in places like Melbourne University, I experience a similar sort of thing especially with the Chinese and it’s difficult because there are so many Chinese students that it’s obviously, you know, it’s the path of least resistance. They go there, they see a lot of Chinese people and they become good friends with them. But then it makes this kind of barrier there, because they’re always with their Chinese friends, they’re always speaking Chinese, that there’s no real way for you to kind of enter that conversation and never meet a lot of these people, because it would be like me going to class and seeing a heap of Colombians speaking Spanish and not having any Spanish and I’d be like “wow I’ll never get to know these people.” So, I guess that it’s on both sides, you know, try and push a little bit and get to know these people even if they’re speaking other languages, but also if you find yourself in a situation where you make a beeline straight for other people from your country, keep that in mind. And don’t think that people are ignoring you or don’t want to be friends with you because of that, but they may just feel like they can’t, if you’re always with Chinese people or always with Colombians speaking your native language.
And also the English was very broken for them. One of the things that I noticed is that, although, yes Australian English at the beginning was horrible for me, like so fast, I was like “what are you saying? Oh my God, how am I going to pass this class?”. I couldn’t understand my teachers because they were just speaking fast. But you get used to it, right? But then, my English was way better than my team members’ English. Like they never speak up at class, they never contribute to the classes. So it was a little bit… I don’t know. And then, no Australians whatsoever. So, it was a little bit disappointing. I took eight units, so four and four in two semesters. And out of the eight units, I will say, three were really good with really high quality teachers, professors. The other ones, I felt like I was back at uni, like a normal uni, just read the textbook and ABCDE type of… Yes some units, I was like “this is not helping me at all. I mean, I’m not going to use this ever”. So, I think the curriculum is a little bit tricky. I mean, it depends on what you like, but I wish I had knew that because I would pick other electives.
I guess it’s difficult though because you don’t know before you get there and you start doing it, right? You don’t really have many options.
I guess so. But yeah, I mean I don’t know. Like I had good teachers but I had bad ones too and I was very disappointed because I was like “I’m paying a fortune for this” and this isn’t the level that I was expecting.
I guess you just have to make the most of what you get though, right?
Yes, but then some of them were like… there was one class that the last assignment, the final assignment, that was like 70 per cent of the final grade was just copy paste the Internet. It was like “pick a country and develop all these different subjects for that country”. So I picked Colombia and it was just copy paste from the Internet. I was like “this is… I didn’t pay to do this”. So yeah, you just have to be prepared, and also it depends on what was your uni like, what was your experience at uni. Because I had very good expectations, very high expectations, because at my uni, I studied in very good uni in Colombia so it was very very hard, whereas this was a walk in the park compared to back then.
So, that’s the interview for today, guys. I hope you enjoy it. Just remember that that is part 1 of 2. So, if you would like to listen to the second part of this interview, stay tuned for part 2.
If you would like to check out Mai’s Instagram you can find her @MaiMedina, that is M A I M E D I N A. And you can also find her at Mai’s Journey on YouTube and that is M A I ‘ S space journey, J O U R N E Y. Okay.
The links will all be in the transcript. Big thanks for Mai for coming on the interview.
And don’t forget, guys, if you would like to get access to the Native English course, use the coupon code A U S S I E to save 15%. That means you’ll get it for less than $60 at lingova.com. L I N G O V A.
And there’s some stuff that’s coming out in the future. I’ve been chatting to Justin about this course. He’s wanting to add more components to it about slang and expressions and grammar used in other countries so that people can get used to different accents, and he has asked for me to do the Australian section in this course. So, hopefully, in the near future you’ll hear from me and see me in some videos in that course. Anyway.
Thanks for joining me today, guys. I hope you had an amazing time and I will see you soon. Catch ya.
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