As an international student, discovering the Australian culture and people was an enriching experience for Sahil, made possible through the WDP.
Breaking the Barriers with Food
I came to Australia in 2013 and I was 18 years old. I had the worst experience that an international student can have. I was homeless and I was robbed on the 20th day I was in Melbourne so my first experience of Australia was that it’s not safe.
We lived a king’s life back home. Tea was brought to you, clothes brought to you, all our relatives support us, we get food, we don’t do anything. I never worked in my life, so when I got my first casual job in Melbourne, I was very proud of myself. I was working as a dishwasher and I washed more dishes at this job than I have eaten in my life.
I learnt about the Welcome Dinner Project from a university’s newsletter that said ‘bring food’. I still remember it was my first shift as dishwasher on that day and I didn’t want to cook, and I couldn’t cook, so I bought a pizza. The dinner happened at Melbourne University and then the second one was at someone’s home. I found out that all white people are not Australians. We international students have been thinking that Australians are all white but it is not. Half of the guests were Australians, but they all looked differently, were from different backgrounds, countries… So breaking the barrier and understanding who is an Australian person for me was through food. I was really interested not only in the food, but more in the people, what they are doing with their lives, how they are living and what they are thinking. So through the WDP I connected with many different people. I became more confident and improved my communication skills as one of the things you need to do at the Welcome Dinner is to stand in front of the group and talk about the dish you brought. That was very scary in the beginning, but now I think this was the best part that helped me grow as a person.
former international student
based in Melbourne, Victoria