My two cents for my two semesters

I’ve covered some events and stories at La Trobe University Bundoora, around Melbourne, and featured some articles of what it’s like to be an overseas student in Australia. But for my last piece, I want to write about me.

I interviewed a former Bhutanese refugee who’s now running for public office in Moreland, and apart from the issues he aims to address in the city, he spoke about what it means to be a migrant here in Australia. He points out that despite the multiculturalism and diversity in Australia, communities in suburbs do not come together in joint celebration. Adding that integrating people of different ethnic origins is a struggle that still needs work in the country.

It made me think about disposition as a possible migrant and what challenges I’ll be facing.

My two semesters in La Trobe have been a constant adjustment. Not always pleasant but indeed necessary. I’ve mentioned on a previous post of what it’s like to be an overseas student in Australia, and it for the most part it was negative. Having to adjust to the language, lack of context with the social environment, and no family. Well, after two tough semesters I’ve learned a couple of things that changed me for the better.

Hopefully this can help other overseas students.

Be bold.

Don’t linger around. Do it. When you want something, go ask for it (politely). When you think you are mistreated, speak up. When you’re seeking help from your lecturers, don’t be tentative, be definite.

Your confidence and courage will scare people who are timid, and you may sometimes appear arrogant. But do not falter, your personality will attract success and it will grant you opportunities.

Be assertive.

It’s your obligation to make them know you. When you’re in a place where nobody knows who you are, and nobody will really bother to, you have to find ways for them to think twice. Remember, you chose to be here, and you have to accept that you might have to exert more effort in gaining certain things than the locals. Therefore, you have to dance along with music.

Do volunteer work, join a club, attend events, and meet some people. If you want to change you have to experience discomfort.

Be composed.

Always remain calm whether you’re ecstatic or distressed. Don’t make impulsive decisions when you are happy, because the danger is that when your expectations are not met, the recovery is almost impossible. When you are lonely, breathe. Remember you are just in school, and you are allowed to make mistakes.

In the end, it’s all about how much you want something and what you’re willing to pay for it.


I guess somehow some migrants feel like these animals. They are there and they are a part of society, but somehow they still don’t belong. If you feel alone out there, please know that you aren’t.

By Haj Songcuya


Adventures of an Introvert: Swan Hill Province

My search for silence and serenity takes me 339 kilometres away from the heart of Melbourne. Swan Hill is situated along the border of New South Wales and Melbourne, on the stretch of the Murray River which is Australia’s longest river. The river spans across three states; Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. It takes approximately four hours of travel time on the train from Southern Cross station, and regular one way tickets cost about $40. It features landscapes and sceneries which remain unspoiled by urban infrastructure and commercialized tourist destinations.

There’s nothing better than spending some time away from the city and seeing Australia from a different light. I’ve seen Australia with a necktie, scrambling to find its Myki card while running late and trying to catch the 7am train to work. But now I see it holding a cup of coffee with some toast while watching strangers fishing on the river banks.

During this one week break I was fortunate to visit several attractions in Swan Hill such as the riverside park. It’s the perfect destination for a picnic on a sunny day, where you can take great photos, go for a jog, take your pet for a walk, feed the ducks, or take children on the playground. The Pioneer Settlement is a museum that features the lives of the early settlers in the region. The leisure centre is a sports complex which offers a variety of fitness programs as well as one on one training.

Here’s how I spent my week-long break:


That’s what I love about isolation – even ordinary things stand out


If only life came with train tracks that tell you where to go or when to stop


“Gem” – boat restaurant in Pioneer Settlement


Swan Hill leisure centre



By Haj Songcuya


21st century Journalism – Where do we go from here?

The manifestation of free speech has drastically changed over the last few years. The power over information which was solely in the hands of established media giants, is now divided amongst every individual who owns a smartphone.

However, this shift of power does not come without danger and consequence. The age of information has tilted power in favour of the consumer, which now threatens the existence of contemporary media.

The time where journalists functioned as the voice of the people has passed, and now people have the means to be heard.

Today, everyone has a voice.

Today, everyone can be a journalist.

That’s the dilemma of the modern journalist. How can I distinguish myself?


Four panelists

The Game Changer. A recent event hosted by La Trobe’s upstart magazine that took place at The State Library of Victoria. Four panellists discussed social media, politics, and 21st century journalism, which was then followed by Q&A and drinks.

The talk was moderated by Erdem Koc, lecturer, Department of Communications and Media, and executive editor for upstart magazine.

With guest speakers Tom Cowie, La Trobe alumnus and crime reporter for The Age; Mark Di Stefano, political editor of BuzzFeed Australia; Jess Gregory, Policy and Communications Officer for the Victorian peak body for family violence services, and former journalist.


Some key issues that were covered:

The gap between what’s important and what’s interesting

In an attempt to maintain continuous readership, news organisations are now inclined to cover stories that attract their target audience instead of what they deem to be newsworthy.

Ask yourself

No one wants to read it, so even if it’s important do we still have to tell the story?

There’s a mounting pressure for media outlets to keep track of social media trends, and to retain strong social media presence. It seems that the pressure is so great that some have resorted to clickbait with hyperbolic headlines and false claims.

Journalists need to find a way to be relevant in a ‘sea of mediocrity’

Today our professional value is often judged by the new things that we have to offer. As journalists we therefore have to find the stories that are not being told, or tell the stories in ways that have never been told before. You have to have the initiative to immerse yourself in the industry and at the same time, find ways of presenting your content in ways that allow it to stand out without being obscured by other relevant content.

Ask yourself

What do I know that other people can’t talk about, but me?


From left to right: Erdem Koc, Tom Cowie, Jess Gregory, and Mark Di Stefano

By Haj Songcuya

Introventures: St. Kilda Beach

A true introvert knows that there’s nothing better than peace and quiet, all the more in the arms of mother nature. My first destination is St. Kilda beach.

Situated on the southern part of Melbourne, the city was named after the yacht Lady of St. Kilda by Lieutenant Charles La Trobe. It is known for St. Kilda beach which sits on the stretch of Port Phillip Bay near Luna Park.

What’s there to do?

There’s so many ways to unwind and relax at the beachfront whether you’re alone or with friends and family. If you’re feeling energetic you can ride a bike, go for a jog or a quick swim. However if you just want to relax, you can opt to take a stroll, grab a quick bite, have a chat over coffee, or go on a picnic. Whatever you decide to do, you won’t be spared from the beauty of the scenery.


(The contrast between the cool sand and the warmth of the sun made it the perfect day to go for a jog or lie on the shore)

There are café’s and restaurants on the seaside. I personally enjoyed fish and chips.

Why should I do it?

Because every now and then we need to cast our worries aside and ease our minds. Instead of spending your paycheck on a few drinks here and there, save yourself the extra dollars and go for a walk, or read a book instead. We spend most of our time indoors; it’s good to have some extra sunlight.


(The vastness of the water is humbling)

How do I get there?

From the city in Southern Cross train station, you can take Tram 96 which passes directly infront of St. Kilda beach at stop 136 ‘The Esplanade’.


(The tram goes all the way from St. Kilda to Brunswick road)

It’s amazing how something can be seen in so many different ways. Melbourne, a city buzzing with activity and life, and yet from here, the place we’ve all come to know and love looks like nothing more than a thin shadow stretching across the horizon.

All it takes is a matter of perspective.

Our fears and worries are not what they seem once we take a few steps back and realize that the world is a much bigger place. In the haste of life, don’t forget to breathe.


(A view of the bay overlooking Melbourne)


(Don’t forget to take your pets with you and head to the boardwalk)


The footprints on the shore remind me of the countless people that have been here from all walks of life. Strangers, widows, children, fathers, daughters… but isn’t that our destiny? That one day all the things we’ve ever done will be turned into footprints. I wonder what footprints I’ll leave behind.



By Haj Songcuya



The climb down south

People think that when you’re living overseas, you’re having the time of your life. There’s this notion that life in a first world country is almost like having a permanent vacation, that life inevitably falls into place and burdens are easily lifted. This transition of moving from poor to rich has defined the way people of the 21st century perceive happiness. The disposition of economic conditions across countries has been the demarcation line of how people evaluate their lives.

Where there is wealth, joy will follow.

Well, at least that’s what I thought.

While most people overstate the cause, they belittle the effect. Life abroad isn’t as easy as they think it is. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Living in Australia does have its perks, but not without its share of tribulations.



It’s difficult to feel fully accepted in a foreign country. Which is why I personally chose La Trobe because they’re welcoming to foreign students and they make things easier for me. After my first semester, I thought I would’ve fully adjusted but somehow I still feel like that transfer student. The student that comes halfway in the semester and sits in one corner while everyone else is mingling. I’m quite thankful La Trobe gives me opportunities to meet new people through school activities.

Language and Context

I didn’t know anything when I first stepped foot in Australia. Not the public transport routes, current news affairs, footy teams, celebrity figures, economic status, prominent journalists, social customs, and party places. I just wanted to be a journalist.

                  I had to learn how to use the word toilet instead of restroom.

                  Bin instead of trash can.

                  Chemist instead of drug store.

                  I had to learn how to spell the word flavor as flavour.

                  Center as centre.

And so in most of my classes in my Media and Communications degree, I’d instantly be lost when professors and other students start talking about the latest trends in news and sports. I wish I could understand what they were talking about. During our group sessions in La Trobe’s editing suites, some of my classmates would make jokes about Collingwood and I just sat there not knowing if I should laugh or smile.



The most difficult part of life overseas is having to live away from your family. I do have my uncle and his family, but it just doesn’t suffice with life back home. A country I saw through poverty; I now see as treasure.

The days and nights become terrifyingly quiet. There’s no late night eat-outs, sleepovers, out-of-town trips, gatherings, and everyday fuss. Social media becomes your closest taste of what’s happening in the only world that you know of. I’ve spent more time on Facebook in the last few months than I did years ago.

But in the end these sacrifices are the cost of the lives we want to live.

By Haj Songcuya

Open Day 2016

If you think your Sunday was boring, then you weren’t at La Trobe!

La Trobe put its best foot forward as it welcomed everyone with music, booths, shows, games, and good food. This event showcased both academic and career opportunities for future students who wish to study at La Trobe. Families, students, local officials, and university staff all took part in the activities.

Booths were setup along the East Lecture Theatre presenting the different sports clubs in the university such as fencing, hockey, water ski, soccer, Frisbee, etc. Students and school staff dressed in orange toured the guests around the campus to show them the facilities of the university.


The day kicked off with a segment hosted by La Trobe’s very own upstart, which presented a live six-hour broadcast from 10am to 4pm in the Agora. The live show features students from La Trobe’s media and communications degree as well as sports guests.

The career booth featured representatives from UK’s UNITEMPS ( which is a recruitment agency that helps students find part-time/on campus jobs, and internships. They’ve recently expanded in Brisbane and in 2017 they are opening in Melbourne due to their growing popularity. For those who are interested, they are currently open for registration.


Melbourne’s NOVA 100 radio station also made an appearance with live music, games, and a disc jockey along the steps of the West Lecture theatres.

There were several food stalls. One of the food stands sold different kinds of sausages, but my favourite one was the wood fire pizza. The pizzas were cooked in large oven-like tubes and guests could choose from four different flavours; pepperoni, margherita, veggie, and Hawaiian. But what’s special about the pizza is how you order it. In order to get your pizza, you must wait for someone else to finish and give you an empty red box. Once you’ve ordered yours, you must pass the box to the people lined up. This is part of Aspire’s push for stronger volunteerism amongst students.

It was a long and fulfilling day at La Trobe University and a great way to acquaint all the future students with their new home.

 By Haj Songcuya

Life behind the glass curtain


Our news bulletin, “Making Media Nightly”, about to go live

“Places people! We’re going live in 5!”. The presenters frantically rehearsing their scripts, the camera crew carefully framing their shots, and the producer rushing to make sure that everything is ready in time, is but a fraction of the pressure and tension that smothers the news studio day-in and day-out. Sure enough, we weren’t spared the blood, tears and sweat in our Making Media class when we were given the task of creating our very own news bulletin. As viewers we only see what the news allows us to, but what is it really like behind the glass curtains?


Network Room: This is where television news is managed and everything is communicated. Here you will see the producer, director, audio crew, stills operator, script writer, and graphics crew

This is the class that consumed most of my 1st semester at La Trobe University. From conducting interviews all around the city, to filming overlay footage at different locations, and staying in the university’s editing suites until 9pm, the requirements piled up one after the other. The entire class needed to cooperate because we were all being graded on our single class production. Where others fell short on the effort and the grind, some had to go out of their way to fill in gaps, and so there were issues that needed to be resolved. But every bead of sweat was worth it because we we’re one of the best productions.


Stage/Floor: Everything that happens here is what viewers will see on television. Here you will see the camera crew, news anchor, stage designer, sports and weather presenter, and floor manager

I’m exceedingly grateful that La Trobe designed a class such as this. My Making media class is distinct from my other subjects because it gave me first-hand experience of what I should expect when working in a news studio, as well as granted me an opportunity to collaborate with other students of different nationalities and establish relationships with my peers. This allowed me to have my very first friends in Australia. In the future I hope I can participate in another class of this nature because as an international student it is necessary and fulfilling to create meaningful friendships.


Myself operating the camera for the weather news

By Haj Songcuya

Tell me your university, and I’ll tell you who you are


The whistling leaves through the cornflower sky

The serenade of the wind, flirting with the trees

They dance in rhythm for the passerbys

Where amber light greets, the morning field


Dear La Trobe, I love the campus. The entire landscape of La Trobe reflects the very composed and relaxed outlook of Melbourne, where 6pm onwards you can hear the sound of crickets on the suburbs, the engines of bypassing cars, and the footsteps of individuals. It’s peaceful and collected throughout the day, and you can hear the flapping wings of the birds flying above through the trees. Silence is often taken for granted, because people don’t listen to what it has to say.


From all walks of life, we are all but one

Of, Red, Black, Argent, and White

The sizzle of foods, the chatters, the drums

A celebration of cultures, teeming with life!


For they say that the best things in life are the simple things, and true indeed one of the best things about La Trobe is simply seeing how so many different people from all cultures blend and interact. A milder way of saying ‘it’s a jungle out there!’. There are plenty of platforms that the university offers for students to express themselves, such as clubs and organizations, online media and blogs, events, and so much more.


Our paths will diverge, but only you can discern

How far you have gone, but more so, did you learn?

The walk we must take; soil and dirt as much

But how closely awaits! The yonder fields so lush


La Trobe wants you to be more than your interests, to be more than your talents, to do what you want, which is why each semester, students are encouraged to take up electives that are not in the sphere of their course. I’m taking up professional writing at the moment and it fills the heart to know that you have control over what you’re learning. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what they teach you, what matters is what you’ll learn, and more often than not, life is the best teacher. There’s an old English proverb that says ‘Fortune favors the bold’, so be brave and go for it.


Take each step light, but keep your eyes fixed

It’s the magician that deceives, not the magic trick

For once you were that strongwilled kid

You dreamed of dreams you never did

When in doubt and lost, it’s hard to see

That you are exactly, where, you need to be


My professor in the Philippines once said, that back in their day, you only needed a Bachelor’s Degree. Now, you can hardly land your dream job with a Master’s Degree. With the pressure brought about by the digital age, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that mean most to us, and when that happens it won’t matter how far you’ve gone if you’re not happy. So don’t make haste. Relax. You are where you’re supposed to be.

By Haj Songcuya

When life throws a punch, take the plunge!

I can’t remember when or how it happened, but at some point in my life the ink on my pen was running dry. I filled my days with blank pages, as if all I could see was hundreds of flat lines; a heart monitor. Perhaps it was during my teaching days; standing in front of strangers with sweaty palms, tightened knees, and a bottle of anti-anxiety pills in my back pocket.

Maybe it was the silence.

Just then I knew I had to decide. I knew it couldn’t go on forever.


(The calm before the storm)

There was something about leaving home that was really attractive. It was the notion of a brand new start, a new pen to write with, a page to write on, new names to remember, and pavements to tread. But most importantly, it was the plunge.

How terrifying the plunge is.

So, one day, I decided to submit my application to an Australian University. Then I took a long hard look on my sheltered life in the Philippines, and I boarded the plane.



(The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind – Bob Dylan)

Being an international student is like being a child all over again: crying for that bottle of milk. You have to relearn everything, only this time you have no parents to guide you. From how to say a word, or where to go, what to do, how to act, and who to be.

It is a reshaping of identity.

And so I had to carefully choose where to study, because I knew little of the culture and people in Australia. The pressure of fitting in and being accepted was crippling. But gladly, I made the right choice.


(Viva Australia)

Like any other great novel, film, or story, comes the unexpected twist! And settling into the university was not as hard, and far from what I imagined.

Thank you La Trobe.

The campus is beautiful with plenty of trees and far from the haste and hustle of the city. The people are wonderful and have treated me fairly, from the lecturers, to the staff, and the students. I’m truly grateful that La Trobe gave me an opportunity to be part of the university. With that I can finally let go of my bottle.


(Home Sweet Home)

By Haj Songcuya