Meet international Bachelor of Arts student, Derby Teo Nyet Wen

Derby Teo Nyet Wen is a final year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Media and Communications. We caught up with her to talk about her experience as an international student in the BA.

Why did you decide to come to the University of Melbourne?

The story of how I ended up here is rather unexpected. I grew up in the relatively obscure country, Brunei, and I moved to Korea shortly after high school. It started out as a challenge to see if I could survive in a foreign country without speaking the language, and before I knew it, I had begun my first semester in Seoul National University.

Yet, sometimes the universe plays a trick on you and your life is hurled upside down. I suffered an acute ankle injury, which is seemingly a minor issue until you realise the campus is quite literally on a mountain. When my ankle did not heal for more than a year, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life and decided to start all over again in Australia. Looking back, perhaps it was fate that I came to the University of Melbourne.

How did you pick your major in the BA?

I spent months on end agonising what I wanted to major in. I tossed up between linguistics, psychology, law and many more, poring over charts and analysing statistics. I wanted a major that I would enjoy, my Asian parents would be proud of and one that will lead to a well-paying job.

The lightbulb moment came from a late-night discussion at the dinner table. My mentors told me that there is not one “best-paying job in the world”, but any job would pay well when you’re the best in your field. When I argued that the job market would still affect employability, they simply asked if I could predict the weather next year. In the end, I chose the major that I knew I would enjoy – media and communications – and I never looked back. If I could go back in time to tell myself one thing to save myself some time, I think I would tell myself to go for something that I am truly passionate about.

Derby Teo Nyet Wen

Derby Teo Nyet Wen

What has been the most enjoyable aspect of the BA?

In terms of how I study, it’s easier for me to have a set syllabus, solve questions and take exams, but writing essays in the BA is not quite as straightforward as that. It requires understanding concepts, changing what we think and even the way we think. It requires us to read between the lines and critique endlessly. I’m not only learning facts; I’m learning to question the things that I accept as facts.

Although I prefer exams over writing essays, I genuinely enjoy my classes, even if I often come out of lectures feeling that I know less and less. But as one of my professors likes to say, “If you leave the institution with more questions than when you first entered, then we have succeeded in educating you.” And I feel that that is the most enjoyable aspect of BA – that you will never stop questioning and never stop learning.

Have you been part of any extra-curricular activities while studying?

One of the best experiences I have had was participating in the Arts Peer Mentoring Program. I was really fortunate to have signed up as a mentee in my first year because it was genuinely such a loving community that fostered camaraderie and friendship. It was my pleasure and honour to be able to return to the program as a mentor in my second year. As much as I have benefited from learning from my incredibly supportive mentors and supervisor, it was really rewarding to be able to be a person for my mentees to turn to for help. The experience and skills I have learned from this program have helped me so much in terms of my personal life as well as my career.

How have you met people on campus?

Being an international student is not easy because more often than not, we are alone in a foreign country stripped of our family and support groups, so I cannot stress the importance of making friends enough. Unlike high school where friendship building is natural and easy, university is much more demanding – we need effort not only to make friends but to stay friends. University students often realise it is rare to make friends from classes – because you see each other once a week, and even if you want to develop deeper relationships, your schedules do not always match. So I really encourage everyone to diversify your friends and join different clubs and societies where you spend more time with one another. Life is tough enough as it is, so gather yourself some solid crew mates to weather the storms ahead, and let these friendships sail!