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Soojin pays it forward

Former TAFE Queensland Adult Migrant English Program student Soojin Lee is using her past experiences to help other migrants settle into life on the Fraser Coast.

By TAFE Queensland

Soojin completed 510 hours of free English language tuition through the Australian Government funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) in August last year. After experiencing the benefits of the program first hand, Soojin has returned to TAFE Queensland’s Hervey Bay campus as a volunteer tutor to support other migrants successfully settle into the community.

Soojin moved to Australia from South Korea in 2015 after falling in love with her now husband, whom she had met seven years prior during a holiday in Melbourne. The pair chose to settle in Hervey Bay, with Soojin quickly signing up to the AMEP to improve her English skills.

“The program was so helpful, not only for learning English — it also gave me access to heaps of information that is essential for living in Australia,” Soojin said.

“I got lots of information from guest speakers and even from my classmates, and I also made lots of friends in class, which gave me that sense of belonging that is really important for newcomers.”

Despite English not being her native language, Soojin felt so passionate about the program that she decided to volunteer as a tutor and use her new-found knowledge to help lower-level students understand the basics of English. As a result, she now helps students when teachers are busy, runs group activities, and helps students navigate their way around the computers.

“I know how hard it is to learn English because I'm in the same situation, so I want to help out as long as I can,” Soojin said.

“It benefits me too; I am able to practice and improve my English at the same time, while getting to socialise with new people.”

It was while she was still participating in the program herself that Soojin, along with TAFE Queensland Language Teacher Julianne Watson and fellow volunteer tutor Jeff Mitchell, came up with a creative idea to help students use their new English skills in a real life context.

The ‘Let’s Call Australia Home’ podcast, which Soojin produced, spans eight episodes and allows program participants to share their culture with locals and their experiences of Australia with their families back home. It also provides content relevant to migrants, such as information on renting a house, women’s and mental health services, driving in Australia, and tips for job interviews. They even conducted a special interview with the Home Affairs Queensland and Northern Territory Regional Director Steve Biddle about the visa process.

“Becoming a radio producer was my dream for a long time, and I have taken a number of courses related to the radio industry in Korea and Australia — I’ve even produced a few programs for community radio,” Soojin said.

“Thanks to all of these experiences, I was able to produce the Let's Call Australia Home podcast with Julianne and Jeff, which was a fantastic project to be involved with.

“Australia is a country built on immigration. Helping newcomers settle into Australia is important; most people migrate to Australia to live a better life, but they need support to integrate and learn about the values, rules and regulations.”

After spending much of 2018 planning and recording the podcast, Soojin’s hard work is beginning to pay off. She now volunteers as a sound producer at Fraser Coast FM as she works to build up her experience, and has also been working as a casual for Hit FM/Triple M as a promotion assistant for almost a year.

“I’ve learned so many things so far — from audio techniques to dealing with people,” Soojin said.

“I really appreciate that Julianne and Jeff gave me this amazing opportunity. Many people put in their effort and time to make this program, so I hope that the podcast is enjoyable and helpful for listeners.”

To hear all the episodes of the ‘Let’s Call Australia Home’ podcast, visit their website and listen to the podcast >>

The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. In Queensland, the AMEP is delivered through TAFE Queensland.