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Bold as the day she started

Moving from China in 2012, TAFE Queensland graduate, Caren Chen reflects on her brave adventure as a new Australian.

Moving from China in 2012 to join her family, Caren Chen knew she wanted to gain a university degree. However, before diving into university, Caren laid the best foundation for her future studies as a new Aussie by completing TAFE Queensland’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and a Certificate IV in Adult Tertiary Preparation (ATP) 10765NAT.

“I started at TAFE Queensland with the AMEP in 2014, which helped me improve my English skills as I began my life in Australia.”

The AMEP offers eligible migrants free and basic English courses in streams that are tailored to meet their specific needs and goals. For Caren, it helped prepare her for studying a university degree in Australia.

“Doing the AMEP was also a great way to make friends with people who understood what it was like for me being new to Australia. Alongside learning English, I feel like I got introduced to so many different cultures as I got to know my classmates.”

“We would have activities to practise our English, like going to South Bank and Stradbroke Island, a cool market or we’d have a barbeque. And then every couple of weeks a student would bring us a dish from their country or culture to try. It was really enjoyable and so helpful.”

“The hands-on training TAFE Queensland gives students surprised me at first. In China, it’s definitely not the style of teaching. We would never go outside, and you would be in a lecture hall.”

“Going outside of the classroom meant we could get to know more about Australian culture as well as the language. I even joined a band that my classmates started! It was cool to get to perform in the library or on the street busking.”

Caren’s introduction to practical study helped her work out how to continue to practise her English after the course was complete.

“I began looking for jobs, which helped push me to speak to customers in English.”

“Practising was the thing that helped me get my confidence up.”

In 2020, Caren came back to TAFE Queensland to complete her Certificate IV in Adult Tertiary Preparation online.

Because she had never studied any formal education in Australia, Caren knew ATP would be ideal for her as she was looking to learn and develop essential study skills in preparation for studying a university degree.

Looking back, she smiles ruefully as she remembers completing her ATP course.

“I’d never done any high school learning in Australia. Everything felt like another language to me! Chemistry, biology, it was very hard, but thankfully my teachers were super supportive, and I graduated the course in six months.”

Studying online during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise for Caren.

“I found it quite enjoyable, because it's very flexible. I didn’t have to prepare to go to the campus for class which saved time,” Caren giggles, “and I could stay in my pyjamas!”

“Because everything's recorded, I could always go back, make detailed notes and double back to make sure I understood.”

“Finishing my ATP course made me feel prepared for university in ways I wouldn’t have known. Although it was hard, I remember thinking, ‘if I can move to a new country and learn a new language, I can surely tackle anything if I put my mind to it.’”

Indeed, now in the middle of studying her Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, Caren has proved she can achieve any goal she sets her mind to.

“I’m excited to help people as a dietitian. It can be a very creative career. Once I have some experience, I’d like to build my own business.”

As brave as she was the day she touched down in Australia, Caren has big plans for her career. Looking back at the girl she was that day, and the advice she’d give her now, Caren tears up.

“I would tell her not to be afraid.” she wipes her eyes. “Take any opportunity that is in front of you and do the best you can to learn all you can.”

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. In Queensland, the AMEP is delivered by TAFE Queensland.