Did you just get back from work? No. I went to uni today, I just got back 30 minutes ago. Today’s class was on family conferencing. It teaches you how to deal with the family of patients, especially patients that are deteriorating. If patients have a terminal illness they can fill out paper to stop the treatment if their conditions worsen, kind of like a ‘do not resuscitate’. It’s an official legal document but it’s really hard sometimes to get family members to respect that. Naturally they don’t want to give up, they’ll always say it’s too soon to stop treatment. But as nurses it’s up to us to mediate and let them know that this is what their relative wanted. This is their wish. Nursing is about holistic care. You can’t just take care of the physical needs of the patient but also the social, psychological and spiritual aspect. Before I came to Australia, I was a nurse in Zimbabwe for five years. I like nursing because it’s so diverse, it’s not just about medicine but the procedure and the clinical skills. For example with patients in mental health, it’s about talking to them, hearing their stories, rehabilitation and counselling. For nurses, medication is not our first option, it’s actually our last resort. I’m glad I took the longer route to getting my qualifications here because I’m actually getting to learn the culture of the people of Australia. I’m glad to be learning the history, especially the history of the Aboriginals. I come from a country that was once a colony so I understand the animosity both sides might feel. Nursing is not the same everywhere and you can’t function without having a comprehensive understanding about the people you are treating. It’s very different being a nurse in Zimbabwe compared to what I’ve seen here in Australia. A lot of the conditions and diseases are different because of the different climate. In terms of the experience, I really enjoyed it in Zimbabwe because people well and truly appreciated what you were doing for them. We’re not bad nurses in Zimbabwe, but people are understanding during the times that we can only do so much. Australians seem more entitled, they feel that when they pay for a service they should get good service and the best outcome possible. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different. Because of this, there’s a lot of red tape, a lot of procedure and guidelines to follow for every single thing we do. I came to Australia because despite being happy back home, our economy isn’t great. The best thing about living in Australia so far is being able to work and study, I love what I do even if it’s exhausting. In addition to uni and clinical placements, I also work in aged care at a nursing home on the weekends. On Saturday mornings I attend Interchange, then from 2.30 pm I start my afternoon shift until 9.15 pm. I take a 45 minute break and then I run my night shift from 10.30 pm until 7 am the next morning. The hardest thing for me when I first moved was that I just didn’t understand the people. Everyone is so involved in their own lives, they don’t really care about the person next to them. There’s also a language barrier as well even though I speak fluent English. Sometimes the accent is too fast, sometimes the words are pronounced differently. It’s particularly hard when you’re dealing with older patients, they get frustrated easily when they can’t understand you or you can’t understand them. In my culture, it’s rude to look at somebody in the eyes when you’re talking to them. Here you have to otherwise it’s disrespectful. It makes me awkward and uncomfortable but I’ve learnt how to do it now. I still don’t do it at home though, when I’m with my aunt and my cousin. So I go to school and I go to work and I go to my clinical placement and look everyone in the eye. And then I come home and become me again. Interchange is an innovative and design-thinking program run specifically for 200 undergraduate international students from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), University of New South Wales (UNSW), University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney (UWS) and Australian Catholic University (ACU). Humans of Interchange is a mini editorial project to highlight the melting pot of diversity that exists in Australia and to give its international students a voice. All photos provided by TsiTsi “Sam” Makoni.