Can you tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Sam and I am currently studying a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) with a Bachelor of Music (Composition) at UNSW, Sydney. I recently spent a year abroad studying in Hong Kong and Singapore on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship, and managed to travel extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including through China, Vietnam and Cambodia to name a few. I met some amazing new friends, ate some great food, and learnt more about the wonderful region that Australia is situated in. When I am not studying or travelling, you can find me volunteering as a lifesaver on one of Sydney’s most famous beaches or sitting at the piano improvising and writing my own music!
Paint a picture for us on your experience growing up
I was originally born in the UK but moved to Brisbane, Australia when I was three years old. Brisbane was a great place to grow up. There are so many parks and a real outdoor culture, which has inspired my love of the outdoors today. At the age of ten, my family and I moved to Sydney, Australia where I have been ever since. Despite having moved around quite a bit, Sydney is where I call home now.
What are your life and career ambitions?
I am looking forward to beginning my career as a commercial lawyer in Sydney. I am interested in practicing within the area of competition or technology law. My interest in this area has definitely been nurtured by the subjects that I studied overseas at Hong Kong and Singapore, and through my experience as a paralegal over the last few years. Nonetheless, I look forward to continuing to play music and I intend to keep composing on the side.
What does culture mean to you and why are you learning Cantonese?
Understanding my own culture has always been an important part of my life. My grandparents immigrated from India to Canada when they were 20 years old and I have always been fascinated about their experiences growing up as one of the only Indian families in Canada. It has always been important for me to understand their experiences and learn more about my Indian heritage. I am intrigued by the fact that my grandparents had an arranged marriage before they were even twenty and moved to Canada by themselves at such a young age. Nonetheless, despite the challenges that they faced, my grandparents thrived in Canada - my Nanaji (my grandmother) as a social worker; and my Papaji (my grandfather) as a secondary school teacher.
I began learning Cantonese when I arrived in Hong Kong and believed it would be a great way to learn more about Chinese culture in Hong Kong. I wanted to be able to interact with the locals in a more culturally nuanced manner and better immerse myself in the country that I was living in on exchange. Whilst learning Cantonese was certainly a challenge, particularly coming from a background where I only speak English, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and even built up the confidence to have some short conversations with the locals in Hong Kong. I even attempted to order my fruit and vegetables from the local wet market in Cantonese (where English was not spoken), although this was certainly a challenging experience, and one that resulted in me later returning to the supermarket to buy the correct fruit and vegetables after ordering the wrong ones!
What has been the most important factor in achieving the success you’ve had?
With every opportunity that I have been given, I have always worked hard and made the most of the opportunity and the learning experience. It is important to approach everything with an open mind and to do your best.
What is one piece of advice you’d share to anyone who wants to become more like you?
I believe it is so important to take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you. For me, I have had the opportunity to involve myself in a variety of work opportunities and a multitude of extra-curricular activities whilst studying at university. These have undoubtedly enabled me to develop important life skills and experiences. I have also taken advantage of opportunities that have challenged me, both personally, emotionally and mentally, including living overseas in two foreign countries on exchange. However, I have found that the most challenging experiences provide the best opportunities to grow personally. In essence, every opportunity provides an opportunity to grow and develop. You never know where it may lead you!
This article is an entry into Culturestride’s “Cross Borders” Article Series highlighting inspirational young people who are exploring international culture, language and opportunities.