It’s rarely easy to change your life. Sometimes it’s by way of natural progression and other times change comes crashing through in the wildest of circumstances. For Harry Cheung, landing in Bendigo to study nursing was a bit of both.
Harry, 32, had been a police constable in Hong Kong for eight years before he suffered a trauma that was to become his catalyst for change. It was 2am, he was on the job, and had just pulled someone over to write them a traffic infringement ticket when they were both hit by a truck, the driver of which was asleep at the wheel.
Harry’s injuries meant he spent the following two years on sick leave recovering before going back to the police force on office duties. It was then he chose to pursue a new career.
“When I was studying at school my favourite subject was biology and when I was staying in hospital I had a lot of time to watch the nurses do their work,” he says. “Plus I’d always wanted to finish a bachelor degree. I went into the police force when I was 20, so I didn’t attend any higher education.”
He says going to university was a big decision and a big commitment that he had to quit a secure and well-paid job to pursue, but the police force had never been a natural fit.
He loved driving a motorbike but hated giving tickets. He enjoyed helping people, but suffered public prejudice regardless.
“Being a policeman you’re easily affected by the political atmosphere,” he says. “People think you work for the Chinese government when actually you’re just trying to maintain the public law, but people hate the police. With nursing people are quite grateful and appreciative of your work.”
Harry also wanted to improve his English skills, so he began applying for courses overseas and was accepted to study in Bendigo – a place he’d never heard of. His first year in Australia was spent studying English in Melbourne before making the move to what would be his home for the next three years.
Harry says he’s loved Bendigo and is much more suited to a quiet lifestyle outside a big city but living here has presented plenty of challenges. There’s been cultural differences, difficulties understanding Australian slang, and the juggle of having to work to support himself while studying.
“The language barriers make it difficult for people to understand what is the true you,” he says. “But living here, I’ve become more independent and more appreciative of my family.”
Harry has made an impact on campus. When the Bendigo Campus Blog went searching for a nursing student to profile, he was the first person senior lecturer Melissa Deacon-Crouch thought of, describing him as an excellent student who’s always willing to help.
Now that Harry has finished his studies, he faces yet another crossroads. He has been offered employment in an acute psychiatric ward in a hospital in Tasmania but must first pass a four-part English exam to qualify for a Visa to stay and work.
As a lover of camping and fishing he says the Tasmanian environment is a big draw card, and he’d love to stay and gain experience working in Australia. Also, to qualify as a nurse in China would mean another, highly-competitive exam to pass back home. Although family ties are pulling, Harry says he’s come this far, he wants to keep going.