Peter Pei is a sessional teacher at RMIT University. After relocating from China and graduating from a university in Melbourne, Peter credits his strong IELTS results with helping him to secure a job in Australia. We spoke to Peter about studying abroad, overcoming cultural challenges and his IELTS journey.
Where did you grow up and what prompted you to study abroad?
I grew up in north-eastern China, where I completed a Bachelor of Computer Science. After my University graduation, I found a job as a software programmer and worked for a short stint before I realised that programming was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had a period of confusion, thinking about my next steps, before I decided to study abroad at RMIT University and pursue a different career.
How did you hear about IELTS?
English language training is a lucrative market in many Asian countries. It is widely known that many businesses in English-speaking countries require proof of language skills, so training courses exist in China to meet this demand. Advertisements for exam preparation are everywhere.
When I was younger, going abroad to study was a popular option for many university graduates in China – and this is still true today.
A lot of those who wish to study overseas will choose English-speaking countries where IELTS is an officially recognised English language proficiency test, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US or UK.
How did you prepare for the test?
I started by enrolling myself in an IELTS training class to get an idea of the test and what it would entail. Then, I practised the skills required by completing a lot of mock tests for each test category.
One thing I learned while studying for the IELTS was how essential general knowledge is. From information about the world we live in to facts about interesting topics, you need to come prepared with things to write or speak about. You can’t make something out of nothing.
"Good IELTS results will definitely help you with your job hunt – especially when you’re looking for a language-related career."
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome when relocating abroad?
I think the biggest challenge was – and still is – connecting with Australian society. I came to Australia as an adult, so I had zero knowledge of the culture before my arrival. It’s difficult to meet and make friends with local people due to cultural differences. In other words, it’s much easier to become bilingual than it is to become bicultural.
Where do you work now and what impact has IELTS had on your career?
I currently work as a sessional teacher at RMIT University and as a casual employee at the ABC, but I’ve also worked in sales, project management and freelance translation.
Good IELTS results will definitely help you with your job hunt – especially when you’re looking for a language-related career. I got a score of 8.5 for the Speaking component of IELTS. This helped me a lot when applying for a role as a language trainer in Australia. More than language proficiency, IELTS results show employers that you are a dedicated and committed person.
Do you have any advice for future IELTS test-takers?
I always recommend people to study for IELTS in a targeted way by identifying their weaknesses and the best ways to improve them. For example, if you struggle with writing in English, you might need to find out why. Is it because of your grammar? Do you have difficulty picking the correct tense or forming complex sentences? Is your vocabulary sophisticated enough?
Once you have ascertained your weak areas and how to improve them, the next step is simple: practice.