Overcoming Odds: International Student Success

We proudly welcome Almitra Mavalvala, a talented performing artist, writer, composer, and independent producer based in Sydney. Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, Almitra is a proud AIM alumni! She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music (Music Theatre). Her journey in theatre began in Pakistan which eventually led to the premiere of her autobiographical show “Blacklisted” at the Hayes Theatre. Through her work, Almitra addresses crucial issues such as displacement, racial profiling, and immigration, aiming to advocate for representation on stage and screen for marginalised communities.

Reflecting on your upbringing and musical education in Pakistan, can you share how those experiences have shaped your artistic expression in your work today?

I always say my parents are my biggest supporters. I would be nowhere without them. Yes, my upbringing was a little strict but I guess it’s shaped the way I live my life to date. I had no formal education in Pakistan. I did my O & A Levels (which is the British Course System) and I studied Art Business and Psychology in A levels. I then took time off for 2 years and worked as an Extra-Curricular Coordinator at the college I graduated from. 

However, I performed every year and was in a band in A levels. I think that’s where my journey started to be honest. Music has saved me every day but I never truly thought I could do it as a career because the Arts is such a taboo thing in Pakistan and no one really ’studies’ it. There’s maybe 1-2 schools in Pakistan that teach drama, nowhere for music though. There’s institutions that teach it as a class but no degrees. 

My art has always been inspired by my life. I tend to use everything around me as inspiration. Which is probably why my brain never switches off. I don’t forcefully try to incorporate my culture in everything I do, but I feel like it sneaks in anyway. That’s just part of my process. If the work calls for it, sure. But I never actively try to force it in my work. 

Grease was my first musical in Pakistan. I played Frenchie and there is no greater feeling for me than to be on stage. Not because of the limelight, but because of the adrenaline I get from it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. 

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What were some challenges you faced when moving from Pakistan to Australia?

Familiarity. Moving to a country where you know no one is hard. And if you don’t have a good support network, it can get lonely and isolating very quickly. I have been lucky that I have made some beautiful friends that have become family to me in the 7 years that I have lived here but homesickness is very real. Balancing a work-life balance has also been the biggest challenge. 

When I first moved here, transport took a little while to figure out but I overcame that fairly quickly. I had to. I didn’t have a choice because I didn’t have a car (I still don’t). And the biggest challenge was cooking meals and having them be nutritious. I still don’t cook traditional food because it takes a while and I’m always on the go.

How did your time at AIM refine your skills after studying Musical Theatre in Pakistan?

I never studied Musical theatre in Pakistan. My first training ever was at AIM. Although I came to study Musical Theatre, my love for music has always been stronger. Coming to AIM I dabbled more in composition and writing than I did in performance. It’s interesting how my journey at AIM shaped what I was really passionate about. Which was writing and composition. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be a performer and I will continue to do so but I’m gravitating towards writing a lot more now. 

Was writing your show ‘Blacklisted’ an emotional experience?

And how! ‘Blacklisted’ was an extremely emotional experience. From concept to production, every part of it was taxing. I loved every minute of it but it wasn’t something that had already happened and was in the past. It’s something that is still happening and evolving and changing. I am still, to date, writing and growing the show. 

Writing from, what is essentially, trauma, can take a massive toll on your mental health. But I have so many practices in place to protect myself from that place of trauma. I never waver in my performance but there will come a day when I will put the show to rest and it will be a form of release. I’m not there yet. This story is yet to be told to the world. 

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What advice would you offer international students adjusting to a new environment?

Find moments of what connects you to your home if you miss it. Find pockets of time to be by yourself and be kind to yourself to adjust to your environment. Not everyone adjusts the same and not everyone finds their ‘tribe’ instantly. The friendships you make along the way will save you. Choose them well. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone. It is scary and nerve-wracking but there is so much growth in it. In saying that I will preface that I can only speak from my own experience and there are so many more factors at play for someone to adjust to new environments. It all works out in the end. 

We believe that Almitra’s story can serve as a source of comfort, guidance, and inspiration for international students facing similar challenges. We understand the complexities of pursuing your dreams in a foreign country, which is why we are committed to providing endless support for students. If you have a passion for the theatre, AIM offers multiple courses in Musical Theatre and stands ready to support your aspirations!

Do you have a question?

Speak with us today.