Australia. What a country. Filled with natural beauty, friendly people and cute animals. It’s also one of the most popular countries to study in as an international student.
When we’re planning something big, like moving overseas to study, we tend to focus on the big things. Like choosing a university and working out where to live. It’s easy to forget to consider the little things. Little things like: How will I feel once I’m there? Who will I talk to? What if I don’t like it?
To help you ensure you’ve got all bases covered, we’ve put together our top tips for living and studying in Australia.
1. Talk to people
This can be the most challenging step, but ultimately the most important. The best way to settle into a new environment is to connect with other people.
Did you know that around 21 per cent of all Charles Sturt University students are from overseas?
Have a chat with your fellow international students. They’ll be able to relate to how you’re feeling. Make time to get to know some of your Australian classmates too. One of the best ways to make new friends is to join one of the many clubs and social groups at Charles Sturt.
“Join any that interest you, even if they’re not related to your course,” said Alex Chubb, Bachelor of Creative Arts and Design (Graphic Design / Photography) graduate. “You’ll meet new people who share an interest with you, which gives you all something to talk about. It also broadens your social circle outside of your course.”
2. Be patient and open-minded
The following are the stages people usually experience after moving to a new country – in this case, Australia.
You arrive and you LOVE IT. You’re excited about all the new sights and sounds. It even smells different. You love the accent, and delight in discovering all the similarities and differences between Australia and your home culture. You delve into Australian life; you’re super motivated and want to try everything.
You start to focus on the differences between home and Australia. The accent isn’t as cute as you thought it was. You’re finding it difficult to get used to everyone driving on the wrong side of the road and walking on the wrong side of the footpath. Little issues become bigger than they should be: You can’t connect to the wi-fi! You can’t find your favourite snack food at the canteen! Your phone is playing up! So you gravitate to students from your home country. You’re homesick; you miss your friends and family and all you want to do is get on a plane and go home.
Australia starts to feel familiar. You understand how things work here, and get better at reading the cultural cues. You start feeling more relaxed and comfortable. You make some Australian friends. (Remember those clubs we mentioned earlier?) You start appreciating aspects of the Australian way of life. Things that annoyed you before might seem a bit funny now. You start to enjoy your Australian adventure, and begin to see the world just a little differently.
Australia is my second home
One day you’ll realise that you’ve gone a whole month without feeling homesick. The things that are different in Australia from your home country are no big deal. You enjoy some aspects of Australian life more than others, but that’s how you feel at home too. You’re studying, working and living to your full ability. You feel at home in Australia, and you’re part of the community.
Whatever moving-to-a-new-country feelings you have, remember that we’re here for support if you need a hand.
3. Stay active and healthy
We all feel better about life when we’re fit and healthy. Start playing a sport, or go for runs or walks with a friend.
“It’s really important to break up your study time,” said Dr Jayden Hunter, Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at Charles Sturt. “Isolating yourself in that kind of lock-down study mode is okay for a short period of time, such as during exams, but over a long period it can lead to burn-out.” In other words, a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion and stress.
“Doing nothing but study also isolates you socially, putting you at risk of experiencing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression,” said Dr Hunter.
“The good news is that physical exercise is one of the most profound treatments for mental health, with no side effects.”
Dr Hunter’s recommendations
- Find an exercise friend: “If you’re with someone else while you’re exercising, you’re also getting social benefits. You’ll also be more motivated to do something if you’re doing it with someone else. So talk with people at lunch. Start a walking group, preferably with a mixture of international and local students. At the end of lunch, take a 10-minute walk around campus.”
- Find a type of exercise that you enjoy: “We have a saying: ‘The best exercise is the one that works for you.’ It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose, the most important thing is to get out and do something. The Charles Sturt gym is free for student use, with instructors ready to help you out. Try to exercise in a social setting, such as yoga, cycle or circuit classes. People find the group-style class a great way to stay motivated.”
- Remember that every little bit counts: “Research from Exercise and Sports Science Australia shows that as little as five minutes of continuous movement is enough for you to get physical and psychological benefits.”
4. Get involved
Take part in the activities that are happening on campus and immerse yourself in university life. It’s important to include Australians in your group. Sometimes international students stick together and miss out on the chance to make some Australian friends. Most Aussies are curious about other cultures and will be happy to find out about yours. Be open and friendly.
“You can get onto Charles Sturt Social and see what’s happening,” said Cecelia Steel from Student Central. “And if you’re feeling a bit sad, we’ve got a lot of support here for you. Come in and have a chat with one of our counsellors, or send us an email and we’ll help you out.”
5. Manage your money
There are a lot of things to spend money on as an international student. It’s important to keep an eye on your bank balance and make sure you’re on top of your finances. If you need support, Charles Sturt can help you make a financial plan for free.
“Don’t leave it until money is keeping you awake at night,” advised student liaison officer Zibet Szacsvay. “Come and talk to us about how you can plan ahead to afford the costs of studying and living in Australia for the length of your course. A little planning will ensure you’re free to enjoy the experience.
“For many international students, fees are a major source of financial worry. Maybe family circumstances change or it’s harder to find work than you expected. It’s really important to stay in touch with us if you are concerned about paying your fees on time.
“My advice for a student thinking about coming to Australia? Do your research. Find out exactly what you can expect to pay to cover study costs and living costs. If you’re planning to work, find out what kind of jobs are available in the location you plan to study. Although you can’t start working until your course starts, you can prepare to go job hunting as soon as you arrive.”
There’s a lot to consider. If you need help at any time, you can speak to the Student Liaison Office (international) on your campus or contact Charles Sturt’s Student Liaison Officer (Finance).
So while you’re making big plans, take time to think about the little things
By preparing to be friendly and open-minded, while still looking after yourself and your finances, you’ll have an Australian experience like no other when you study at Charles Sturt.