Moving away from home to another country alone to study is a significant milestone for every international student. Things are bound to get difficult and complicated, especially in the first few months, as ‘being independent’ is easier said than done. You realise everything you’ve learnt from ‘How to prepare yourself for uni in Australia’ Youtube vlogs only reflects very few aspects of life, which is clearly not enough to help you survive through uni. You might then feel extremely clueless and disoriented once your confident well-prepared know-it-all mindset got shattered. If you are an international student, or planning to be one, you’ll certainly relate to this blog.
Take time with your studying
Different educational systems expect different skills and results from students. Therefore, it is very understandable if you feel overwhelmed to adapt at first. You may have a panic attack over your first 250-word submission, or a life crisis before your first midterm exam. The smallest things can bring you an unimaginable amount of stress as you really don’t want to mess things up, especially for your family back home; you want them to be proud of you. Deep down, you know for a fact that it is not because of your intellectual capability for the course you are taking, you are just at a loss on how your studying should be done in such a new study system. And things like these take time to adapt, there is no shortcut. A word of advice, especially for first-year students, is not to stress yourself out too hard academically and compare yourself to your peers. Chill out, put your best effort into every assignment and you will learn how to be fine along the way.
Be social and open for new friendships
You will have numerous chances throughout uni to participate in social events and parties, especially if you stay in campus housing. Through these events, you can meet lots of new friends, from your own country, from Australia, or exchange students from all over the world. Different groups of people have different lifestyles, and it is important for you to not be pressured into doing anything you are yet to feel comfortable with. Enjoy new experiences at your own pace. Moreover, not every connection you make during an event will turn out to be long lasting friendships. It’s time to ‘grow up’ now and you will have to accept the concept of ‘social friends’. It might be hard and lonely from time to time since it makes you feel like you have no one to count on but yourself, literally. You know you always have your family’s support, but well, you don’t want them to feel unassured just because your mood swings a little. Nevertheless, real friendship still exists in uni. It will come eventually and randomly; you can’t really push it.
Living alone = 9274718639 responsibilities
It definitely seems easier than it actually is when you think about it back home before you go. You can speak English. You can use the map to navigate yourself. You can cook. You can manage your own time. You can commit to a monthly budget. You can find balance with your studying, partying and still have time for clubs and societies. You know your abilities and are very confident, if not too confident, that nothing can knock you out.
Don’t worry, you will get more realistic once you arrive to this new place and actually start living by yourself. You realise there is a fine line between being able to do things and being able to do everything at once. You find yourself nowhere near crossing it. And that is totally fine. Most international students have never lived alone before their first year of uni. Everyone struggles. And you are no super-human-being to not have a few trips and stumbles in the first few months.
The hardest thing for me was to find a balance in the sea of responsibilities. Responsibilities with your parents, your friends, your peer seniors, your tutors, your lecturers, your counsellors, your roommates and so on. But keep in mind that, the most important responsibility is with yourself. You have to take good care of yourself first before thinking of anything else, because from this chapter of your life, you can’t really expect it from someone else.
Friends back home: do they still care?
In moments of loneliness and exhaustion, you would want nothing more than running back to the comfort of your old friends. But wait, why aren’t they picking up? Time zone differences suck. And even when you manage to talk to them, conversations don’t seem like they used to be. They don’t seem to understand the problems you are facing? They don’t seem to care? At the end, do you still have any real friends? Well before you go down this road and have this mentality like I did, keep in mind that things are now different for you, but they are almost the same for your friends back home. They are not going through the same journey you are, so it’s impossible for them to empathise with you 100%. They can only imagine, and sympathise with your problems to a certain extent, like what you imagine life would be when you were still back home. When you move away, it’s definitely harder to maintain friendships. You guys may not talk as often as before. But real friends are real friends, you have to have that faith in them. They might not understand what you are going through, but for sure, they are making efforts and will be there for you when you need them.
In the end, it’s all about maximising your experience!
Universities have a lot to offer, and UTS is probably the best example for it. They have all kinds of services dedicated to every student’s needs, especially international students. You can take part in the Buddy Program, which matches you up with local students to be your mentor and help you improve your communication skills. You can always book a drop-in session at UTS HELPS to have an experienced counsellor help you with your assignment. If you are unsure about where to start reviewing for your next exam, U:Pass leaders can definitely help you out. Mental health issues are very much paid attention to at UTS, so if you experience too much stress and anxiety, UTS Counselling is always there to help free of charge. UTS has numerous clubs and societies in so many aspects; there is always something for everyone. You can make new friends and find ‘your group of people’ simply by signing up for one. Other than that, every international students’ issues are taken care of at UTS International office.
All you have to do is to take initiative. Everything is easier with help, so why not step out of your comfort zone a little to be active and take advantage of everything uni has to offer?