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Khanh Dan

Student of Human Resources and Project management at Deakin University. Loves listening to and observing people and life in Australia.

Tips for transitioning from high school to an international university

Being a university student means that you have ‘officially’ stepped out of the teenager stage and on the way to becoming a real adult, and there’s a lot of lessons you’ll have to quickly learn to adjust to starting life as a university student abroad and independent for the first time.

First, it’s important to understand that the university level of education is completely different from high school in almost all ways, such as environment, teaching and learning methods, and so on.

Second, studying abroad is another significant challenge for every fresh international student as each country has its own culture and unique features that you’ll have to adjust to.

So, if you are going to be studying abroad and looking for some advice, here are some things I have learned from my own experience.


1. Get all the information

First, it’s important for you have all the information ready so you can make the adjustment easier for yourself.

This can be information about your new university such as fees (course fee plus any additional fees), teaching methods, voluntary activities, clubs, events, university map and important locations on campus (such as library, IT support, food etc).

Second, you’re going to be in a foreign environment, so make sure you learn everything you can such as rules, laws, forbidden taboos in their culture (such as body language that should not be used), weather, cost of items and food and transport.

When I first arrived in Australia, I joined Devise, A Vietnamese Student Association on Facebook, and I gathered a lot of information from reading status updates and chatting with student seniors on social media. I asked them questions such as ‘which course should I apply as elective subject’, ‘which clubs should I join to benefit me in the future’ and ‘what clothes should I bring with me to Australia’.

This information supported me a lot since it helped to prepare me for my move overseas and I avoided wasting money and time buying unnecssary things and attending unnecessary events. It also gave me an overall view of what international universities studies is going to be like when I arrive.

To help you prepare, I highly recommend finding yourself an International Student’s Association on Facebook or Twitter.

2. Shop for the essentials

Before arriving in your new country, I strongly recommend you to prepare these top three things:

  1. Clothes that match the weather (Jackets, socks, etc.)
  2. All your technological things (laptop, iPad, suitable power outlets etc.)
  3. Medication

Once you arrive in your new country and get settled, then I recommend researching a local grocery store that sells food from your home country. Then, go shopping for another three things: noodles, snacks and sweets.

These three items will support you as emergency meals when you have to deal with tight assignment deadlines and will help to save you money as some groceries are much more expensive to buy due to currency difference.

When I first came to Australia, I struggled with feeling homesick and the pressure caused by assignments deadlines. I missed the favour of food from my home country Vietnam or simply wanted to snack on familiar food but I had to quickly learn how to budget my food spending.

I learned that groceries can quickly become expensive when adding them all together, and often I would have to really carefully choose what snacks to buy. For example, a snack that costs $1 AUD in Vietnam can easily cost $5 AUD in Australia, so it’s really important you budget and spend within your limit.

3. Learn the basics of cooking

This will save you a lot of money, and it means you won’t be eating the same boring things. You don’t have to learn to cook skillfully like the next masterchef, but you’ll need a basic knowledge of cooking.

The foundation you will need to learn, for example, is different types of meats, vegetables and fruits, and the ways to cook and flavour them. You’ll also need to know how to use basic kitchen stuff, such as a knife and a frying pan.

Honestly, growing up in my home country I could not even make a simple dish without burning everything in my kitchen. However, when I arrived in Australia, I was forced to patiently teach myself how to cook through Youtube and Tik Tok videos.

I also started learning how to cook from my housemates to ensure I was eating healthy and prevent myself from starving. Therefore, understanding the basic cooking information before you arrive would probably help you a lot.


4. Adapt to changing learning methods

University and High School is nothing similar when it comes to learning. Therefore, it is better to understand and accept their differences before officially joining the higher level of education.

Here are some of the main differences that I noted:

High School University
Teachers would give you detailed instructions and necessary documents for your learning. Professors provide overall instructions, then students would have to figure out questions to understand and prepare documents. 
You dont need to prepare before class unless there is a test. You have to prepare before every class without any exception.
Teachers would tell you what you need to pay attention to and note down. You would have to listen carefully, recognise and note down all necessary information yourself.
You’re often working in groups with your friends. Working in groups with classmates whom you might have not meet ever in other classes.

5. Be brave

Attending an international university usually means that you would have to deal with lots of difficulties on your own.

When I first came to Australia, I had to deal with depression caused by feeling homesick and the pressure of my studies. However, I could not bring myself to talk about it during video calls with my family because I did not wish to make them worry about me.

Furthermore, when I first arrived in Australia, I once got lost in dark in the middle of the suburb I lived in and did not have any friends to call for help. Although I finally found my way back to my accomondation safely, I can still remember the feeling of loneliness when there is no one familiar there to help me.

So, my advice to you is, be brave.

If you feel depressed, talk about it with your family or send them messages. Your family will be more worried if they don’t know anything and it would be more painful for them when they realise the truth of how you are struggling.

If you feel lonely, be brave to face it. Sometimes, loneliness is necessary for us to become more mature and strong as it would sharpen our skills and nuture our crystal heart.

If you can prepare with these 5 things then you’re ready to roll. Good luck!

Did you find this article helpful?

You can explore more stories by international students in our blog.


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