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Mehek Chowdhury

Originally from Bangladesh, Mehek is studying a Master's of Teaching at Monash, Melbourne.

Tips for new international students

As an international student in Australia, you are not just adjusting to a new culture, you are adjusting to a new education system.

I still remember the look of horror on my lecturer’s face when I referred to him as “Sir” in my first week of class. My first semester was devoted to just figuring out how things worked around here.

Here are my top five tips to give you some idea of what to expect and how to cope in your first semester.

1. Save money on books

In my first semester, I spent around 500 dollars on textbooks. To this day, I cry when I think about how I could have vacationed in Bali with that money instead. I am not saying that textbooks are unimportant. But there are ways of bypassing buying an original textbook.

Library

Your university library is likely to carry the books that have been prescribed by your units. But beware as library stock tends to be limited and there are many other fish in the sea.

Buy second-hand

StudentVIP is a great place where students can buy, or even sell, second-hand textbooks for really cheap. Also check Facebook groups that sell or exchange books specific to your course.

2. University study support services

Thankfully, Australian universities provide a ton of support services to assist your needs (Attend O-week to know about them).

English mentors

If English is not your first language, don’t sweat! Every university has programs or mentors to help improve your English skills.

Course advisors

Consult your course advisor before making any decisions regarding units or course. They are there to help plan your academic journey.

Counselling

If the stress gets too overwhelming, do not hesitate to seek professional help from university counsellors.

3. Get organized

Keeping track of classes, workshops, assignments, exams, all in your head can make your brain crash harder than a Windows XP laptop. There are items you can get pretty cheap from places like Kmart or Officeworks to help organise your student life

Planner

Write down all important dates including assignment deadlines, exam dates and class schedules in your planner.

4-subject notebook

It saves you the trouble of carrying multiple notebooks for multiple subjects.

Apps

For digital-lovers, apps like My Class Schedule: Timetable (Android) or Class Timetable (iOS) keep a track of your deadlines and classes.

Polish your academic skills

I used to think that my English is fab until I was asked to write an academic essay.

Essential academic skills such as referencing, essay-writing and researching could also be relatively new to you. Fear not! Besides help from your university, there are online resources that can help you develop these skills.

4. Reach out to peers and teachers

If you look around in class, you realise you are not alone. Your peers are in the same boat as you. Make friends with them. Suggest to form a Whatsapp or Facebook group, where you can answer each other’s questions.

Also, don’t hesitate to email your tutor or lecturer regarding any study-related problems. Australian professors are actually very approachable and accessible. Never have I emailed a tutor and not gotten a reply.

In the beginning, being an international student can make it feel like you are competing in the Hunger Games. Having cleared a few rounds, I can personally tell you it does get less daunting with time. The course material may not get easier, but you will become more confident and familiar with your course structure.

So for now, keep your calm and let the games begin!

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