Life as a student is broadly similar wherever you are in the world. Most will pay fees and have to take loans, aside from the lucky students who live in a country with free tuition. Most have to deal with the challenge of leaving home and making friends. Then there’s the course itself … Students coming from overseas will face their own challenges as they navigate life in a different country. So here are the 5 main challenges of being an Australian student:
At the very least, you’re likely to have to pay something towards the cost of your course. There’s also your living expenses to consider, and not everyone can count on parental support to help with that. Some help is available to certain students, but a student loan is a likely prospect, supplemented by a part-time or holiday job. The cost of living can be high in Australia, especially in cities like Sydney – and overseas students will be paying even higher fees. The Australian Immigration Department reckons on a minimum of $18,000 AUD per annum – and that’s excluding tuition.
Help your finances by learning to budget – there are plenty of online resources. Find a part-time job and work during holidays – it’ll make a crucial difference. Plus you should find out whether you’re entitled to any financial support such as grants.
Mental & physical health
Going to uni is supposed to be such a fun time. But there are also a lot of pressures; for most students, it’s the first time they’ve been independent. Many find the coursework difficult, or feel that they’re not making friends. Eating well may take second place to enjoying nights out at the student bar. So both your mental and physical health can suffer.
There’s nothing wrong with having nights out, but pace your drinking. Ignore the pressures from your peers and keep your alcohol intake at a sensible level. Try to eat a good diet most of the time: Getting enough sleep will help your brain power.
Universities believe that government funding is inadequate, and that leaves a gap that can only be filled by private initiatives. If neither private nor government funding is forthcoming, then students are the ones to suffer. Not enough books in the library? Poorly maintained buildings? Too many people to each class? That’s the inevitable outcome of inadequate funding.
Unhappiness with course
If you think that you’re the only student who isn’t having a great time at uni, trust me on this – you are not. It’s extremely common for students to feel unhappy with the course they’re on, or the institution they’re studying at. Perhaps they hate the city they’re living in, or feel like everyone else is having a great social life while they’re stuck at home alone night after night. Some students feel so unhappy that they end up dropping out.
Although in some cases a change of course or institution may be the answer, sometimes it’s relatively easy to solve this problem. You may just need to feel less isolated. Try to make some contacts and get out 2 or 3 times a week. Pick events where you’ll have the chance to talk to people; some of those may share your interests or suggest other ideas. And don’t be afraid to talk to your tutors, or a campus counsellor – they’ve heard it all before and will be able to help you find out what the real issues are for you.
Adapting to life in Australia
Being a student can be challenging for everyone, but when you’re an international student it adds to the burden. You may not speak the language well, and you have to get to grips with a completely different culture. On top of all that, you don’t have the same support network that you do at home. Another problem for international students is getting a visa or working to help fund their studies.
How do you deal with life in a different culture? Embrace the differences. It’s very important to get to know your fellow students, whether from overseas as well or Australian. Don’t just spend your time with students from your own country. Look out for orientation meetings for international students, join clubs and societies, or volunteer with charities.