Written by StudyPerth International Student Ambassador Natalia Murcia
The day I chose Perth as my study destination and started preparing for my trip, I knew there was going to be an adventure. When I decided to go back to study 10 years after getting my degree in Colombia, the butterflies in my stomach immediately started! You know the feeling I am talking about… millions of thoughts were rushing around my head which was quite overwhelming and it generated some anxiety about the unknown Australian education environment. How was I supposed to fit into a new student life when I had spent a decade in the workforce? What would this new learning context demand of me?
Despite these thoughts, I knew I had a wildcard up my sleeve. I love helping and getting involved with all things related to student’s engagement. I had a previous experience as an international student in Argentina right after I graduated from university. Even though it was a small institution, I still had the opportunity to get involved with their activities and events, and that made it so much easier to navigate through my journey as an international student. Allow me to share some tips with you on how you can beat the panic of being a new international student in Perth.
Follow your institution’s official social media pages
Even before you arrive, you should do this! This way, you can start understanding how a student’s life runs. By the time you arrive, you will feel like you have been attending for years! It is useful to follow the different social media platforms because you can turn on and customise notifications. You will never miss anything! Some institutions also have a specific page or profile for international students. Use this to your advantage; you can find more information on different organisations partnered with your institution which could, in turn, offer things that appeal to your personal likes.
Attend orientation day (or O-Week)
Some might find it exciting, some might dread it, and for some it could be really scary! Orientation can also be really exhausting and overwhelming. Take it slow, you don’t need to remember every single piece of advice and information you are given. Just take this day as your first chance to have a bird’s eye view of your institution, staff members and, of course, your classmates. Just feel the vibe and let your intuition guide you. Trust yourself!
Connect with lecturers
I can assure you that you will find at least two of them you will resonate with. Allow yourself to talk about your expectations and goals. Your lecturers have been teaching international students for a long time, and some of them were international students too. Use their expertise to get some useful tips that could improve your experience in and out of the classroom.
Finally, my most valuable advice which has built my path and led me to what I am today: a StudyPerth International Student Ambassador…
Join a mentor or volunteering program
I realised my institution, South Metropolitan TAFE, had a Mentor Program on our first trip for international students, which was a couple of weeks after classes began. I saw some students wearing a Mentor badge, and after that trip I emailed the coordinator asking for more information. I found something I really wanted to get involved with.
I had an awesome experience helping with activities for other international students. We all had different days during the week where we were available at the cafeteria for anyone who needed a helping hand, or just someone who they can talk to. I also received valuable leadership and interpersonal skills training. Not long after this, I joined StudyPerth’s Airport Greeters program. The Welcome Desk at Perth Airport is where newly-arrived international students can meet a friendly face, receive a free goodie bag and get first-hand information on how to navigate Perth from fellow international students! I have volunteered with this program since 2017, and every shift is a totally different experience. I have met and made friends with amazing people from all over the world thanks to this invaluable experience, and the StudyPerth team has become my extended family and a big part of the process on my becoming an International Student Ambassador.
I really hope at least one of these tips could be of great use to you; to give you some ideas and motivate you to be creative when it comes to engaging, getting out of your comfort zone, and starting to shine! Challenge yourself - do not be afraid of following your dreams. You have already made a big decision by choosing Perth, to be the place where you can be the best version of yourself! Enjoy every single day of your experience and trust yourself!