Keeping a positive outlook towards life is very important and part of being optimistic is seeing challenges for what they are and responding in the best possible manner. When you are young and move to a new country for your education, you will go through an adjustment period which is completely normal. Here are some things that you can anticipate during the first few months of your stay in Australia. This guide is like a pre-departure briefing that will give you tips and ideas to take the right direction during this adjustment period so that you can easily focus on your studies as well.
Understanding the cultural differences, social norms and customs in Australia
Participating in a new culture and leaving the comfort of your own support system in a familiar environment is a very big challenge. If you come from a conservative environment and experience the liberal and multicultural culture of Australia, you will experience a culture shock. All the customs and social norms are different (be careful about the table manners and business meeting etiquette) and you will feel like a baby catching up with the accent and new words. In this kind of situation, what you can do to overcome these things is keep an open mind and accept all these challenges as an opportunity to grow and adaptation into society by taking the following steps:
- Be vigilant and observe the verbal and non-verbal cues during social situations. If you feel confused or lost, ask questions and be ready to learn. In these kinds of situations, a good sense of humour really helps in lowering your stress. The more you expose yourself to new people, the more you will learn about dealing with language barriers and communication challenges
- Stay in touch with family and friends at home. They will be able to help you transition into this new life
- Dedicate time to yourself and maintain the self care routines that you used to have at home. This will help you keep some constants in your daily life while everything else is going through changes
- By finding support and building a social network, you will slowly build a new family and adjust well
Finding housing and transportation in Australia
In order to find the best accommodation for yourself, your search should start before you leave for Australia. Rent can vary depending on the city you are going to. The place you look for should be affordable and close to your campus. There are several options for you to explore:
- Purpose built student accommodation
- University dorms
- Shared apartments
- Single apartments
Out of these, a shared rental apartment is the cheapest option (70 AUD to 250 AUD per week). On campus accommodation is another affordable option but homestay ( which costs around 110 AUD per week) will give you an opportunity to stay with an Australian family while you study which means greater cultural exposure.
For transportation, the first thing you should do is to get your student card so that if there is any campus shuttle, you can use that for moving around. Depending on the city you live in, you can get student concessions on public transportation (trams, trains, buses and ferries) which can save you a lot of money. Download the relevant app for the transportation system in your city. You can check this page for more details.
Setting up utilities and banking in Australia
In order to attain utilities and accommodation, you will need a bank account in an Australian bank to make transactions. You can do this online before going to Australia by choosing any bank as almost all of them offer concessions for students. For this, you will require:
- Personal details
- Residential address
- Student visa
- Date of arrival in Australia
When choosing the bank, see if the monthly fee is affordable for you and whether it has enough ATMs around the city. If you send money abroad, check that the international fund transfer money should not be too high.
If you have a student card, you can get a discount for your cell phone SIM purchase. Get a good connection on your phone first. Then, choose the right electricity and gas plan for your home. After this, get a good internet connection by comparing the prices and estimating what would be best for you and the people sharing the house (if you live in a shared space).
Accessing healthcare and other services in Australia
Staying healthy and safe in Australia while you pursue your dreams is extremely important. As you are an international student, you must have the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) which is part of Medicare (Australian public healthcare system). This is attained by registering through your university or a registered provider (for e.g. Allianz Global Assistance, BUPA Australia, Medibank Australia, etc.) On average, you will be required to pay around 438 AUD for this insurance plan. Most of your emergency medical and pharmaceutical needs will be fulfilled by this plan except eye care and dental care.
Adjusting to the climate and natural environment in Australia
Australia has an arid to semi-arid climate while the north has a predominantly tropical environment. Most of the parts of the country are warm, pleasant and mild which gives you an opportunity to explore the landscape. You can explore more about the temperatures of different cities during the year on this website. Every year, the climate does change a little bit but there are no extremes of temperature.
Participating in holidays and cultural events in Australia
Part of assimilating in the culture is to look forward to and attend the cultural festivals of the country. There are many colourful cultural events that will make you fall in love with the country and share joyous moments with your friends and classmates. Some of these events are:
- Mardi Gras- this is a sign of the open minded and friendly atmosphere of Australia as it is a celebration of the different identities in Australia
- Vivid Sydney- Light artists decorate all the landmarks in Sydney with lights that make the city look like a fairytale at night. Take a trip to Sydney and catch these sights with your friends
- New Years Eve- Fireworks at the Sydney Harbour are an amazing display of design and colour which is a perfect way to start the new year
Exploring the food, shopping, and entertainment options in Australia
You will be spending a portion of your budget on entertainment. It is impossible to avoid these expenditures if you have a social life after university hours. Most of the entertainment options are outdoorsy since the climate is very enjoyable- going to beaches, bushwalks, hiking and having barbecues with friends are common weekend activities. Australians are also big on shopping and have a variety of shopping centres that offer good discounts. Some major stores to check out are Woolswirth, Coles, Aldi, Target, KMart, etc.
Food is very interesting in Australia due to the migrants living in the country- there is pho from Vietnam, European espresso coffee and spicy curries from India. Australia is known for its high quality meat so remember to try their meat dishes.
Managing your finances and budgeting in Australia
You need to have a very good hold on where your money is going. This might be the first time you will track your expenses but this is the best way of managing your finances and staying within your budget. Here are some tips to plan your budget:
- Record your income from your sources and your expenses (fixed expenses, debt payments and unexpected expenses)
- See the difference between the expenses and income- this money will be used for leisure and savings
- Set a goal for savings and adjust your lifestyle accordingly
Planning for your long-term stay in Australia
Transitioning from an international student to a long-term stay is a plausible plan. You just need to do what path you will be taking by knowing your visa options after the current student visa expires. Planning one year prior to the end of your graduation is a wise idea because you can save money and budget accordingly. These are your visa options:
- Temporary Graduate Visa- 2 to 4 years
- Second Post-study work stream visa type for students who studied in regional area
- Student visa (subclass 500)
- Work holiday visa- 1 year
- Tourist visa- few months
Resources for international students adjusting to life in Australia
There are plenty of resources for you to address all your fears regarding this huge step you are about to take. One of the lesser known ways to adjust to this new life is to befriend alumni or current students of the university you will be going to so that they can give you mini orientation and tips. You can find these options to chat on the university’s official website or online discussion forums like Reddit. Book a session with our helpful mentors to figure out all the complications of your visa and moving process.