How can we support international students in Australia?

Over 690,000 international students called Australia home in November 2018, an 11 per cent increase on 2017 figures. This rise in enrolments has not only turned education into Australia’s fourth largest export, but also contributed nearly $35 billion to the Australian economy in 2018. With international students proving to be increasingly valuable to Australia’s education sector, it’s important that they have access to the support they need during their studies Down Under. 

Results from the 2017 Student Experience Survey (SES) found that 75 per cent of international students studying in Australia rated their overall educational experience as positive. While this does represent a vast majority, it should be noted that international students recorded the lowest positive rating out of all groups surveyed – in contrast, 79 percent of domestic students responded positively to their university experience.  

These figures suggest that students who are experiencing negativity aren’t getting access to the support they need, whether it be due to lack of information or reluctance to seek help. A data deficiency on student mental health in Australia makes it hard to recognise where things are going wrong, but testimonies from international students have generally reported feelings of isolation, stress and depression. Whether you’re an international student in need of a helping hand, a concerned relative or someone who’s just looking out for a fellow student, Australian institutions have plenty of support services available to make your study abroad experience a positive one. 

Tailored orientation sessions 

Many universities and institutions run specific orientation programs that require compulsory attendance from commencing international students. While orientation can sound uninspiring on paper, in reality it’s a great way for you to meet other students, familiarise yourself with the campus and get some help with any administrative paperwork. Many university programs tackle matters such as intercultural understanding and teaching environments to help prepare you for your studies. 

‘Mates’ or peer mentoring programs 

If you like to see familiar faces around campus, then consider signing up for a ‘mate’ program at your host institution. These programs, which run at many universities, connect you with a local student who helps you to settle into your new life abroad. ‘Mates’ can get you involved in social activities, advise you on your host institution and direct you towards professional support if needed. 

Cultural adjustment activities 

Living in a new culture can be a shock to many international students, creating feelings of isolation and homesickness. If you’re struggling to adapt to life in Australia, consider signing up to one of the many clubs and societies run by your host institution. Almost every university will have a broad range to choose from – you could join a sports team, volunteer with the theatre union or start classes with the coding club. Your host institution may also operate daytrips and tours, which is a great way for you to meet fellow students as you learn about your new surroundings. 

Academic services 

Your host institution will have a range of academic support services on hand to assist you with your studies. These services tend to include essay writing advice, peer study sessions, course-specific lessons and English language classes. As an international student, attendance at academic service sessions may be compulsory. 

Counselling services 

Almost every university you come across in Australia will have its own student support service. If you’re having trouble settling in and need to talk to someone, don’t be afraid to request an appointment with your host institution’s on-campus counselling services. They can help you by providing tailored assistance or referring you onto a general practitioner (GP) if necessary. You can also seek help online if you’re not comfortable doing so in person – your university may have their own websites and apps, or they could provide you with further information on external online resources. 


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