When you are studying overseas it can be hard adjusting not only to a new university and study routine, but also to a new culture, city and lifestyle. Getting involved in your university and in the Australian community is a great way to settle in to your studies in Australia and make the most of your university experience. Settling in can be tough, so we’ve compiled a four-step guide to getting involved in Australian life, to help you make the most of your experience.
1. Join a club
Clubs and societies are an excellent place to make friends, get involved and embrace the non-academic side of university. Of course studying is important, but when you simply turn up to your lectures and tutorials, and go straight home again afterwards, university can become a lonely (and boring) experience. By getting involved in clubs and activities, you can make new friends and create memories of your university experience that will remain with you for life.
Most universities have a wide range of student clubs that are eager to recruit new members. At first you might want to join one of the various nationality-based clubs, such as the Indonesian Student Society. While these clubs are an excellent way to ease homesickness and socialise with a community of students who share your background, attending university in Australia also provides opportunities to branch out and broaden your horizons. Consider also joining clubs according to your interests; whether this be an association for science students, a cooking club, a debating club or the university tennis team. These groups are an excellent way to meet a wide range of friends from Australia (and abroad) and meeting with a group gives you a chance to pursue your interests and take a much-needed break from study.
2. Take charge of your tutorials
While lectures in Australian universities tend to be formal affairs where students sit in silence while the lecturer talks; tutorials (otherwise known as ‘tutes’) offer an opportunity for increased interaction and are a great place to make new friends. Tutes usually consist of no more than twenty students, and although they are led by a tutor, they give students the chance to participate in discussions and work in groups.
The best thing about tutorials is that they consist of a cross-section of all the students in your course. You can get to know people from all backgrounds and conversation is easy because you share an interest in the subject. Don’t be afraid to talk to others and participate in the group conversations — if you are feeling nervous it is likely that many of your classmates are feeling the same way. Scheduling an on-campus study session is a great way to break the ice and forge friendships that outlast the duration of the subject.
3. Embrace the wider Australian community
When you are studying, university often seems like your whole world, but there is so much more of Australia outside the university gates.
Australians are known around the world for their friendly, humorous and carefree nature. While you shouldn’t assume that all Australians meet this stereotype, you will soon learn that Australia is a multicultural country that is very open to other nationalities and ways of life. Likewise, most Australians love to introduce newcomers to the country and its culture.
Start local. Each Australian city is different, but they all have common community hubs where locals like to gather, and this generally takes the form of a pub. Your local pub is a great place to socialise with your friends and meet new people, and is also an absolute staple of Australian culture. If pubs aren’t to your liking, there are many cafes, churches, shopping strips, beaches, parks and markets where you can mingle with Australians and soak up the community atmosphere. You can also get involved in the Australian community by getting a job at a local business or joining a community sporting club — these are both excellent ways to create new networks of friends.
At first you may be a little confused when one of your Australian friends wants to grab some ‘Maccas’, compliments you on your new ‘trackie daks’, or suggests you split the cost of a ‘slab’ at the ‘bottle-o’. Australians are renowned for their ‘throw another prawn on the barbie’ lingo, and while you can certainly survive using formal English, it is always fun learning Aussie slang. Not only will it help you to communicate, but it can also be really fun dropping a few funny Australian phrases into conversations with your Aussie and international friends.
For a list of Aussie slang click here.
4. Go walking
Now that you’ve made a few friends, how about planning an Aussie adventure? Australia is a big place, and apart from being great fun, a tour can be an excellent way to see new things and learn more about life in Australia. You will find that people and their local culture can differ quite a lot depending on where in Australia you are. Life in tropical far North Queensland, for example, is very different to life in urban Melbourne or Sydney. So if your university campus is located in a capital city, take the time to venture to a different capital city, or perhaps explore some rural and regional towns.
Long semester breaks are an ideal time to explore everything Australia has to offer — from snow-capped mountains, golden beaches, jagged coastlines, bush land and rainforests to the ancient red desert. Not only will you have a great time visiting Uluru, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but exploring gives you the opportunity to meet people who you never could at university, and discover what life in Australia is really like.