Instead of putting all your attention on those things, try to focus on the opportunities which Australia has to offer you. Remember every time a door closes, another one opens. The problem is that we focus so much on the door that closes and we forget the one that is open for us.
1. Feeling homesick? Get over it!
Of course, there will be time when you feel homesick and just want to go back to your home country. Me too! And that’s okay! It’s a normal feeling that everyone should have when they leave their family and country for a long time. However, don’t let this feeling stop you from doing what you are doing.
If you find yourself feeling depressed or lonely on a regular basis, just go out and take a walk, make some new friends, talk to people, join the gym or any positive communities around your area. This will make you feel better. Call home and talk to your family often or at least listen to Michael Jackson’s song “You are not alone”!
The reason you feel depressed or lonely is because you are focusing on what you don’t have such as the love, care and connection from your family and old friends, or maybe you miss the food that you used to eat when you were home and now suddenly it’s not available.
2. Want to learn and grow? Avoid hanging out too much with your own people
The keyword here is “too much”. What do I mean by this? I mean avoid spending all your time with the people from your home country! This might sound crazy, especially when you don’t know anyone around and have no connection. I know right! I did this too and I’m not pointing fingers!
When I first came to Australia, whenever I heard someone speak Vietnamese or even look like Vietnamese people, I came up to talk to them because I was that “hungry” for connection and comfort.
I’m not saying this is wrong but let’s face the truth. You don’t learn many new things by hanging out with people that speak the same language and have the same culture as yours. I have seen many people hanging out with their own people too much, for example Chinese hanging out with other Chinese, Korean with Korean, etc.… You get the point, right? They go out together in the same group, speak their own language (usually not English) and do things their own way. The problem is that they don’t improve their English much and they don’t adapt well in Australian culture. You need to make some sacrifice. As the saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I think it’s important to preserve your own culture as well as stay open minded and embrace the new culture you live in. Otherwise, what is the point of living in a foreign country?
It’s just a matter of comfort. If you decide to stay in Australia after your study, you will need to get out of your comfort zone and learn more about Australian culture and adapt yourself to it.
Making new friends is not hard. Although I have heard some people often complain about they find it so hard make friends with Australian students but it’s not really true. I understand this, especially when you have an accent or you don’t speak fluent English. It can be very frustrating. However, my advice for you is just don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask. Remember if you don’t ask, the answer is always no and in order to have friends, you must first be one.
3. Put serious effort into learning English.
I know my English is not very good and I’m not even bothered to ask someone to proofread this post. Perfection is sometimes overrated. I’m looking for improvement, not perfection. That’s why I practice English every day.
There are many ways to improve your English. You can study by yourself or practice with other people, especially with people whose English is their first language. You can also attend English classes in your school, university, local library, churches or any other places. Some classes are free, some are not. You just need to find out and be willing to learn. Without being able to speak fluent English, you cannot really enjoy the life in Australia and have a fulfilling career.
4. Don’t worry too much about racism
There are racist people in every country, not just in Australia. You might have seen on the news about racism in Australia or read some stories or viral videos about racism on Facebook or the internet. However, don’t globalize it or buy into the belief that people in Australia are racist. Most people are good. There are only a few bad people in the world but they move around a lot so you might bump into one of them.
So, don’t let the biased stories you hear on the media affect you. I have many Aussie friends who treat me like their son, their brother. Remember what you focus on expands. If you believe someone is bad, your brain will find evidences to support your belief. And you might go out and talk to people who have the same belief as yours to validate your belief. That’s confirmation bias. Don’t get trapped into that way of thinking.
Of course, it’s extremely important to protect yourself. If you experience racism or abuse, you need to get help from people around you, school, the police, and other organizations. You can also do your own research about how to protect yourself against racism.
5. Know your work rights
Many overseas students don’t know their work rights. Make sure to check your visa to know what you are allowed to do, how many hours you are allowed to work per week, etc… If you have a big saving or your family can afford your living and expenses in Australia and you don’t have to work, that’s good for you.
If you intend to work in Australia while studying, you need to know your work rights to know how much you are supposed to get paid so you won’t get underpaid. You can find out more information about work rights at Australian Fair Work via www.fairwork.gov.au
You also need Tax File Number (TFN) to be able to work in Australia. Information about TFN available at Australian Taxation Office at www.ato.gov.au
6. Embrace change and challenge
Besides some benefits of studying abroad, there are also many challenges. Let me put it as elegantly as possible: Studying abroad is not easy! In fact, it can be very difficult if you’re not ready for it. From my experience, when you come to seminars that are provided by those Study Abroad Organizations, who introduce you about study abroad programs, they will draw a beautiful picture for you with all sort of promising fun and exciting stuff. Some of them even claim that you can work while studying and still earn enough money for your tuition fee and your living expenses. It depends on the course you study and the area you live as well. But this is very rare and I haven’t experienced this. I know some people who cannot adapt to this change so they quit and go home, or they just wait for the days to pass. There’s no excitement or juice in their lives. This is the moment when they hang on to their comfort zone and are not willing to learn and grow.
I’m not trying to be “negative” here but I just want to give you a balanced point of view. You can ask the people who have been on this journey before and listen to what they say. You might have to confront all sorts of challenges from language and culture barrier to financial challenge unless you’re very rich and you have no problem speaking English and adapting to culture shock.
If you are an overseas student, you will pay up to 3 times the amount of tuition fee which an average domestic student would have to pay, and you have to pay it up front. The total tuition fee for a 4 years bachelor degree could cost you up to $100k or more. If you don’t have sufficient finance, you might be in tough times. You might think that’s not fair but it’s just the way that it is. If you choose to study abroad, that’s the price you will have to pay.
There are also other challenges around your study, work and living. I have had more than 10 different jobs (no joke) since I came to Australia and this is not very uncommon for international students. Many international students who couldn’t find a proper job have to work in the farms or restaurants where they usually get paid half of what they’re supposed to earn per hour. I used to be in that situation too.
I have faced many challenges and maybe you are also facing some challenges right now as you are reading this and I’m truly grateful for having this opportunity to share with you. I can sympathize with you and I respect you for having the courage to overcome the challenges you are facing and still keep moving forward.
Thanks to all the challenges, I have grown a lot. I used to blame on many things such as the expensive tuition fee, my poor English, transportation system, and so on. I had a big “excuse list” but then I threw it all away. Somebody might have found it and used it.
I learned that in life you can either have excuses or you can have the results you want but you can’t have both. I definitely love who I am right now than the person I used to be 5 years ago. Remember challenges are meant to help us grow and become stronger. It’s not what you will get in the end that counts but the person you have to become during the process that is important. And I hope you also look at it the same way as I do.
7. Enjoy your journey
Whether you just come to Australia to study and then go back to your home country or you intend to stay in Australia, make it a memorable and fascinating journey. Live and experience life as much as you can. As the saying goes, success is a journey, not a destination.
I’m glad you come here for this “little positive visit”. I didn’t intend to discourage you but I did what I could to give you a balanced view about studying abroad and what challenges you might have to encounter.