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What International Students Wished You Knew

by Shu

Friday, 15 September 2017


Some of the main experience, thoughts and lessons international students obtain are only known to themselves, a selected number of close friends and other international students. While not everyone will be able to identify with the discussed points below, these are some of the things that characterise the international student experience. If you ever wondered what it is like to be an International student, then read on.

We are highly adaptive

Whether we know this or are yet to discover our abilities, we can flourish in almost any environment. Living independently in a foreign country, for the first time for some, comes with a number of advantages. The skills and lessons we learn as a part of our journey not only help us to be successful academically but provide us with some important life skills. Among these is the ability to work, live and succeed in relatively new environments with minimal experience.

75% of our decisions are well researched educated guesses

Being an international student means making decisions and doing things for the very first time. From choosing which university to join to what colour goes in what laundry basket, research is an important component of our everyday decision making process. This is because we are away from our usual support system, and let’s face it, even if they were here, all this would be new to them too. So in most situations the following method works: ask a friend, if they don’t know, ask google and go for it.

A lot of our milestones go uncelebrated

What makes this journey special to us are the small achievements we reach along the way. The lessons and milestones we reach are sometimes unnoticed by those around us as most of our friends are getting through their journey as well. Sometimes it is hard to explain the importance of something to our far away family and friends. This also applies to the challenges we face. The individualistic nature of our journey sometimes forces us to be everything for ourselves in either triumph or loss. This does not mean we lack a support system, but the reality is, you can have 10 people cheering you on a race but only one person can get you to the finish line; you. This challenging aspect of being abroad allows for a great deal of self-growth and insight that is much needed in the future.

The Australian culture taught us to ask for help

One of the most valuable lessons that I learnt when I first arrived in Australia is the importance of asking for guidance and help when needed. A few years ago, my worst nightmare was to ask the waiter of the specific ingredients in the dish I was about to order out of fear of being pushy or disrespectful. But being in a completely new and different environment pushed me out of my comfort zone to ask when I lacked the knowledge since it’s the only way to learn. And I have carried that with me in every aspect of my life, whether in small things like finding my way to a bus stop or to a more serious situation where professional medical or career help is needed. The fact that most Australians are happy to help or guide you to someone who can, has encouraged me to unapologetically ask for help.

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We told our story at least 365 times just last year

Where we are from, what are we doing and what our home is like are some of the most asked about topics. Throughout our study period, we come across people from different cultures who genuinely are interested in our specific cultures and traditions. I cannot describe how happy I was the first time someone (respectfully) asked me more about my home. I was filled with pride and a bit of homesickness. It continued to be a special moment until about the 200th time I told my story! But in all seriousness, I always enjoy and appreciate and prefer questions rather than assumptions about my culture. On a similar note, it just warms my heart when people try and pronounce my longer name. I know you are going to get it wrong but I deeply appreciate the gesture.

 We are different now compared to when we started the journey

As mentioned earlier, the journey of studying abroad comes with a number of lessons and challenges. These experiences helps us grow in many different ways. We are now able to do things we have not done before or learnt about cultures that otherwise we would not have heard about. Learning throughout our journey is not confined to the classroom but rather a cultural and in some ways life influencing experience. This difference is often noticed when we go home and unintentionally wow everyone with our skills!

We have more international students as friends than locals

We bond over anything; not being able to figure out the weather, missing home, getting lost or just being international students. It is easier to strike conversations and make friends with international students as it is easier to relate to one another. We do this unconsciously and feel guilty about it. But sometimes all we need is a friend that reminds us of home every now and then.

Good friends are our second family

Drawing from the previous point, it is no secret that over the years we have built a home away from home and what makes our second home special is our good friends. Making friends and forming a strong positive support system around us is an important step to both success and wellbeing. The friends we make as international students are the friends we share experiences with, learn from and grow together with.

We are just like you

This is a very important and personal one. Regardless of our differences; where we come from, what we look like, what languages we speak, what our dreams are, we are just like everyone else around us. We need and want the same things: a roof over our head, food on our table and a healthy family. Sometimes, this fact is forgotten and we are forced to feel like outsiders regardless of our best efforts to fit in. So if there is anything some international students want the world to know is that first and foremost, we are humans just like you.

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Is there anything you have experienced that is not on the list? Tells us in the comments on the associated post on our Study Geelong Facebook page. Looking forward to hearing from you.
- Shu