When you leave home to go and live somewhere else, you naturally take your own personality and cultural ways with you.

There may be valuable learning in experiencing and understanding a way of life different from yours. It may surprise you to discover that you will learn things about your own culture that you may not have thought about before. Your travels to Australia may not only broaden your viewpoint, but also make you mature personally and understand yourself better.

As time goes on, you will become more familiar with your new environment and you will feel more confident, develop new friends and manage social and professional interactions more comfortably. Your study will be more effective and you will gain a sense of really benefiting from the experience. Some students get to this phase quite quickly, but for some it takes longer. Use the strategies suggested and the services provided to assist you to make the necessary adjustments.

The following comments may help you to further understand the adjustment and some of the things that you may be experiencing:

  • When you first arrive in Australia, you will probably feel excited and keen to learn
  • A little later on, you may start to feel homesick and stressed. This can happen because of language and communication barriers, workload and being away from familiar support networks such as friends and family
  • You may also feel frustrated and confused about your new cultural setting and your own cultural identity
  • Eventually you will feel more comfortable in your new environment, more confident and relaxed about handling life as you begin to become familiar with Australian customs
  • Finally, you will feel back to your old self - confident and able to enjoy and understand Australian culture while also valuing your own culture
  • If you find that the process of cultural adjustment is adversely affecting you, come and speak with an International Student Advisor

When you arrive in a new country, you may experience a wide variety of feelings and reactions as you adapt to the new environment and culture. Some people may feel confused, nervous, irritable, uncertain or dependent on others. For other people, the period of time immediately after their arrival is filled with excitement and adventure - however after this wears off, the challenge of adjusting to life and study in a new culture can be exhausting.

This may lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety. If you do experience these things, then you are probably experiencing what is called culture shock.

Coming to Australia from another country exposes you to many new things which may include such things as: the buildings look different and so does the landscape, the food is not what you are used to and the people look, speak and act differently from the people at home. You may not be able to speak with other people as confidently.

If you feel lonely, you may miss your family and friends more than you expected. All these feelings and emotions may mean lead you to start questioning your decision to come to Australia. 

Tips to assist you adjust to a new culture

Coping with culture shock requires a special effort, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. During the first weeks and months in a new country, it is common to experience some degree of culture shock - it is a normal response to a drastic change in your physical, social and cultural environment. Below are some tips that may assist you in your transition to a new culture:

  • Think positively - be willing to learn, be open minded and light hearted
  • Listen, watch, observe and reflect. Examine your expectations and preconceived stereotypes
  • Stay in touch with family and friends and keep up with events at home
  • Keep a diary of your experiences
  • Allow yourself sufficient time to adjust
  • Do some familiar activities, especially the things you are good at
  • Get involved in an social and recreational activities that will help you to meet people and to make new friends
  • Introduce yourself to other people and students in your courses - keep in contact with the people you meet
  • Remember what you would have done at home to relax and do something similar
  • Use English language as much as possible. Read the local newspaper and watch television, listen to the radio and try to speak English as much as you can. The more you use the language the more you will improve
  • Take advantage of the services and orientations offered by UQ
  • Set small goals that you can achieve every day
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions when you are unsure what to do or what is expected of you
  • Get plenty of exercise, eat well, and drink plenty of water
  • Keep your sense of humour and believe in yourself!

Coming to Australia from another country certainly exposes you to many new things, particularly the new academic environment.

Before your first semester begins, it is a great idea to take the time to familiarise yourself with the academic expectations at UQ, your faculty, library and campus. You may also need time to adjust to the Australian accent and you may like to fine tune your English language skills.

Take proactive steps in maximising your success at UQ by following the suggestions below. 

Tips for successful study:

  • Arrive at least two to three weeks before the start of semester to ensure you are well settled into your accommodation before your formal program commences
  • Attend a Getting Started Session
  • Register for and attend the Jump Start Academic Preparation Program
  • Improve your written and spoken English language skills
  • Attend Orientation Week sessions - note that some are compulsory
  • Attend a group advisory session in your faculty during Orientation or make an appointment with an academic advisor in your faculty for individual assistance with course selection and program planning.
  • Take a library tour
  • Take a campus tour
  • Make use of professional support at Student Services. The Learning Advisers, Personal Counsellors, Disability Advisors and International Student Advisors offer individual appointments and a range of workshops and seminars throughout the year
  • Talk to your lecturers or tutors if you are having trouble understanding course content or academic expectations
  • Plan your study schedule at the start of semester so that assessment tasks are well spaced
  • Balance study, leisure and work time
  • Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep
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