Making the most of your experience
Moving to a new location, whether it is a new country or a new city can be exciting and stimulating; new places, faces and taste sensations. When we first arrive our energy is usually focused on finding our way around and making sense of this new environment. This stage is often fun as we delight in identifying both the differences and similarities. However it can also be disorientating as we try to learn the new often unspoken social rules and adapt to all our new experiences.
Maintaining mental flexibility during your stay is vital and will allow you to adapt more easily to your new situation and avoid the worst effects of culture shock. Monitor your thoughts and feelings, it is normal to feel a little anxious when you are out of your comfort zone, expect and plan how you will manage your heightened sensitivity. Have a range of self-soothing techniques that you can use; listening to relaxing music, talking to friends & family, taking a walk, meditation, etc. Regular journaling will allow you to process your thoughts and emotions more easily as well as create a useful record of your experience.
Staying in touch with friends and family is very important during this time and can help you to feel supported and connected no matter where you are in the world. There are a wide range of tools that can make this easier, web cam, phone, text messaging, live chat and email, don't forget cards and letters are always lovely to receive. If you want to reach a wider audience the judicious use of Facebook and blogs can make these viable options as well, check security settings on these before you start writing.
Build a strong local support network, this is often more of a challenge for the more introverted personality but will pay dividends both in personal growth and in adjusting to the new cultural setting. Talk to as many people as possible, open conversations whenever you get the opportunity, find out what they do for leisure and develop your own network of useful contacts. Join a university club or society, student volunteer group such as ‘The Bridge', or Mates@UQ .
Improving your English
If English is your second language one of your reasons for studying in Australia may be to enhance your fluency and understanding of both written and spoken English. Practising these skills regularly is the only way to do this so make as many opportunities as possible to speak with native speakers. Take all available opportunities to speak to people in your classes, say hello to the people you sit next to, discuss the issues raised in your course and make opportunities to continue these dialogues after your class has finished. If you are interested in a craft or sporting activity join a social group, this will give you a shared interest and the opportunity to meet new people. You will experience a greater increase in confidence the more that you do this, it is only through making mistakes in grammar and pronunciation that you will learn and develop fluency.
A number of students attending university for the first time can find this a difficult transition, whether you have come straight from school, been in the workforce for some time or come from another country or interstate. Study methods at UQ may be different from what you were expecting and there may be more or less written, oral or group work than you are comfortable with. Use the support networks available to students in both your faculty, Student Union, Student Services, etc. to make this as easy as possible. Do not leave small problems to grow into insurmountable barriers to achieving the results that you want.
Take time to explore the culture and get to know the people of Australia, increasing your knowledge and understanding will enhance not only your job opportunities but will also lead to a greater understanding of your own culture and values. Learn as much as you can about Australian culture and values to help you interpret your experiences more clearly. Overseas experience is a valuable self-development experience, however if you are finding this is too challenging then you are welcome to contact International Student Advisors or Student Counsellors at Student Services for further support.
Things may seem the same on the surface but can be disconcertingly different when you get up close and personal.