Study Skills for Newcomers and International Students
Firstly, if you have arrived in Australia, Welcome!
If you are planning to study here in the future – well done for doing your research before you arrive!
I would like to start by recommending a book written by Sally White – Understanding Australia: A Guide for International Students http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521541999 – whilst it may no longer be available for purchase, if you can borrow a copy of this book from the library, you will find it a wealth of practical and useful study and cultural information.
Studying in Australia is so much more than attending lectures, completing assignments and finishing exams. For many people, it becomes a way of life – where they have to combine an entirely new lifestyle to fit the study commitment into their daily routine. You may need to survive on a much lower income (visit http://www.cheapskates.com.au) and need to plan your days and weeks well before large assignments are due for submission.
Study is much easier when your learning style matches the delivery style. You may like to complete a Learning Styles Questionnaire to learn more about yourself so that you can capitalise on your strengths and improve your weaknesses. http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html
Each educational organisation has resources and information for students and you need to make the effort to read through these documents and attend orientation sessions. They have been prepared to help you make the most of your study experience.
Teachers, Trainers and Lecturers are happy when their students perform well, but it is still your responsibility to take ownership over your study timetable. Tertiary Education can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience that boosts your knowledge as well as your self esteem. But if you start struggling with your study requirements, you need to ask for help as soon as possible, do not leave your request until the work is almost due.
Whilst some people thrive on stress and deadlines, other people prefer to feel comfortable and relaxed with plenty of time to complete their work. If you are new in town, it is vital for you to know how to get to workshops, tutorials, events, lectures and exams with extra time to spare if there are any delays. Alternatively, if you can discipline yourself well, you may be able to consider studying by correspondence or through online methods so that you can choose the times that suit you the best.
Keeping yourself fit and healthy is also important. You need to drink enough water and eat healthy foods frequently – there are many low cost options in Australia including discounted fruit and vegetables from local markets near closing times. If you think your budget can only afford two minute noodles, remember that your brain needs good food to work properly – prepare a salad on the side (no cooking required) and a piece of fruit for dessert.
Exercise is a great stress reliever and if your budget does not extend to participating in regular sport or going to the gym, you can still walk, jog and do exercises at any time. If you buddy up with someone else on a regular basis and make it part of your weekly routine, you may be more likely to develop this healthy habit.
As your usual routine may be significantly different to your past routine, you need to allow extra time to complete your everyday tasks. Try and complete most of your important homework at the time that suits you the best – for instance, some people prefer late at night, others prefer early in the morning – plan your time around your best times.
You still need to have some time to relax and enjoy yourself. If you have effective study strategies, you will be able to use your time wisely. Try not to be distracted by visiting other websites or watching television instead of doing your homework. Small amounts of quality focused time can be much more productive than lazy hours until 4am.
Seek feedback wherever possible to find out how your work could be improved. Read books and websites to learn how to improve your study skills – there are several tips and tricks listed online at http://www.aussieeducator.org.au/resources/studyskills.html
You may also benefit from learning some time management techniques. If you are returning to study after several years in the workforce, then you may need extra support and skills to manage this extra commitment http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Tertiary_studies_mature_age_students
The particular study culture of the educational organisation may be different to any that you have experienced before. Some may have many younger students who listen to music or send text messages whilst in class. Others may encourage you to complete some of your study in your workplace.
Alternatively, there may be formal lectures with strict etiquette rules. Again, you need to source a study option that suits your present and future needs and be open to new methods and systems here in Australia.
In Australia, the Accredited Training Industry is strictly regulated with government controlled compliance requirements. A formal qualification that can lead to recognition in further training ensures that your time is spent moving in your desired career path as some courses provide ‘Recognised Prior Learning’ status for your new course.
Another benefit is that you can start Certificate Level courses without formal secondary qualifications and some courses also qualify for financial assistance so your out of pocket expenses may be very low.
Mentors are used in many areas of business and life – study should be no different. If you have someone you know who you can talk to about your studies, can provide you with tips and advice, can encourage you when you are feeling overwhelmed and assist you with any enquiries, you will have a much greater chance of achieving success with your studies.
Like all activities, it should be part of a balanced life – so combining study with other work, hobbies and interests is very healthy. If you have friends who are not supportive about your study plans, it may be because they have had bad experiences in the past.
Some people enjoy learning so much that they become regular students (learning is life long anyway). Despite the occasional stress, I have found that most people are happy that they have learned new information through their studies but everyone has needed a little extra help at some time during their studies (counselling is also available).
One important point to note is that in Australia, plagiarism (or cheating or using someone else’s work as your own) is against the rules of every educational organisation. You are required to submit your own work and if you have received help or information from someone else, you must list their details in your Bibliography/Reference List. If you have copied someone else’s information without mentioning their details, your work is likely to be recorded as a ‘Fail.’
Finally, once your course has been completed, take some time to celebrate your achievement with friends and family. Their encouragement and support has helped you through and your own efforts have been officially recognised.