January 3, 2017

International Students in Australia

International Students

You may like to bookmark this page (press Ctrl + D) and return here in the future. There is a lot of information on this page so you may like to print the page and then read it in a comfortable place (like in the park!)

Please remember that to make the most of any move, to a new location or a previous location, you will need to utilise the same strategies as any other newcomer – so a lot of the information in other sections of this website will also be helpful to you (including our Six Best Settlement Strategies).

If English is not your first language, do whatever you can to practice your English and improve your abilities in this area.  It will make doing all of your tasks so much easier.


Studying in Australia

Studying in Australia – International students in Australia – moving to Australia to complete international study, tips, advice, information for parents, future students, existing students, links, university.


Our top 10 tips for international students in Australia

1. Read all of the new/international student information on the school, college or university website and printed publications

2. Choose temporary accommodation until you have found a good longer term option.  Make sure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities.

3. Make sure you receive and provide important information in writing.

4. Find a variety of new friends at the school, college or university and outside of it.

5. Expect it to be challenging.

6. Ask questions and ask for help if you need it.

7. Collect some local tourist and community information so you know about other services and have other things to do.

8. Make sure you know how to use a variety of different transport options (bus, train, ferry, tram, taxi, bicycle).

9. Keep in touch with family and friends from your previous location.

10. Do things that you enjoy on a regular basis.

Over the years we have received many enquiries from students who are either planning to study in Australia or are already here and are looking for some specific information.  This article will discuss:

. our top ten tips for international, interstate and intrastate students
. general information for students and parents
. resources we recommend and strategies that are useful
. links to visit


1. Read all of the new/international student information on the school, college or university website and printed publications

Every school, college and university will have some information available on their website about life as a new or international student.  If you have paid fees to attend, you would also be entitled to a variety of orientation information, resources and assistance.  Make sure that you understand how this can help you – before you need it.

If a crisis occurs, you will need to know how to get help quickly.  Make sure you have important telephone numbers, websites and pamphlets easily accessible.  Skim through all of the material you are given and visit any resource centres that you can – like student union offices, libraries, information centres and browse through additional brochures and items there.  If your English skills still need improvement, find out if someone else can help you go through these printed or online items in person.

These school, college and university publications (and diaries) are also reference tools giving you details about important dates to remember, fee payment reminders, housing information, safety with alcohol and drugs, transport options, work opportunities, groups you can get involved in, basic living and lifestyle details, counselling services, details of student advisors and associations, medical issues, telephone and email services etc.  These have usually been designed based on a lot of experience and input from past students and staff and they are generally written in plain English.

If you want to do some extra research, you can also visit the websites of other local schools, colleges and universities.  The information published on each one will be slightly different, but combined, it will give you some excellent background information.


2. Choose temporary accommodation until you have found a good longer term option.  Make sure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities

There are many different types of accommodation options for students in Australia.  These include boarding, home stay, house sitting, sharing, villages, hotels, motels, hostels, student only accommodation, renting, living with family or friends, buying etc.

This website, in the location section, provides local information on this topic (also referred to as property, housing or real estate).  Most schools, colleges and universities have ‘housing services’ departments that can provide information and assistance.

If renting or leasing, make sure, before you agree to any of these options, that you have a copy of the local ‘rights and responsibilities’ booklet before you sign any agreement.  In Victoria, there is a Tenants Union and this website provides an enormous range of useful information – other states have similar organisations.

Some international students are keen to utilise the services of agents that speak the same native language.  Make sure that any services provided by these agents are similar in total cost and service to other local options that you may have.

When considering your accommodation options, factor in the time it takes to go to your school, college or university and the cost of transport.  Sometimes a dearer housing payment can be offset against transport time and cost.  For instance, if you pay $50 per week more to live close to the school, college or university but you do not have to catch a bus to get there, you could be better off paying the extra weekly amount (and you will be close to your new friends).


3. Make sure you receive and provide important information in writing.

Sometimes it takes longer to make sure that you receive or provide information in writing, but it is important.  A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, particularly in the case of shared accommodation or expenses.  If you must give information to your school, college or university, again, provide it in writing (email is okay), and keep a record of the date and time that you gave it to the person.

If you are having difficulties with fee payments, again, put this in writing, tell them when you will make each payment and how much.  If there are any changes, again, put it in writing.  This approach gives everyone an accurate record of what has been happening and saves confusion.  It does not matter if there are spelling mistakes, however it is a good idea to record the date and your name and contact details on all correspondence.  Keep a copy for yourself.


4. Find a variety of new friends at the school, college or university and outside of it

You may have already read our Six Best Settlement Strategies.  The first of these is to ‘find a friend.’  This is particularly important for students at a new school, college or university.  Whilst the natural tendency of most people is to find a friend from a similar background with similar interests, this may not always be possible – and even if you did, you may find that you do not have anything else in common with these people.

We therefore recommend that you find a variety of friends.  Some that share the same heritage as you, or the same culture, religion, hobby, sport, interest or even subject class.  There is no need to either seek particular types of people or not mix with others.  Australia is a very multicultural and multifaith society.  People who do have the same background can be important to help ease the transition for you – and you may find that after you feel more comfortable, you can move on and find other friends.

It is also a very good idea to make friends with people outside of school, college or university – people who are younger or older, single or part of a family – and it can be really helpful to be friendly with neighbours living close to you.  These people can be like an extended family and give you the sense of being part of a larger group. Many people have found new friends through their faith/religious group and even if you are not an existing member of a faith community, many churches in Australia offer outreach programs and welcome new people.


5. Expect it to be challenging

Life in Australia, like any country or location, can offer wonderful opportunities and difficult challenges.  We have found that the most successful ‘newcomers’ are those that expect it to be challenging.  They realise that there may be times when they have to ask for help, seek advice and rely on other people.

Even if you wanted to move to the new location and you did an enormous amount of research and preparation and you had a variety of social support networks and friends you could call on, it may still be difficult.  There will be times when you wish you were near someone familiar, or you could taste a particular food or visit a favourite peaceful place.  It is perfectly natural and normal to feel this way.  Remember that you are never alone feeling the way that you do and that many other students would have been through similar experiences.

You may be surprised to know that some of the people who have found it most difficult to move are those that have only moved a short distance, even as little as five kilometres from their previous location.  These people are not expecting the challenges, don’t realise how many things will be different and how that short distance can affect relationships.  It is also natural to think that some friends will be ‘friends for life’ – but it is unrealistic to expect all of the friends you make to stay with you throughout your life.  Some are for a few months, some a few years, some a few decades.  All of these people are valuable and have a part in your own personal history.


6. Ask questions and ask for help if you need it

It is perfectly normal to ask questions in Australia.  It is not a sign of weakness.  You are not expected to know everything, but you do need to have the skills to find information.  If you can’t do it by searching the internet, the next most obvious method is to ask questions.  You can ask people who provide information at the school, college or university and people that you meet in your local community.  It is a good idea, for important information, to find three different sources so that your information is more likely to be correct and not based on inaccurate data or opinion.

We are also very fortunate in Australia to have a variety of support mechanisms in place.  If you feel uncomfortable with one option, you can always try another.  We enjoy an excellent range of government funded services.  The three levels of government, Australian, State and Local are responsible for different programs, initiatives and websites, but you can generally rely on them as a good and reliable sources of information.  It is a good idea to visit these websites in your own time and search for information so that when you make enquiries, you already have some general knowledge.

In some countries around the world, representatives of the police and government are feared by local people.  This is not the case in Australia and if you have personal fears for your own safety, you are encouraged to contact people in official roles.  You may like to find out if your information can be kept private first – but you will find that most government and government funded services must abide by strict privacy rules and cannot reveal your information without your consent.

If information sessions or casual student gatherings are organised by your school, college or university, make the time to attend.  Even if you are shy, you can be sure that other people there will also be shy too.  Even if you sit quietly and just listen to the presentation, you will be more informed about life in your new location.  Most schools, colleges and universities provide orientation programs and if for any reason you did not attend these, make sure you collect all of the information provided at these programs and ask to speak to the orientation program directors and find out what the actual program covered.  If there are particular items of interest, ask them for more information.

If at any stage, you are feeling overwhelmed by your study, your new environment or even the other people you are meeting, seek professional help in the form of counselling.  It is better to start this as soon as any problems or difficulties arise rather than waiting until you are at crisis point.  Counsellors have heard many stories before so your are unlikely to be the only person who has experienced that type of difficulty.

If for any reason you do not feel comfortable using the school, college or university services, you may be able to access local help through the local council where you are living.  In every part of Australia, there is a local government council that provides services and information to people who live or work in that area, whether they are boarding, renting or purchasing a apartment, unit or home.  If you contact these organisations and they cannot provide you with cheap or low cost options, they may be able to tell you where else you can go.  Just ask.


7. Collect some local tourist and community information so you know about other services and have other things to do

It is a good idea to visit your local council and collect a ‘New Resident’s Kit’ or a ‘Community Information Booklet.’  These will give you a lot of information about where you are living.

Some students who have not adjusted well to their new life spend a lot of time complaining about rules and regulations or general aspects of Australia or Australian culture.  Again, this is quite natural.  If you have been transplanted to a new location and are finding things difficult, it is natural to compare what you are seeing to what you are familiar with and it may not be the same standard as you would like.  For this reason, it is very important, to be successful, to be flexible and understanding about what you see and hear.  Your new location is different and that is okay.  What can sometimes help is learning more about the local culture and customs and just by asking questions, you may be surprised at what you learn.

With the increase in the number of non-contact hours and the amount of work that you can do online and virtually with teachers, tutors and lecturers, make sure you include time to go outside, enjoy sport and recreation and be with people.  As an international, interstate or intrastate student, you have the opportunity to learn more about your new environment, enjoy being both a tourist and a local in your new location.  It is natural to have good and bad days in any location.  The trick is making sure that you have the best strategies for making most of them good.

In your previous location, you would have had a well developed identity within your circle of family, friends and/or workmates.  When you arrive in a new location, you do not have these people reflecting back to you who you are, remembering your likes and dislikes, sharing your jokes and familiar experiences or just understanding and accepting you for being the special person you are.  It takes time to develop these similar types of friendships in a new environment, so be patient.  If you rush this process, for yourself or for others, it can lead to loneliness.

You may find that many things are different in your new location.  If you have certain values and beliefs, you may find that these are not shared by other students and staff.  Australia is a very multicultural and multifaith nation, but hardline and fundamentalist views are not well received.  On the other hand, many different views and diverse opinions are welcomed.  In some cultures, certain practices are acceptable and in Australia, they are not (like violence against women – this is a criminal offence).


8. Make sure you know how to use a variety of different transport options (bus, train, ferry, tram, taxi, bicycle)

Transport is important.  You need to know different ways of reaching your school, college or university as sometimes trains, trams, ferries or buses can be unavailable.  Spend some time doing reconnaissance trips, when you just go out and about and familiarise yourself with local shops, places to visit and medical services.  Make sure you have purchased a local street directory (ask for the best one to buy) so that you can go to other places when you don’t have study or work to do.


9. Keep in touch with family and friends from your previous location

Parents can become very anxious about your lifestyle, particularly if you come from a close knit family environment.  If you are in a city location, you may find that you will see and learn many new things.  It is important to remember your family’s values and if you are unsure about any new activities, find out more information before you participate.  If you feel uncomfortable about joining in, you should be able to say no and if necessary, leave.  If you go out as part of a group, this can be more comfortable than going out on your own, particularly in the first few weeks of your arrival.

There are many ways to stay in touch with loved ones in other locations.  Some students assume it is easier if you don’t stay in regular contact.  Just do what feels right for you and where possible, keep your expenses to a minimum by using free online services.


10. Do things that you enjoy on a regular basis

It can be difficult to create new routines when you are busy just trying to get to each class on time.  But soon enough, it will be time to settle into regular shopping, recreation and activity times.  If you really enjoy eating at a particular restaurant or playing a particular sport, see if you can include this activity on a regular basis.  If you miss particular ‘comfort foods,’ see if you can find local suppliers or if okay with Customs, see if they can be sent to you.

Some students become anxious about the university they are studying at, often wishing that they were at a ‘better’ university.   Whilst I appreciate that each educational facility has its good and bad points, I have found that success in life is never a result of one choice only. Everything does not go ‘wrong’ because of one thing.  Ask yourself, ‘at the end of this course, what do you want to achieve?’  This may help you make appropriate choices, whether or not to combine work, study, leadership roles or extra curricular activities and how much time to spend on each.

Please remember that choices or decisions we make in life are the ‘best’ that we could do at the time. If you feel that you have made a ‘wrong’ one, that is okay, if you have the power to improve opportunities in the future, great. There are positive opportunities available in every situation – and if you are only going to be in a particular location for a short time, please make the most of it.  If you need particular information or advice, you are also welcome to contact us.


Links to visit

The Good Universities Guide (for Australian and International Students lists all universities in Australia)

Study in Australia (comprehensive guide for people considering studying in Australia includes university and course information, lifestyle, costs and local help)

Australian Government information for International Students (links to government information)

Studying in Australia (from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship)

Study Melbourne (produced by the Victorian Government)

Study Adelaide (joint project of various organisations)

Department of Education Science and Training (Australian Government Department)

Group of Eight (Australia’s leading universities)

Australian Technology Network (an influential alliance of five distinctive and prominent Australian universities located in each mainland State)

Innovative Research Universities Australia (Research performance and innovation are key characteristics of the six universities that comprise a national alliance with the title Innovative Research Universities Australia (IRU Australia). The member Universities – Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Macquarie, Murdoch and Newcastle – are drawn from five states and were all founded during the period of higher education expansion in the 1960s/1970s. All six were established as research-based universities with comprehensive disciplinary coverage and a strong commitment to innovation and an inter-disciplinary focus) http://www.irua.edu.au

Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (advances higher education through voluntary, cooperative and coordinated action. The Committee is non-partisan and exists exclusively for educational purposes. Its continuing aim is to serve the best interests of the universities and, through them, the nation and it has a good links section)

EdNA Online (is a service that aims to support and promote the benefits of the Internet for learning, education and training in Australia. It is organised around Australian curriculum, its tools are free to Australian educators, and it is funded by the bodies responsible for education provision in Australia – all Australian governments. It provides a directory about education and training in Australia and a database of web-based resources useful for teaching and learning)

Open Universities Australia (Australian degrees online and online support services for students)

Australian Education International (AEI) (AEI is part of the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). AEI uniquely integrates the development of international government relations with support for the commercial activities of Australia’s education community. To do this, AEI liaises with all sectors of the education and training industry and all levels of government)

Australian University Guide (this is a private collection of blogs, view in conjunction with other sources)

Co-operative Scholarship Testing Program (this an annual program of scholarship testing used by approximately 150 independent schools across Australia to select academically gifted students for the award of a scholarship. The test is held on one day, and is a co-operative test, meaning that candidates can register with more than one CSTP school, but they sit the test once only. A candidate’s results are passed onto all the schools a candidate has registered with)

Independent Schools Council of Australia (General FAQ’s)


Personal relationships links

Relationships Australia (information about relationships in a new country)http://www.relationships.com.au/building/new_country.asp

Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (general information on human rights) http://www.humanrights.gov.au/faqs/general.html#1

University of Newcastle (good article on Issues facing students)

The Source (provides lots of links to more personal/sex related matters, especially for younger people) http://www.thesource.gov.au/lifestyle/index.htm

Look up the Department of Youth in the state in Australia you are living in. For instance, in Victoria, you can visit Youth Centralhttp://www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au and the Office for Youthhttp://www.youth.vic.gov.au

Reach Out! – youth issues – drugs, sex, relationships

Lifeline 13 1114 – confidential telephone counselling and referral service to other free and low cost services

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 – (5 – 25 years old) confidential telephone and email counselling http://www.kidshelp.com.au


Books for International Students

You may like to try and obtain a copy of the following books

Understanding Australia – a guide for international students (highly recommended)
ISBN 0521541999
Recommended Retail Price $24.95
Author Sally White
Published November 2003
Publisher Cambridge University Press Australia http://www.cambridge.edu.au
Link http://www.cambridge.edu.au/UnderstandingAustralia/index.htm?isbn=052154288X

The truth about being an International Student
ISBN 0975739905
Recommended Retail Price $24.95
Author Claudia Doria
Published 2005
Publisher Globally United Publishing http://www.globallyunited.net
Link http://www.globallyunited.net/ebook.htm

Home-stay Australia – A guide for international students staying in Australia
ISBN 0975746502
Recommended Retail Price $27.00
Author Joan Denison
Published 2005
Publisher Winning Advantage Publishing
Link http://www.homestayaustraliabook.com