What to do as an International student in Australia - First few days

By Albert Soewongsono

Albert at the Maths building at ANU

G’day everyone, I was thinking to continue writing notes on my experiences studying in Australia. Today’s topic is about a couple of things you need to do on your first few days on campus as an International student. I know these things I will pin down can differ between universities and countries as well as faculties, so I want to let you know that this article is mostly concerned with a Masters degree at the Australian National University (ANU). But hopefully some other things are still useful for you. Feel free to share this note if you think this could be useful as your reference for studying abroad.

1. Make yourself familiar with university’s buildings and routes

I think this point should be on top of the list since it is very important for you to get familiar with your campus. Some universities like ANU are very large, and it takes time for you to know every building on campus. So it is highly recommended that you explore your university and college during your first few days. If you still have jet-lag or you arrive late in the afternoon, you can take rest first, and start exploring on the next day. Also, it is a good idea to test every option of getting to Campus, such as walking or taking a bus.

2. Get a head-start on your academic stuff

Before classes or academic-oriented activities are being held, you can consider this point to make yourself pumped from the beginning. Trying to set up an appointment with your lecturers can be a great idea that will lead you to familiarise yourself with academic process on your campus. Academic curriculums in universities overseas can be really different with the ones you had at your previous university. For example, academic curriculums in Indonesian universities are not the same as Australian universities. If you don’t figure it out early, it can lead to confusion and it would be even worst he if you academic schedule starts and you haven’t yet figured out the academic process in your new college. From my experience, academic staff, like lecturers, are really open to just talk with you privately and answer any academic-related questions. You might not be able to get all the things you want to know clear before you really experience them, but to know small portions of academic process before being officially explained can be great and definitely can increase your confidence level and reduce the probability of being confused with the system. Also, some universities might not allow enough time to explain academic systems or related topics to their new International students. ANU has one week of orientations called O-Week for new students, but other universities might only have a day or two.

3. If you are a government sponsored student, complete every step needed for your administration process with your sponsor as soon as possible

Before I start explaining, I am aware that the administration process differs from one scholarship to another, so please let me use my example with LPDP, a scholarship provided by Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance as the example (http://www.lpdp.kemenkeu.go.id/). The first thing you should consider doing is to open a local bank account. Scholarship providers like LPDP need your new bank details for them to transfer the funding to your account in local currency. If you are a future ANU student and also a LPDP awardee, you may consider Commonwealth Bank as the bank is very accessible since they have more branches in Canberra than the other bank (I got this information from my fellow Indonesian friend who is now an alumni from the university). To make you more convinced, the bank is also located on campus, at Union Court to be exact and they open from morning to afternoon. The only documents you need to show are your passport and your CoE and the account will be set up for you. For LPDP awardees, once you have opened the account, do the funding requests on SIMONEV as soon as possible and you are now eligible to do the requests because you only need to scan your boarding pass, your CoE/LoA, your arrival stamp, and of course your new account.

4. Enroll in courses and collect your student card

This step is definitely one of the things you should not miss in your first few days. In ANU’s case, you are eligible to collect your card in Student Central once you have completed your enrollment for the first semester on ANU's version of online academic system for students. The reason why you are requested to complete the enrollment first is because the step will determine whether you are a full-time student or a part-timer. At first, you might be trying to be careful when choosing courses, but it is normal and I also felt the same way, but here are the options I can suggest that hopefully can help you to decide.

In ANU’s case, you are allowed to drop or swap courses before the census date which is the last day for you to complete the enrollment process. You may want to take the second point I pinned down above about contacting your lecturers in your department to seek for their advice, and trust me, their advice is really helpful. If you don’t enroll as soon as possible, you may encounter one of these situations.

  • You cannot get a concession for using pubic transports as a student. At ANU, student’s fares for buses are cheaper than the regular ones, and to be eligible for the concession you need to have your student card.
  • You will waste more time waiting in line to collect your card while there is a bunch of other useful things to do during O-Week. It is a good thing to get your card ready as soon as possible.

5. Expand your network of friends

There is no better thing than make yourself as comfortable as when you are at home. One of many ways to do that while studying overseas is making new friends. It could be from your fellow scholars or the locals. And to do it, you need to be proactive in initiating conversations.

It has been a quite long writing from the beginning until the end, so I think this is the right moment to stop, but I will keep continuing to make other notes soon. Again, please take any points from this writing you consider useful and drop some that don’t fit with yours.

Want advice for passing IELTS? See Albert's tips here