When I first arrived in Melbourne, I was scared out of my mind. I would start living alone in a completely new country, which means that I would have to re-adjust my ways and behaviour to suit my new surroundings. I kept being told that it was a new chapter of my life – a fresh taste of adulthood. It was overwhelming at first, but I tried seeing it as a challenge that I’d face with this blind faith – that whatever happens would only help me become a better person.
Since I’m trying to avoid clichés as many others might have written similar accounts on their experiences in studying in Melbourne, here I’ve listed the lessons learned throughout my stay, which may also serve you as suggestions – for you to best enjoy your life as an Indonesian international student here (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter)!
(Disclaimer: results may vary!)
1. Research local culture. Google is your best friend. Ask your friends/relatives who live here about the differences between living here and your hometown. Find out about social mannerisms and unwritten rules before you set foot in this continent. This would help you along the way, as well as help you avoid the possibility of culture shock. (Side note: people in Australia tend to covet punctuality, and make sure you are informed about food items that you cannot bring into the country. Consider yourself warned.)
2. Don’t be too paranoid about racism. Melbourne takes pride in its diverse society. Most people I have encountered are tolerant and accepting. So, don’t be judgmental and keep an open mind. In that note…
3. Don’t be afraid to open your mind: To education, new ideas, and differing opinions. Challenge your values, and take comfort in the environment where discussion is encouraged. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll learn from others. Make room for improvement. You are allowed to disagree with others, but back-up your claims. You don’t have to conform to your peers. Learn to think for yourself, but also learn to respect other people’s perspectives.
4. Step out of your comfort zone, especially in class. Speak up, even if they don’t take participation marks. Talk to someone you don’t know in tutorials. Too many international students tend to stick exclusively to their own national group, often because they feel that: a) they do not have anything much in common with others, or b) their English is inferior. Refer to point 2, 3, and be confident. As long as you’re nice and friendly, you should have no problem having a decent conversation with practically anyone.
5. Open yourself to new experiences. Try meals you don’t usually find back home. Take up dance or martial arts lessons. Watch a footy match. Join any club that your heart desires, even if it sounds/looks ridiculous at first. Beginners are usually welcome. This is always a great way to meet friends with similar interests.
6. Soak in the culture. Buy your coffee at local cafes. Get lost in alleyways. Have a picnic at the park. Go to festivals and sit on the grass. Visit art galleries and museums. Watch local bands. Go to independent film screenings. Chat with the shop attendee. Every city, every country is unique and delightful in its own way; savour it.
7. Follow the rules. You’re a ‘guest’ in another country, so be a responsible one. Abide by the rules there and follow good examples. You involuntarily reflect your country’s reputation in your actions. Leave negative mentalities behind. With that being said, don’t fare evade. If you could afford to live abroad, you could afford to use public transport. Alternatively, invest on a bicycle, or go on foot.
8. Plan, budget, and prioritise properly. This takes practice. No one will wake you up to make sure you’re not late, or remind you to study, so you must rely on yourself. Set your alarm clock properly. Make schedules, and stick with it. Set reminders when necessary. Don’t procrastinate (much). Keep track of your balance. Know what to spend your last few hundred dollars on. Save up prior to lavish spending; get a part-time job if you want extra cash.
9. Stop converting prices to your own currency. Save yourself the heartache.
10. Know your strengths and limits. Get a major or take subjects in areas you’re interested in, not just because your parents tell you to, or because your friends are taking it. Don’t be afraid to pursue your ideals, but know when to be realistic. And don’t forget to push your boundaries: don’t take subjects just because they’re “easy”. Your parents have spent a fortune on your education; it would be better if you actually learn a lot from it.
Just remember, you’re being granted an opportunity that may substantially expand your knowledge, and change your life for the better. Your time at university, and maybe even in this country, is short and valuable; so don’t let it go to waste, and have fun while you’re at it!
Photo by author.