Being an international student can be challenging. Between being in a new country away from home and undertaking new studies, there is a lot to juggle. Add in meeting new friends, activities, travel and maybe a part-time job, and suddenly this list feels necessary. We hope these study tips help you make the most of your study journey!
Ideally you will arrive in Australia at least a couple of weeks before the start of your course. That will give you some time to get settled with your living arrangements, your new neighbourhood, potentially a job and any school supplies you may need. During your first week of classes, get your laptop organised (i.e. folders for different courses) or binders and notebooks if you like to have pen and paper for notes. Feeling organised will help you start your studies on a strong note.
See what your school offers in the way of support services. There may be information sessions, workshops, tutors, or relevant clubs and groups that meet somewhat regularly. Finding out what is available, so you can utilise it as needed, helps to set you up for success.
What do you want to achieve in your studies? Do you want to attain a certain grade? Do you want to commit to attending every lecture or handing in every assignment on time? Whether it’s big or small, having a goal can help you stay focused when your mind and body want to slack. We recommend setting S. M.A.R.T goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. And remember, if you fail to reach a goal – for example you are sick and can’t attend a class – then don’t be hard on yourself. You can still continue to work towards your goal, even with that little blip. That’s life after all!
A study schedule is beneficial as it gives you a blueprint for how you can reach your goals, and successfully complete your course. To create your weekly study schedule, start with your “contact hours” on campus. From there, add in the hours you will need to study to keep up with your course. Then you can add your part-time job if you have one, social events, time for relaxation, etc. As you create this schedule, be realistic about how much you plan to do each day. If you overschedule yourself, you will start to fall behind, which could add more stress. And in reality, you may need to update your study schedule after some weeks of trying it out and discovering what actually works for you.
What do we mean by “the right environment?” The one that is “right” for you of course! Some students like to study in a quiet library while others enjoy the background noise of a café. Some listen to music and others prefer silence. Figure out what works best for you and then do your best to study primarily in that environment. That is not to say you should always study in that place because we believe in the importance of switching it up. You may be surprised to find that partway through a term you are suddenly great at studying in a park under a tree so stay open to studying in new places, and keeping yourself engaged in the process.
Part of a good study environment is a place where you can focus. Phones are incredibly distracting – especially social media (hello scrolling). Many students are accustomed to having their phones on and with them 24/7 so this may be a bit of a challenge, but we promise it is rewarding. If you don’t want to turn your phone off then simply bury it in your bag for planned intervals. For example, commit to one hour of studying before giving yourself a 5-10 minute timed phone break. Or, if you use for phone for music while you’re studying, then put it on airplane mode with the wifi off so that no new messages or notifications can come through and distract you.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. If you plan to study for a full day, you will likely find that your focus diminishes significantly after some hours. If you want to do a full day, then schedule in breaks where you can go for a walk or eat some light food or connect with a friend. That way you can be fresh each time you return to your books or computer, and the information will actually find its way in and/or you can express the information concisely for assignments and projects.
For each chapter or topic you are studying, make notes summarising what you have learned. This helps you to lock in the information, and makes studying for a test that much easier because you can refer to the notes you have already created. If you have a friend in the same course, it can be helpful to exchange summaries.
Studying with others is a great way to bring freshness to your study habits. A study group gives you the opportunity to ask questions, pick up on key points you may have missed or misunderstood, and to make new friends. If you aren’t fully proficient in English, then having multiple people discussing the same subject can also help reinforce the teachings.
In class and outside of it, questions will help you clarify pieces of information you don’t understand. Oftentimes we feel nervous or shy that our question will be considered “stupid” but the truth is, if you’re thinking it, the odds are someone else is too. If you don’t want to ask in front of your class, then stay afterwards to talk to your teacher, or ask a trusted classmate.
If you ask a question but still don’t feel satisfied with the answer – or if you are too shy to ask a teacher or peer – then by all means, search for more information on the Internet. Although you likely have a textbook, you are by no means limited to what it says. Gaining a deeper understanding of a subject is a good thing, but do be careful about what sources you are referring to, as not everything online is accurate.
It is very normal for students to get stressed out, and being an international student adds another level of pressure because you are far away from your home and culture. That is why it is so important to take care of yourself by eating well, exercising, meditating, or doing whatever it is that keeps your stress levels in check.
If you feel like you need some more formal support for your stress then see what your institution offers in the way of counselling, Conversely, you can ring the following numbers for free professional support:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline (ages 5 – 25) 1800 55 1800
Remember one of our first points about creating a study schedule? We mentioned it then and we’ll mention it again: schedule in time for relaxation each week. Maybe it’s one afternoon or morning a week where you make sure you have no commitments and can just do whatever you feel like doing. Even better, if you can make one whole day a true vacation day each week that will give you more time to recharge. This is possible especially if you schedule your time well. If you are someone who worries that so much “time off” will take away from succeeding in your studies, then remember a clearer head will actually help you stay focused and make your study time that much more effective.
Building on the previous point, we think it’s important to plan some travel and holidays; after all, you’re in Australia! A holiday gives you something to look forward to when the schoolwork starts to pile up and feel really challenging. It can also motivate you to work harder while class is in session so you can be free to explore while you have a break.