In 2008 there were over 500,000 international students in Australia. That number has since fallen, but the industry is still worth almost 15 billion dollars a year to the Australian economy. Of these international students, few understand the perils that face them when they arrive in Australia. Here are some survival tips.
An international student aged under 18 is required to stay in homestay. This is a program where a student stays with an Australian family who should provide food and shelter in an appropriate space. Homestay costs the student money; the homestay provider makes money. Many providers take their responsibilities seriously and often become a student’s second family. Others do not treat international students very well.
Stories abound of students being made to sleep on couches, not being fed and being placed in homestay accommodation about 2 hours from their school. Before arriving in Australia, students should ask how far the homestay is from their school, and how many students are living in the homestay. If students are unhappy with their homestay accommodations, they can be changed when they come to Australia. A student does not have to live in a substandard accommodation. The homestay should be comfortable and healthy.
English Language Schools
English language schools range from well meaning and well credentialed, to money making enterprises of no educational value. Reputable English language schools are accredited by NEAS, (National ELT accreditation scheme.) If a school is not accredited by this organisation, it is not a suitable school for an international student. If the school is accredited by NEAS and students are not satisfied, they can complain to NEAS directly. Alternatively, students can attend other schools if they are not satisfied; there are many options, and another school may suit students’ study styles better.
To encourage students to come to Australia, many promises are made. One common promise is that the English language part of their learning will be of minimal duration. This is not necessarily true. Many schools and universities expect a high standard of English proficiency, and an overseas IELTS score may not be recognised in Australia.
A common saying in language schools is ” IELTS is easier in your country.” A student may therefore be forced to stay in an English language programme longer than expected. Students should ask detailed questions about this before coming to Australia.
Students under the age of 18 should be assigned a guardian when they come to Australia. Most guardians are very dedicated to their charges and very concerned about their welfare. However, guardians get paid per student and some have too many students to supervise adequately. Before coming to Australia, students and their parents should ask questions about their assigned guardians. The first question to ask is “How many students do they have under their care?”
Many students assume that their high course fees include text books. This is not true in many cases. Text books are often an added expense, and they are extremely expensive in Australia. A set of text books can easily cost over 150 Australian dollars. Before coming to Australia, ask if the price of text books is included in the course.
Compared to other countries, Australia has a very low crime rate. However, international students are often the victims of petty theft and minor crimes. Remember, major cities like Sydney and Melbourne are like big cities all over the world and require the same precautions. Be sensible, don’t go out alone late at night, keep valuables secure and take care when going out to bars or clubs. Remember that the legal drinking age in Australia is 18, and students should follow all the laws of the country if they want to stay.
Learn to Swim
The first place a student wants to visit in Australia is the beach. That’s natural. However, before going into the water, learn the rules, swim between the red and yellow flags and learn how to swim. Australian beaches can be dangerous, although shark attacks are very rare. International visitors are saved by life savers in Australia regularly because they don’t follow the rules and don’t know how to swim.
Students will get homesick; that happens to everybody when they are away from home. Many students spend their free time chatting on line, or emailing friends from their own country and this can make homesickness worse. Students have a wonderful opportunity to discover a new culture when living in Australia. Instead of staying in, go out and visit the tourist sites and ask your classmates to go with you. Remember they are just as confused and lonely as you are.
Many students are afraid they will lose their visas if they complain. This is not true. Students in Australia have the right to be treated fairly. If students are unhappy with their school, their homestay, or thinks they are being treated unfairly in any manner, they should complain to the school, or to authorities.
Keep in touch with family
Some students have so much fun in Australia, that they forget their family. Students should remember that their family loves them and misses them, so keep in touch.
Australia is enriched by the many international students living here, and in turn, they can have a fantastic cultural experience and education in the country. Most Australians are friendly so do not be afraid to ask teachers, friends or others for help. Enjoy your stay.