It seemed like I prepared for everything before I left for my semester abroad in Perth, Australia. I felt ready for every situation — until I stepped into my first class. Immediately, I could tell this was going to be a very different education system from the one I was used to back in America. Not having a major decided when I was abroad, I took a variety of classes that interested me: animal science, exercise science, photography, and Australian indigenous studies. While all these classes were very different from each other, they had some similarities in structure.
Here are some tips on how to adapt to a new higher education system in Australia:
1. Expect a new structure of classes
In Australia, they expect you to be much more independent than what we are used to in the United States. There is a lot more learning outside of the classroom and you are expected to put more time into your studies independently. You are to take responsibility for your own learning and not to just wait for the course material to be given to you. In some classes, there may be less emphasis on the attendance and more emphasis on the work you are doing outside of the classroom. Overall, this could be a difficult change for some students, but you can always ask your professors for extra help.
2. Create support networks
It is important that you meet people in your classes to create study groups. I found most of my help from other students in my classes. Working in groups outside of class benefited me the most while trying to prepare for exams or projects. Forming connections with Australian students who are used to this kind of education system can help you learn how to properly prepare. Many students in Australia were very willing to help me with any questions and problems that arose. It is also a good idea to check out tutoring services offered on campus.
3. Realize that it’s okay to struggle
Adapting to a new culture can be very difficult, so if you are having issues figuring out a new education system, remember you are not alone! If you are having problems adapting, there are more than likely other study abroad students with the same issues. Reaching out to other study abroad participants can help you build support networks and build friendships. Always know that you have AIFS program staff and the international student office to help you with the transition to a new education system. These are support systems put in place for this very reason and are there to help you with any questions.
While a new education system can sometimes be difficult to adapt to, it is completely worth it! You gain skills to better further your education and to make you more marketable in future job searches. You have the opportunity to connect with locals and to make friendships to last a lifetime!