Things to pack when you come to Australia as an International Student

This is a question we don’t put much stress until the last minute: what items am I going to fit in the 30 to 40 kilo weight limit? As soon as I had my University acceptance letter and student Visa in my hands, I thought stressful times are over, all I need to do was move. That bubble pooped a few weeks later when I was struggling to fit all my possessions in the weight limit and having to decide between what I need and what I want.

I think the first reaction when you are arranging your bags is that you need to take every single item a student needs for daily living. The reason for this could be because you are unsure what you need and what is available in Australia, and whether it fits your budget. I will break down essentials you need to bring and common items International Students tend to bring that you need to leave at home. If I had to do it all over again, I will start with a list. This way you know exactly what to buy and of what quantity. 

Don’t worry, let me help you with that list.

Stationery – Leave at home

If you are like me, you love your coloured stationery and have created the illusion you study better with rainbow study notes. Don’t worry, there is plenty of places in Australia to buy quality stationery for cheap. KMART is a great place to start. You can find a wide range of cheap stationery at your local KMART store. If you don’t mind splurging a bit more, head over to Office Works, my stationery go to stop. I am not sure if this is there in all universities, but UNSW (University of New South Wales) had a stationery shop, where you can get stationery for FREE. So in case you are running late to class and realised you forgot your pen, you can just head over the University stationery store.

stationery

Clothes and shoes – bring only essentials

Especially for girls, this must be the most important and difficult category to decide. You can find plenty of clothes and shoes according to trends and seasons right here in Australia. If you are coming for the February / March in-take, it is beginning of Spring. The minimum average day time temperature during this period is about 15 to 20 degrees. For those from colder countries, this is considered perfect weather. If you are tropical like me, this is considered brisk weather. Definitely pack your cardigans, sweaters and leg warmers, you will need it at touch down. If you are coming for the July in take, a thick winter jacket and clothes to keep you warm is a must. At least until you start to shop. 

You must pack a bath towel, a napkin, a bed sheet and two pillow covers as these are not provided and you need these right from the first day.

Cash in hand

cash in hand at australia

The amount of Australian dollar you need to bring depends on your circumstance. If you have any outstanding fees to pay, such as rental bond, tuition fees, be sure to bring this with you in form of cash or money orders, whatever is accepted. In addition to that if you are looking to take a post-paid or under-contract mobile plan, the service provider will request you for your bank statement with a minimum AUD 1,000 balance. If you don’t want such complications, you can opt for a pre-paid plan. 

If you are bringing over AUD 10,000 you will be required to declare this at customs. 

Prescribed medication 

If you have prescribed drugs, it is best bring that along with a prescription since you need to declare this at customs. You are allowed to bring three-month supply accompanied by a prescription. I’d suggest you do so because you may not find the same drugs in Australian pharmacies. However, there are substitutes, most of which are not available for over-the-counter purchase, and requires a prescription by an Australian practitioner.  

Don’t worry about adaptors

You can find any type of adaptors at any convenience store or electronic stores like JB HiFi. It might be a good idea to have one adaptor packed so that you won’t have trouble charging your electronics on the first day. Australia uses two flat pins in a V-shape as well as a grounding pin.

You can visit Australian Border Forces website to see what you cannot bring in to the country and what goods need to be declared.

Toiletries – bring travel size 

travel size toiletries

Toiletries are very heavy and can take a lot of space and weight. Let’s also not forget possible liquid explosions in the bag. You can find toiletries ranging from convenient store brands to premier brands here in Australia. Don’t waste your space and weight. Simply bring travel size bottles just enough for the first couple of days.

Food – no fresh produce, only packaged

All food items must be declared at customs. I think it goes without saying, it is illegal to bring any fresh produce in to the country. If you want to avoid the inconvenience of declaring, I’d suggest you avoid any food items. Since Australia is a multi-cultural country, you are able to find stores catering to different nationalities and products from your home-country. You just need to do a bit of research on where to find these stores. Alternatively, you can bring packaged food items provided it has a label with ingredients.

Cookware like a saucepan, cups, plates, bowls, spoons – leave at home. You can find everything here at KMART at affordable prices.

Sentimental and valuable possessions – only if it is essential

If you want to bring sentimental or valuable items which are irreplaceable or costly to replace, just bring only if it is essential. Only reason being you will have to take extra care of these items during your travels, shifting apartments and on a day-to-day basis. 

Finally, travel light

The 30 / 40 kilos you receive from the airline is plenty when moving to Australia for the first time as an International Student. It is always best to have fewer possessions as it will make your move comfortable. A typical International Student changes living spaces at least three times during their University period. It is very convenient to have less clutter and only essentials during these moves. Furthermore, student accommodation is not spacious, hence limited storage.  

I really hope this helped you to start planning your move. Let me know if there are any items that you would add to this list.

Until next time… 

Integrating with Australian Community as International Students

Research shows that most International Students interact with co-nationals. Whilst their best friend is also a co-national, they limit interacting with domestic students. This is understandable given that there is a certain level of comfort and commonalities communicating with people from your country.  It was found that International Student’s social life play an important role in their academic excellence. International Students are more satisfied with their University life if they have domestic student friends.

Before we go into How to improve interaction, we need to question Why; why most International Students fail at integrating with other domestic students?

COMMON MISTAKES

Stereotyping

As humans we are quick to reach conclusions about other people. Most are driven by the stereotypes received through media and friends. Stereotyping redirects us from value-adding interactions to close-minded conversations. It is like rejecting a delicious cake before trying it because someone else said it doesn’t taste good.

A general perception is that Asian students engage only with other Asian students. According to a research, this is not far from wrong. The Asian students interviewed had said they are friends with few or no domestic students as they feel domestic students are not interested in hanging out with them.

Fear of being misunderstood

Each culture has it own rights and wrong, ways and means and do’s and don’ts. International Students feel it is easier to engage with other students of the same beliefs rather than be misunderstood by another. While many Asian students claim they are interested in hanging out with domestic students, they fear the domestic students feel otherwise. They believe they have nothing in common and possible language barriers. Speaking of language…

Difficulty in communication

This may be a real concern for International Students whose English skills are not top notch. In ability to express themselves to domestic students withdraw their interactions. We see the same applying in a lecture hall setting where the class participation is greater amongst the domestic students as oppose to International Students. Some students are insure about their foreign accents that restrict them to converse with domestic students and limit their interactions to only co-national students.

A recent case study revealed, one of the test subjects (an International Students) said, “If you try to engage with them, you will have to understand the slang, the sense of joke. Sometimes, everybody laughs, I don’t really understand what is funny.” However, it was suggested that academic interactions were easy compared to social interactions.

Sticking to comfort zone

In my opinion, all this leads back to being in the comfort zone. There is always something familiar about being around same nationality as it is the closest thing to home. Most International Students are less involved class activities and spend more time studying in library. They prefer to be alienated as oppose to exposing themselves to active participation at lectures.

WHY INTEGRATE?

Then the question is why is it important integrate with the Australian community. It is said that associating with domestic students lead to psychological, social and academic benefits.

There are many phases of settling overseas as an International Student. One of the earlier stages is culture shock. Research has shown that integration with domestic students makes one happier. The reason being local mates help International Students to cope with culture shock by sharing local knowledge and helping them adapt to local experiences. Hence, being well-adjusted.

Furthermore, International Students can improve their communication and interpersonal skills through these interactions. The same can be extended to classroom participation and build confidence for future work placements and job interviews.

Even from University point of view, International Students are likely to  recommend their University if they have had good experience with domestic students.

HOW TO INTEGRATE?

As the Universities recognise the importance of multi-cultural interactions, there are many efforts done in this regard which International Students must take advantage.

Leave stereotypes at home

This is easy, just don’t have any preconceptions about any nationality. A study on preconceptions claimed  it is not uncommon for International Students to perceive domestic students as uninformed and disinterested in their culture. Even so, you should not fear and limit your interaction just because you believe other International and domestic students may have stereotypes about your nationality. As far as my experience, I have not had any unfavourable interactions with domestic students. They are welcoming and offers assistance whenever you require.

Participate in University clubs

University clubs are a good way to connect with domestic students with similar interests, and break down any barriers and a great conversation starter. Participation in club activities will improve your interpersonal and communication skills, help you to be updated with world issues and it will also look good in your CV.

Learn about the Australian culture

It doesn’t hurt to learn about the Australian culture, history and other interesting facts. You will then have information to start a conversation with domestic students or be able engage in a conversation with fellow students. Researching is not that difficult as there is plenty of information online and on YouTube.

Improve communication

This not only related to integration but also to improve your overall academic and professional years in Australia. If you believe in the need to improve your communication significantly, you can join English language courses. Speak to your University administration. Otherwise, there is no better way to improve your communication other than by practising. Take conscious effort to participate in classroom activities, engage in conversations in English and read academic literature. Remember, accents don’t matter – be yourself. Ensure your communication is clear, concise and slow paced for better understanding. If you don’t understand what is said by your counterpart, there is no harm / shame asking them to repeat.

Make the first move

You can always make the first move to start a conversation, invite a mate for dinner or grab a drink after class. Sometimes you need to put the extra effort to start a friendship.

Leave a comment down below if there are other ways for International Students to integrate with Australian community.

Until next time…