I am writing this post to all international students who arrived alone in Australia for the first time and from totally different cultures and languages!
After Noni's post about her experience on first year of PhD, I eventfully decided to write the post I was thinking a while ago. "My first year of PhD", however my experience is a bit different. I think I did a very brave decision to come to Australia and do a PhD! And I just realize it now that after one year I can sit down and look back and observe myself struggling with all different sort of learning during the first year. I might even say, Last year for me was like the early months of a child in exploring the new world. Before coming here, I thought it's all about being a good student, which I always have been at least one step in front of all my peers. So I was not worried. My concerns began when I entered Brisbane and I met some young girls in college! I simply couldn't understand their speaking! I think language was the most problem I had during the first months. Before, I always thought my English is very good, well, in comparison to all other people in my country, that's right, but coming to Australia was absolutely a different experience. Specially because in my country the level of language you are speaking shows who you are, and I have spent years on improving my own language, and now, I see myself even some how poorer than a 10 years old in language.
So anyway, the first problem was loosing my confident on language. But this is just beginning of the story. I am coming from a totally different culture. After coming out of language shock and being able to have a look around, I found myself experiencing so many cultural differences. Even though in my culture I was a very independent person, I found it a bit hard to cope with the western view about friendship and communication.
Apart from all these, I needed to cope with new life style, new food, new ways of having fun!
I think the idea of "international student" is not only about being student, but about another life. You are like a 10 years old, who have a couple of months to fill the gap between 10 to 20.
I can imagine it still should be harder for undergraduate students who are coming from totally different cultures and languages. I don't know how many of these students we have at the school of psychology but I feel your pain! Being far from family for the first time, paying money to university probably through your parents and expectations of doing very well in exams, and having exams in another language. And these are beside all the things I said before. I can just say, well done! What ever you did so far, have been great! And you are so brave! I was living alone for ten years and I found it so hard to cope with the loneliness I encountered here, so I can imagine how hard it should be for a 19 years old. Now when I see international students in my classes I just feel like, how brave they are!
I know some coping skills (that I actually didn't use myself, as I was expecting myself to be far more stronger than that in the nearly third decade of my life) but I might write about it another time. Feel free to come and see me, if you wish! :)