Your first year at university is already stressful enough, but it can be especially tough when moving from a different country. There are a number of colleges in Melbourne for international students, such as University College which provides the perfect transition from being completely dependent on family to being almost completely independent. When I first arrived at the college I had already made up my mind of what to expect, however overtime I started to realise that University College has its own unique culture. There is a high presence of pastoral care as well as educational support, but the environment also pushes you to grow as a person. UC also offers numerous opportunities for introverts, such a myself, to meet new people from a range of different backgrounds. Through these events I also realised that many of the people I was meeting were in the same boat as myself, sharing the same fears and worries about Uni (which in essence created greater comradery between many of the students). In fact one of the most comforting thoughts I had on my first few days was the realisation that almost no-one immediately felt at home. However, this quickly changed during my first year at University College and at the start of my second year at UC, I took on a new role of an International Student Representative.
With many international students, such as myself, one of the biggest changes moving to UC was the massive culture shock of Australia. With my new role I now look to help soften this blow for new international students. Each student generally reacts differently with some being more homesick, while others simply struggle to adjust to this more independent lifestyle. The main recommendation I always make too many of these students is to embrace these new opportunities. It is important to ingratiate yourself in the residential college to meet new people and become more well adjusted to residential college life. While it sounds scary, I personally found it was one of the most effective ways during my first year to fit into life at both University, University College and in wider Melbourne.
As an international student representative my main goal is to make sure that international students are able to feel at home at University College. This involves both personal support, as well as working with the residential college to make international students feel more welcome. For instance, this year I worked with the UC administrative staff and fellow international students to set up themed dinners. This means that every so often the dining hall would be decorated to pay homage to an international culture and a themed menu would accompany these events. Whereas in terms of the personal help I provide students, I always pride myself on trying to be available. I want students to open up to me and vent their frustrations. Who can relate better to an international student, than a fellow international student who has experienced it all before? Through these conversations I have been able to develop new avenues to help individual students become more active in the residential college community which can be from simply including them in conversations with other students, to getting them involved in event setups such as the themed dinners. My aim through these efforts is to provide a positive international student experience similar to what I experienced during my first year and my final hope is that the students I help will continue this tradition with fellow international students who come through University College.
Tzur Rochvarger (2nd Year Science Student)