Written by Charlene Phua
As an international student leaving home for the first time, I remember facing a mixture of excitement, but also anxiety. Would I be able to adapt to a new environment? Will I be able to find friends? How can I reach out for support – from academic to day to day living? Looking back at these anxieties, I’m thankful that I made the right choice to stay in a residential college environment, particularly University College, where I got to meet so many unique individuals from diverse backgrounds.
Here are my tips to help you settle into college life fast!
1. Participate in as many activities as you can!
To me, I think what makes college life stand out from staying in an apartment or other student accommodation is the myriad of activities that you get to immerse yourself in. 12 weeks in a semester is a very short period of time – so I told myself to seize any social opportunity I could get to not only meet new people, but to have one of a kind experiences that I can never have in Singapore. Some residential student activities that stood out to me would be the iconic UC Ball, as well as UC Gardening Day, where I got to witness first-hand how the daily produce we enjoy comes to life.
It’s not just the big events – seemingly mundane ones are also what makes the College experience unique. When I spoke with another newly arrived international student, Jasmine Leong, she said:
“I actually enjoy High Tables. I think it’s a good break from the normal dinners we have, and we get to wear cool gowns too.”
She also mentioned how she loves UC’s communal nature, and how she has always been able to find someone who understands her.
2. Be adequately prepared!
Think you know/will remember everything to pack? Think again! Back in February, I remember being knee-deep in work: finishing up an internship I was doing while juggling packing and organising documents required for the move to Australia. The packing list that UC sent me was a lifesaver, and featured what to pack and what’s best to leave out. It helped me save luggage space for the things I really needed.
3. Take full advantage of residential college facilities and support
I remember feeling amazed at the comprehensive facilities and support UC offers – from the dining hall with so much yummy food and free flow cereal and toast at all times of the day, to the friendly reception staff that help with anything concerning day-to-day living, to the comprehensive academic support available anytime (which was really useful for one of my weaker modules where I needed support).
These things may seem insignificant, but they are really blessings during times of need. Earlier on in the semester, I remember feeling down with a bad flu and had trouble carrying out daily activities. Having food and cleaning services taken care of really helped to ease the stress I was facing and allowed me to focus on myself to fully recover.
4. Put in the extra effort to make your room unique
After all, college is meant to be your home away from home, so make it a place you would enjoy coming back to every day. I always feel a sense of comfort whenever I step into my room after a long day at the University of Melbourne, knowing that a pile of snacks, cute soft toys from dear friends, and keychains along the side of my desk are there waiting for me. One’s room reflects one’s identity, and that is the same for Jasmine as well:
“My room definitely expresses who I am in college: it’s got posters, plants, and a LOT of food.”
5. Always keep track of your mental and physical health
We all know that university can be stressful, and I think it’s lovely that UC has many initiatives in place (such as Mental Wellbeing Week) to allow residents to take it easy and socialise with others. For me, I always ensure that my schedule has a good balance of work and socialising opportunities both in and out of UC – that gives me something to look forward to each week. Or even having some alone time and being comfortable with just having a chill day in my room.
All in all, college life can seem daunting at first, but it’s also one of the most transformative experiences of your life. Make full use of what college has to offer, and I guarantee you will have the best time!