Over the past 13 years of working at Langports, and all the years before that growing up around International Students, I have observed students of all ages and all nationalities adjust to their new lives in Australia. Some adjust without any difficulty at all, whilst others find it very difficult. The reality though is that most International Students are going to have times where things are not so easy and when it is harder to stay healthy.
I’ve identified what I believe are 4 key areas of wellness for International Students to look after. I’m going to take a brief look at each area and offer some tips and ideas to help. These 4 key areas are:
* Mental Health
With a new life, come new experiences and new priorities. In many cases one of the first things to drop off the list of priorities for International Students is their physical fitness. Adjusting to a new city, to a new language, to study, to new friends, to working can be exhausting and leave very little energy left over for going for a run or going to the gym.
You should make this a priority to stay healthy. Not only will you feel better physically, but you’ll be mentally sharper and have more energy for all of those other priorities.
Staying fit in Australia doesn’t have to be expensive or either. There are many free fitness events like Parkrun, which is run all over the world. Find your nearest Parkrun here: http://www.parkrun.com.au/events/events/
Langports offer discounted gym memberships to our students also. Just ask our Recreation and Community Engagement Officers in each school for more details.
Lastly, Australia has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activities. Exercise doesn’t need to be confined to the gym. There are so many parks to explore, bushwalking trails to enjoy and other outdoor adventures to be had. Just get outside and make the most of your surroundings.
This is a big one, and many International Students find this hard because of a number of things. Firstly, in the case of many students, the food in Australia is likely to be different to what they would typically eat in their home country, and often the mealtimes and types are different. For example, in Australia, people usually have their largest meal of the day in the evening, instead of in the middle of the day.
Another factor in this, is that for many students, once they are living in a sharehouse or apartment, it is the first time that they are preparing their own meals. Many International Students find it easier to buy high-carbohydrate foods like bread and pasta or just snack on easily available junk food.
With this freedom, parties and alcohol often become a factor. Unfortunately, regular binge-drinking is often part of life as an International Student and this can cause all sorts of problems for health nutrition habits. It is very difficult to make good food choices when under the influence of alcohol, and late night burgers and kebabs become the norm and make it harder to stay healthy.
Eating well in Australia doesn’t have to be difficult. One of the keys is meal planning. Spend a few hours on the weekend planning and preparing your meals for the next week, and you’ll find it much easier to stay in track. A good place to get started is here: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well/tips-eating-well/meal-planning
It doesn’t have to be expensive either. In addition to supermarkets, Farmers Markets are a great way to buy fresh fruits and vegetables direct from the farmers, often at much cheaper prices than in the supermarket. Find your nearest farmers market here: https://farmersmarkets.org.au/find-a-market/
Sleep is often overlooked, but also very important. There are challenges here too… different timezones to family and friends, parties, jobs, Netflix, noisy neighbors, the list can go on. It is commonly accepted that the optimal length of sleep is from 7-9 hours. Whilst this may be difficult for some, just be aware and don’t burn the candle at both ends for too long, otherwise you’ll find things will get harder.
This topic could make up a whole series of blog posts in itself. Here, I’m going to pick out a few less obvious things to watch out for and to understand. Of course there are going to be times that you will feel homesick, suffer from culture shock, feel lonely and isolated. These feelings are common and almost every International Student will experience some or all of these during their time living abroad.
What many people don’t think about are the things that come about because you are living a life in another language. There are parts of your personality that you may feel unable to express in English. Maybe you are hilarious in your language, but don’t have the confidence or vocabulary in English to be the same way. Maybe you are outgoing and friendly, but can’t express yourself. This can be very difficult to deal with. Others may deal with struggles in making new friends. Friendships are often formed through necessity, and people that you become friends with are maybe different to your normal circle of friends back at home.
Ways to combat any mental health issues have already been outlined above. Keep active and fit, eat and sleep well and you are giving yourself a great chance to succeed.
If you are feeling that your mental health is suffering, in Australia it is encouraged to talk about how we feel and about our problems. If you have someone close to you that you can talk to, then please do. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to talk to, please talk with your teacher or any other Langports staff member. In the event that you are still not comfortable talking with on of our staff, then please contact one of the organizations at the bottom of this link: https://allianzassistancehealth.com.au/en/living-in-australia/mental-health/
This blog post is by no means meant to cover the entire International Student experience, but is intended to show that your experiences are not necessarily unique and that there are others who may at time struggle too. Just know that there are many people in Australia that are friendly and supportive and are willing to listen and help.
If I’ve learned one thing over my life around International Students is that people are strong and resilient, and in spite of the difficulties, so many International Students are growing tremendously as people and becoming better versions of themselves.
Travelling, studying, and how to enjoy them both! http://www.langports.com/22040-2/
Traveling – Leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. http://www.langports.com/traveling-leaves-you-speechless-then-turns-you-into-a-storyteller/
What does it mean to be an International Student? http://www.langports.com/mean-international-student/