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The Work Starts: New Academic Culture

Shelly, an alumnus of the University of Wollongong says,

"The way I was taught in Malaysia was to memorise all the things, but in Australia, I was made to think, analyse and be critical. At first, I had to force myself to be learning that way, but in the long run I really appreciate the new teaching. The culture of Australia's education system helps me to develop critical and creative thinking"

By now you have probably started to participate in your class debate or gotten used to address your lecturers by their first names. As you may have probably realised that those are all part of the Australian academic culture, which may come as a shock to some international students. 

Don't worry too much if your friends have adjusted to the new culture, while you are still struggling with it. Getting used to the Australian way of teaching and learning can take some time and adjustment and that you will do so at your own pace.

Getting the Help

One thing you have to remember that you are not alone in trying to cope with this new culture. You have all the help you need just don't be shy to ask and don't wait until it's too late!

Help from Student Counsellors
Most institutions have student counsellors on campus, who are there specifically to help new and continuing international students with academic skills. There are also free workshops throughout semester, covering topics such as Academic Writing Styles, Referencing, Giving Presentations, etc.

However, whilst the counsellors may help you with your assignment, they are not there to COMPLETE your assignment you still have to work on the assignment yourself.

Help from Your teachers
Approach your teachers and lecturers early in the semester if you have any difficulties in keeping up in class, perhaps with the new style of teaching. Don't wait until you are a sinking ship! Most students wait too long to come for help.

Take notes on how to contact your teachers outside class times. Check out their student consultation times or try emailing them. Just remember that it is not a custom in Australia for students to contact their lecturers at home.

Help from Study Groups
Study groups can help not only with your course, but also with settling in Australia and meeting new friends. Furthermore, talking to students your own age will encourage you to develop and talk about your own ideas more freely, and help you become more vocal in class. Look around your classroom for the reliable students to form as a study group.

Start with a small group of students, ideally 3-5 people, and make it diverse for a richer decision-making process.

Having dealt with the new academic culture, it is important to remember that the Australian education system is recognised as one of the best in the world. It has high standards of teaching combined with world class educational facilities and resources. Its way of approaching education offers countless students the benefit of innovation, creativity and forward-thinking.

So, just keep reminding yourself to keep a positive attitude in approaching this new culture, and you will see the rewards at the end. 

Until next time,
March 2005