Over the course of one and a half hours, more than 90 delegates had the chance to ask international students about their worries and concerns.
Out of 15 suggested topics of conversation, employability got the lion’s share of attention, with students reporting that they struggled to secure internships and employment both during and after their studies.
“It’s a question of how we manage those differences”
“[Students] found securing employment and internships a challenge, because they felt they were in competition with Australian students and didn’t have enough local experience,” one delegate said.
But beyond support in finding a job, students flagged up the need to know more about employment rights in general, from superannuation to what ‘cash in hand’ means.
This is important also to avoid workplace exploitation, another theme that generated discussions at AIEC after Stephen Clibborn, University of Sydney, presented an international student survey in which well over half of respondents had reported being paid below minimum wage.
The need for more information was a thread throughout the whole session, with students almost unanimously mentioning that pre-arrival communication needs to be improved and built on, to provide more guidance on accommodation, course structure and generally about life in Australia.
Other students said mental health was their key concern and were appreciative of the services provided by the university but at first were unsure as to how to use them.
The main difficulties mentioned at the session were settling into a new country, managing parents’ expectations and the stress of the “ticking clock” of the student visa, and making connections – low English proficiency was named by recent arrivals as an added barrier.
Some international students said they found it difficult to integrate with the local students, but clubs and activities were mentioned as one possible solution. “I don’t know if clubs get talked about enough, but they are a really great source of social support,” said one delegate after the session.
As for the education system itself, some students said they found it difficult to adjust to its requirements, such as the need to participate in classroom discussions.
“Some cultures are more vocal and others less vocal, so it’s a question of how we manage those differences,” one delegate commented, while another drew the attention on the importance of making students aware of how they can make the most out of tutorial sessions.
Although the session covered worries and concerns, delegates also gathered positive feedback, as students reported feeling safe in Australia – especially so in large cities. A student from Nepal said he had chosen Australia over the US out of safety concerns.