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‘No worries mate’: studying at UNSW extends well beyond the classroom

With Australia’s most diverse student population and a campus located in Australia’s most exciting city, UNSW offers international students a global experience alongside a world-class education.

Sydney: a global city full of opportunity
For newly arrived international students at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), experiences beyond the classroom can be as enriching as their academic studies.

Recently, a mixed group of students gathered on the University’s Kensington campus to learn the basics of Australian slang, demystifying the words and phrases like “ta” and “no worries” they’d been hearing since they arrived in Sydney.

Others have equipped themselves with essential safety tips for surviving Australia’s wild coast, and lessons are planned on workplace culture, sport and Australia’s public holidays. Such is the enthusiasm from students to know more about the Australian way of life that UNSW’s has newly launched Culture of Oz, a program that is being piloted in response to student feedback calling for more information about Australian culture.

Many students are attracted to UNSW for its location – close to both Sydney city and the stunning beaches of the Eastern suburbs – plus the opportunity of a rich experience. This includes excellent weather, a variety of sports, and access to a modern and vibrant campus, which is being upgraded in a major redevelopment. In addition to this, at UNSW, students are also given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local lifestyle and culture.

Creating a more enriching student experience
To ensure international students make the most of their time at UNSW, the University provides a range of services to help newly arrived students transition to life on campus. These include scholarships and awards, housing assistance, free campus-wide wireless internet, and free and confidential counselling, careers and academic skills workshops, as well as programs like “Culture of Oz”.

“Research shows that students have a much better chance of succeeding in their degree if they can make at least one social contact during their first few weeks at university,” says Georgia Blérot, Project Officer with UNSW’s Student Development International, a body which runs programs and activities to help create a more enriching experience for students.

“That’s why we spend a lot of effort in assisting newly commencing international students to settle in once they arrive.”

Even before they arrive in Australia, new international students can apply to be matched with a cultural mentor, an experienced UNSW student available to answer questions and provide valuable insight into studying at UNSW and living in Sydney.

As well as answering specific questions by email, mentors accompany the new students to a variety of social events, such as barbecues at the beach, cruises of Sydney Harbour and historic tours of the city.

“It’s quite a big challenge when you relocate overseas and you don’t have a social support network,” says Bettina Forde, a Law student and UNSW cultural mentor.

“They tend to email quite frequently in the first couple of weeks … But then they become less reliant on us, which is a really encouraging because it means they are settling in to university life.”

Fostering UNSW’s unique global focus
UNSW has one of Australia’s most diverse student populations, with students from more than 120 countries and a more than 60-year history of welcoming international students. This diversity is an opportunity for both Australian and international students to develop a global focus.

Student Development International runs a language exchange program where local and international students meet up and exchange language and cultural insights at events and activities throughout the semester. Cross-cultural links are also encouraged within the class. In semester two 2012, a record 700 students signed up for the program.

Recent NSW International Student of the Year, Zimbabwe-born postgraduate design student Stephen Chikazaza, says both his course work and social life benefitted from meeting students from many different backgrounds.

“We had a good mix of students, from Pakistan, Sweden, Indonesia, China and Australia. Everyone in the program had different design backgrounds; some had been involved in architecture, some in interior design and some in graphic design – that’s what also made it so interesting, to learn from my classmates as well as my instructors,” he says.

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