As an international student, transitioning into a graduate school abroad can be very challenging.These international students will not only have to experience academic but also non-academic transitions when they begin their journey at an overseas university. In this article, Yogi Saputra Mahmud, the Editor-in-Chief of Indonesia Mengglobal and a Monash University graduate, shared his experience in helping international students through his involvement at the Graduate Students’ Learning Hub at the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia.
My First Encounter with International Students in Indonesia
In 2011, I started my Bachelor of English Education degree at the Indonesia University of Education in Bandung, Indonesia. Unlike bigger universities in the country, there were only a few international students who studied at my university during that time. However, I was very fortunate to have two classmates from Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.
In the very first semester, most students experienced a considerable challenge in transitioning into the university due to the fact that the medium of instruction used in the program was fully in English. But then, I noticed that there were other students who experienced greater challenges than us. Yes, they were international students. They did not only face academic difficulties but also non-academic difficulties due to the striking differences between their language and culture and those of Indonesians.
To make it worse, some students felt reluctant to include these international students since they were regarded as “burdens” for the group, leaving them confused for completing the group activities. Therefore, whenever I had opportunities, I always invited them into group activities at the university. I always remember the classical quote “you reap what you sow,” and it led me to have a strong empathy to international students until my study experience at Monash University, Australia.
Graduate Students Learning Hub at Monash University: A Moment to Remember
My transition into the master’s degree program at Monash University was very seamless due to the exceptional support from the Faculty of Education through the Graduate Students Learning Hub initiated by the faculty and organised by two amazing lecturers, Dr Katrina Tour and Dr Philip Chan. The aim of the Hub is to assist the international students enrolled at the faculty to have a harmonious adjustment from their countries to Australia and particularly to the academic life at the Faculty of Education, Monash University.
The Hub also organised a weekly activity by inviting eminent speakers from the Faculty lecturers and scholars to share their strategies for international students regarding campus activities, self-development programs, academic programs, and some more parts of their study. To help organise the weekly activities and other housekeeping matters, the two organising lecturers were also assisted by the Student Leaders. They were past Graduate Hub mentees who had exceptional academic achievements directly selected by the organising lecturers.
From that moment, I recollected my past stories about helping international students at the Indonesian university. Therefore, after completing my first semester as a Graduate Hub mentee, I decided to apply for a position as a Student Leader at the Hub. I told about my experience assisting the international students during my undergraduate degree in my motivation letter to the organising lecturers. Long story short, I was finally accepted to become one of the Student Leaders at the Hub!
There were three Student Leaders being accepted for the 2018-2019 academic periods, Hakim from Indonesia, Irene from China, and myself. Both of my fellow Student Leaders were very outstanding, and I learned tons of things from them. We continued what the past Student Leaders had done but with some innovations offered into the Hub. For instance, we initiated “The Incredibles” award for mentees who managed to join the Hub sessions with 100% attendance rate. In addition, we expanded the peer-mentoring program to allow first-year international students to have a mentor to assist their academic journey at the Faculty of Education.
Of course, the best moments with international students at the Graduate Hub was having a barbie, an Australian slang that means a barbeque. We had a barbie at the end of the semester where we shared our achievements during the first semester and plans in the upcoming semesters or just small chit-chats about anything.
Eventually, most international students expressed their positive responses toward the Hub. Furthermore, the organising lecturers also conducted a study that revealed that the international students who involved at the Hub achieved higher overall grades during the first year at the Faculty of Education.
Lesson Learned: Elevate Empathy to Others
When I helped the two international students during my undergraduate degree, I always imagined that someday I would be in their positions as well. And I did not want to be left behind when I became an international student someday. I wanted to be supported.
Therefore, if you are a current international student studying overseas, it is always great to see your surroundings. Check if other international students need help in terms of academic and non-academic matters. The international students will greatly appreciate your help.
For prospective international students who want to study overseas, it is better to research some resources, facilities, or teams to assist your transition into university life. In addition, it is always a good idea to immerse in some clubs or organisations at the university to maintain your mental health and wellbeing as an international student. If your institutions have a study club or organisation like the Graduate Students’ Learning Hub at Monash University, do not hesitate to participate in the club.
Ultimately, if you have any insights, tips, or strategies to make the best of the university journey as an international student, do not hesitate to share these with the other international students. Remember the classical quote: “you reap what you sow.”
Editor: Dessy Nur Amelia