Your passport to Australia
After you have carefully scrutinized Australia’s educational opportunities, decided on your preferred study destination in Australia and successfully obtained a student visa for Australia, for many of you, your visit to Australia will mark your first visit to the land down under. A variety of experiences await you and it’s quite natural to face them with a blend of both excitement and anxiety about the unknown. The challenge is to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to you. The benefits of being part of a multicultural student population and society in Australia will give you the chance to develop your knowledge and understanding of new cultures. Your time in Australia will be both challenging and rewarding.
For any student the process of successfully adapting to the rigors of a new study system in a different culture can be little difficult and can take some time. While academic success will be your main focus, you should make the most of the other opportunities that will present themselves to you for your greater personal growth and success.
Before you are ready to depart for Australia, make yourself comfortable by planning your initial days in Australia. Institutions in Australia help international students make this important transition by giving them an airport pickup, arranging for temporary accommodation and by giving them an orientation session. But before you leave, get to know Australia through the eyes of a student by seeking answers to the queries and situations you might face. Given below is a general checklist of items you should make yourself aware of.
Please note: You should check with your airline prior to departure to find out what you can and cannot take on board with you.
Important documents (originals in your carry-on luggage and photocopies in your check-in luggage)
• your valid passport with a valid Australian student visa
• your letter of offer from the Australian institution, your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE), confirmation of your airport pickup by the institution and your accommodation details
• attested mark sheets and certificates and work experience letters
• your birth certificate, credit card, ten passport size photographs, an international driver’s license
• important telephone numbers and addresses in India and Australia
• prescriptions to support your use of any required medications.
Check in Luggage
• Required clothing and footwear
• Backpack, stationery, blanket, bedsheets, pillow cases, towels, alarm clock etc
• Electrical appliances like music system, computer etc can be carried but carry valid bills along. Australian voltage is 240Volts which is same as Pakistan but you will require a different electrical plug or socket
Arriving in Australia
Before arrival in Australia, you will be issued a Customs Declaration form on the aeroplane. This form requires you to declare any food items or other items prohibited from entry into Australia. If you are carrying any of the items listed on the Customs Declaration Form, you will be required to declare them and pass through the Red Channel where an Australian Customs Officer will ask to inspect your goods that you have declared. If there is nothing to declare you can pass through the green channel. For information on import restrictions/ duty free concessions visit the quarantine website at www.aqis.gov.au and the customs website at www.customs.au. Please note that all luggage is x-rayed upon its arrival in Australia so make sure that you declare any items listed on the Customs Declaration Form.
If you have booked for an airport pickup, a representative of the institution will greet you. If you have booked for a temporary accommodation, you will be taken there.
Call your family who will be eagerly be waiting to hear from you. For ISD and STD calls you should use phone cards which are widely available from most shops in Australia. Inform your institution of your arrival and attend the orientation session given by your institution.
When you arrive at your institute, please collect your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) receipt. This is required to collect your card from the local health cover office. Confirm your OSHC at the nearest Medibank Office or its customer service centre. You are covered by the health insurance from the moment you arrive in Australia.
As an international student, you can apply to the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) for a permit to work 20 hours per week during your studies and work full time during vacations. Current application fee charge for the work permit is available on the DIAC website. You can only apply for a work permit after your arrival in Australia and you cannot work without obtaining one. Please also remember that international students who work have to pay Australian taxation. This has to be kept in mind while filling in an employment declaration form before starting a job. You will need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) and submit the TFN Application Form to the Australian Taxation Office. You will also need the TFN while opening a bank account. See: Information on how to apply for a TFN.
Exchanging Foreign Currency and Opening a Bank Account
Australian currency is the only acceptable mode of cash payment in Australia. Foreign Exchange facilities are widely available at all international airports and through banks operating in Australia. It is also a good idea to set up an Australian Bank account so that you can organise any transfers of money into your account by a direct bank transfer. To open a bank account you will need to fill out a bank application form and submit your passport, student ID and your Tax File Number.
The normal banking hours in Australia are from 9:30am - 4pm, Monday to Thursday and 9:30am - 5pm on Fridays. All universities would have a branch office of one of the major Australian banks located on or near their campuses. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widely used in Australia for after hours banking. Both Credit and Debit (EFTPOS) cards are widely accepted in most shops.
Student Visa Rules and Regulations
Your Australian Student Visa has a number of important rules that you need to adhere to while you study in Australia. Remember, it has been issued to you so that you can advance your educational qualifications. The key rules for international students to remember are:
• you are required to study full-time in Australia
• you must attend at least 80 percent of all your scheduled classes to maintain a valid enrolment (education institutions are required by law to maintain attendance); • you must advise the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) of any change in your address in Australia, or any change in your student status, or any transfer to another educational institution or if you withdraw from the course that you are enrolled in
• do not work more than 20 hours per week during your semester studies; and
you must extend your student visa before it expires if you are intending to stay in Australia after that expiry date.
Please remember that any breach of the Australian Student Visa conditions will result in its cancellation and your departure from Australia.
Adjusting to study and life in Australia
A different country means experiencing a culture that is different to the one that you are used to. It is normal to experience a form of “culture shock” initially but this will pass quickly. When in new culture it is a good idea to observe the habits and customs of other people for they may express their feelings differently from people of your own culture but it is also important to have confidence in your own traditional values. Learn about the Australian social and educational culture.
• Australia is one of the most multi-cultural societies in the world. Over 20% of Australian citizens were born overseas and they are drawn from over 200 different nations. Around 20% of Australians speak a language other than English in their home. Although it is predominantly a Christian society, all forms of religion are represented in Australia and they are freely practised.
• Australians are generally friendly, direct and informal in their dealings with each other. Australian’s believe in equality and a “fair go”. People who work in non-professional or “blue collar” jobs such as cleaners, bus driver etc receive the same respect as those who work in professional jobs. Also it is illegal to discriminate against others on grounds of race, gender, religion etc.
• Punctuality is important, therefore if you are running late, you should always inform whom you are meeting.
• People in Australia form queues to buy food, wait for service from a bank teller, to board a bus or train and it is impolite to push ahead of someone already in the queue.
• People often use the first name, even with respected elders.
There is a lot more you will learn about Australian people but be positive, be flexible and try to adapt. Listen, observe and ask whenever you are in doubt.
The method of study in Australia may be very different to what you have experienced so far. Therefore it is important to give yourself a head start. Keep up to date with Australian news and current affairs (try Australian news websites such as www.abc.net.au) and become familiar with Australia’s education system and learning culture. When you arrive, practice listening to the Australian accent - it is different but you will soon understand the local terms and way of speaking.
In Australia, students are expected to conduct independent research, collect and analyse data by themselves or in-groups, to raise questions, to participate in discussions and debates with other students and teachers. Rote learning does not exist and students take an active part in the learning process. Students spend a great deal of time in libraries and laboratories conducting their own research. To be a successful student you will need to adapt to these new methods of learning and assessment. Students are assessed continuously through essays, presentations, tests, assignments etc. One thing that may surprise you is the amount of access that you will be able to obtain with your tutors and lecturers. If you are having an academic problem, discuss it with them - don’t let it develop from a minor issue into a major problem for you.