Life in a Foreign University | Australian varsities’ DIY culture intimidating, says Indian student at Macquarie University

My mother instilled in me the value of a university environment that nurtures creative thinking and promotes learning through self-exploration and inquiry, rather than a strictly prescribed approach. I set my sights on universities abroad, where the project-based, research-driven approach offers the flexibility to customise my academic journey with additional streams of my choice. Australian universities seemed like the perfect fit for these ideals. So I chose to pursue a Bachelor of Medical Sciences (a minor in philosophy) from Macquarie University, Australia.

My journey over the past one and a half years at Macquarie University has been a profound period of personal and professional growth. Pursuing a graduate course in medical science with a specialisation in neuroscience was initially challenging; I felt like I had been thrown into a deep pool without knowing how to swim. The university’s DIY culture can be intimidating, particularly when transitioning from a sheltered high school environment where success is actively facilitated by all around you. Suddenly, at the university, you find yourself navigating everything on your own. As an international student, you adapt to a new country, climate, accents, modes of transportation, and communication, and embrace a self-driven and self-reliant approach to your academic pursuits.

The silver lining in this process is the rapid maturation it brings. By the end of the first semester, I had become my own best friend. Confidence grew from the ability to trust myself and the knowledge that I could tackle challenges independently. The sense of independence that emerged added a creative and innovative dimension to my perspective. I began to view my subjects and course materials with an eye for possibilities. When confronted with a challenging lecture or topic, instead of seeking immediate assistance from professors, I honed the skill of self-teaching. In my time at Macquarie, I believe I have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and personal growth that is truly invaluable.

Getting a spot in Macquarie University

The admissions process at Macquarie University was a crucial and often stressful journey, but with the help of a dedicated counsellor, it became surprisingly simple. My counsellor guided me through each step and ensured that I met all the necessary requirements.

The process began with the submission of academic documents, transcripts and letters of recommendation. These documents served as the foundation of my application, demonstrating my educational background and the support of respected individuals who vouched for my abilities. It was important to ensure that these documents were accurate and complete, as they provided the initial impression of my qualifications to the admissions committee.

As I progressed, I had to submit my financial documents to prove my ability to cover the costs of my education. This step determined my eligibility for scholarships, financial aid and other forms of support. Additionally, I had to provide my IELTS score to showcase my English proficiency, a critical requirement for most international admissions. Throughout the process, staying organised and meeting deadlines were most important.

My top tip for future applicants is to maintain a detailed checklist of tasks, be aware of key deadlines, and stay in close communication with the admissions team or your counsellor in case of any doubts. Consistent follow-up and tracking responses are essential to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

I did not apply for a specific scholarship at Macquarie University, as they automatically assess students for scholarships. Fortunately, my assessment was successful, and I received the scholarship. I was delighted with this outcome, as it provided valuable financial support for my education.

Australia — the opposite of Delhi

I chose Australia as my preferred destination for further studies due to its reputation for offering high-quality education. Among the top four countries Indian students often consider, including the US, Canada, and the UK, Australia stands out with consistently high global university rankings, particularly in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. The diverse and inclusive campus environment was essential for me as an international student, and Australia’s openness to multiculturalism was a significant factor.

Additionally, the opportunity to work part-time during my studies and gain practical experience, as well as Australia’s post-study work opportunities, further solidified my decision. The country’s stunning natural beauty, along with its strong focus on safety, made it an appealing choice. These combined factors made Australia the perfect destination for my higher education, offering a well-rounded experience for international students like myself.

Moving to Australia was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The country, the people, everything felt so welcoming. But the biggest surprise was how quiet the suburbs were! As I came from Delhi’s constant hustle and bustle, the silence took some getting used to, especially at night. Funny enough, now when I go back to Delhi, the noise feels overwhelming. It’s crazy how quickly we adapt to our surroundings.

Even beyond the confines of Macquarie University, I encountered a remarkable sense of community. A recent visit to a centre of Service NSW (a government agency in the New South Wales state) stands out vividly in my memory. Arriving breathlessly, just moments before closing time, I was graciously welcomed by the staff, who went above and beyond to assist me. Despite the lateness of the hour, and the day being a Saturday, the inconvenience of having to correct my form multiple times, the woman behind the counter exuded warmth and patience, staying well beyond her scheduled shift to ensure everything was in order. Her kindness was truly remarkable—who would willingly extend their working hours, especially on a Saturday?

One thing about Australia, though, is that managing the cost of living as a student can be a considerable challenge, but I am fortunate to live with my family. However, I understand that many students, especially international ones, often face the additional financial burden of rent and living costs, which can be a significant aspect of their university experience. To contribute to my financial independence and make the most of my time in Sydney, I have taken up a couple of part-time jobs. One of these roles is working as an international student ambassador for Macquarie University. This job not only offers financial support but also allows me to represent my university and assist fellow students, fostering a sense of community and belonging. I have also worked as a part-time cashier.

How studying abroad changed my perspective

I never would have thought that studying abroad would have such a deep impact on my personal development and broaden my perspectives. My outlook on life has changed dramatically, enhanced by a wealth of fresh experiences and realisations. Having grown up in a multicultural environment, I believed I had seen it all.

However, acclimating myself to a new country, new city and new people has revealed a wealth of information that I was previously unaware of in a variety of subjects. I learn something new every day, which deepens my appreciation for diversity and broadens my perspective on the world. Interacting with people from different backgrounds and learning about their distinct histories, customs and social mores has been very enlightening and, most importantly, reassuring. The chance to participate humbles me.

(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring to you the experiences of students at different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences — students tell us how life is different in those countries and things they are learning other than academics)


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