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Seeking help from international student communities

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5 minutes

Studying abroad can be a rewarding adventure. You get to immerse yourself in a new culture, learn a new language, and meet friends from all around the world.  

But sometimes, it can be difficult for international students to find a sense of belonging away from home. Upon arriving, many students also have to navigate a different education system, search for accommodation in an unfamiliar housing market, or find work to cover the cost of living.  

In this, it’s important for international students to know where to look for help. In this article, we’ll explore a few ways to find academic, financial, and community support while studying abroad.  

Let’s take a look: 

How to find a community abroad 

Upon landing in a new country, the first thing many international students want to do is meet new people. Of course, this isn’t always easy – but becoming involved in community activities can help. 

At the beginning of each semester, universities often host a student orientation week. During this week, there are lots of different activities – including fairs, movie nights, and concerts. Because of the pandemic, a lot of these events have moved online. However, they can still be a good place to meet local students and other people in the international student community,  

That said, some universities have decided to continue to host smaller events in local parks. Others have even designed new spaces for students to meet outdoors while staying socially distanced. 

Orientation week is also a great time to learn about student-run organizations on campus, such as newspapers or volunteer groups. Again, some of these organizations are currently hosting online meetings or gathering outdoors. But whatever the case, they can still make your time abroad memorable – and help you build an international experience that’s relevant to your career. 

Don’t underestimate the power of social media, either. Try searching on Facebook for groups of international students in your city. Lots of people in these groups post community events or plan low-risk meet-ups in person. Attending these are an excellent way to make friends in a new city and find a sense of belonging. 

Remember: COVID-19 guidelines are different in each region. Always follow the recommendations of your local health authority to stay safe and reduce the transmission of the virus. 

Academic support 

Most universities offer international student support. If you need help applying to university, checking language requirements, or getting a visa, your institution should be able to help you answer any questions.  

Once you’re enrolled as a student, there’s also on-campus support. You can expect to find things like:  

  • Language support through workshops, conversation groups, or individual drop-in sessions 

  • Study skills programs to help you better engage in class 

  • Mental health and counseling  

  • Employment services 

  • Mentorship programs 

  • Accessibility services and academic accommodation if you have a disability

Financial support 

Depending on where you’re studying, you may not be able to work on a student visa. Or, you may only be allowed to work a few hours every week.  

Your university could be able to assist you financially through:  

  • Fee deferrals 

  • Food and accommodation support

  • Medical support

But, always make sure to check with your university directly to see if they offer financial support for international students.  

You might be interested in our articles: scholarships for international students in the UK and scholarships for international students in Australia 

Housing support  

Universities usually provide on-campus housing to international students. Having a place to live makes arriving at your destination a little less stressful. Living on-campus is also a great way to make new friends quickly.  

Of course, you can also choose to live off-campus. Most universities have a dedicated webpage to help students find a place to rent. It’s also a good idea to ask around to other students about the best apartment rental websites – as these vary by city.  

Keep in touch with home 

Lots of international students feel homesick, at one point or another. So, it’s important to keep in touch with family and friends in your country. Whether you organize weekly family Zoom meetings, or send updates to your friends on WhatsApp, chatting with loved ones can remind you that you’re still part of communities at home. 

It’s also a great idea to stay up to date with the news at home – either by reading online or listening to the radio. And while you’re at it, there’s plenty of news outlets targeted toward the international student community, too. University World News is a good one, for example.  

To learn more about studying abroad, don’t forget to check out our blog.  Whether you’re headed to Malaysia, Australia, Canada the UK – or anywhere else – our articles can support you along the way.