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How international students can build quality postgraduate connections

James Davis

High-level study in a foreign country can be nerve-wracking, but there are several things you can do to make friends, build a network and enrich your experience.

No matter where you’re from or what you’re studying, there are several things you can do to make postgraduate study a more rewarding experience. With this advice, you’ll soon find your Australian study experience to be even more enjoyable.

The world is becoming more in need of multi-disciplinary approaches to problems. It’s normal for ambitious undergraduate students to join student clubs and societies relevant to their discipline, and we encourage this too! But as a postgraduate, there’s significant value in going the extra mile and introducing yourself to circles outside your own. This is not only a great way to meet new people and become more acquainted with your university, but learn more about other disciplines, the people in them and how you might be able to collaborate.

If you fancy yourself a bit of an entrepreneur, this will likely make a lot of sense to you! Many companies require a combination of finance experts, managers, programmers, engineers, technical writers, marketing people and more. Why not start seeing how all these elements can be reconciled from the get go?

If you see yourself as an academic, there’s still plenty of value to be gained from cross-disciplinary conversations. The way a psychology postgraduate thinks may be different from a theoretical physics major, which in turn could be very different from someone writing a thesis on the effectiveness of Byzantine military tactics! Different approaches to thinking are the bread and butter of any scholar; by exposing yourself to different thinkers and maybe even reading their theses, you gain the opportunity to refine your own thought processes.

Students forming quality postgraduate connections

If you feel uncertain about the idea of joining a society of people you’ve never met, there are likely to be international student communities and societies around campus that can make introductions on your behalf. These are often more specific than merely “international student society”, however. If you’re attending a major university in Australia, there’s likely to be a society specific to your country of origin. These are a great way to get a foothold in university culture if you’re still finding your bearings and can help you branch into the activities mentioned above. Your university is also likely to have support services specific to international students if this doesn’t appeal to you. So whatever your situation, you’re not alone!

Making solid connections amongst peers is fantastic, but at the postgraduate level you’ve got a premium opportunity to know your professors. Many postgraduate degrees have tighter-knit cohorts, giving you a better chance at talking to your professor and learning more about opportunities in your field, be they academic or professional. Much can be learned when you have coffee with a professor armed with a list of questions! At many universities, professors for postgraduate seminars spent time elsewhere prior to teaching and/ or research, be it the public or private sector. If they’re teaching you, they’re likely to have some fantastic experiences and stories to share.

The people you surround yourself with during postgraduate study are an important part of the experience, especially as an international student. After all, if you’re going to study in a new country, you may as well meet plenty of new people! If you make these social activities a part of your busy schedule and do so with purpose, you’ll gain so much more.