By Inna Tevi
Inna Tevi is an international student from Russia, who writes her own blog Innagram. This article is originally from Inna’s blog, and she was kind enough to share it with us here at Insider Guides.
Mistakes that I’ve made and things that I’ve learned.
Hey guys! I am finishing my degree very soon and today I would like to share my uni experience in a foreign and challenging, completely new environment.
If you are an international student or considering to study abroad (e.g. In Australia), this post may clarify something for you and you’ll get ready and prepared. Also, if you are an international student, and you are struggling with your studies – you may find some tips and support here.
If you are an D or HD student, this is not for you. This post is for those who are struggling with the study. Just like I did.
Before I started my master’s degree, I was studying for my Bachelor of Business and Management in Tourism in Russia and my education process was completely different from master’s degree in Sydney. We did not have massive study load. Turnitin (the online university assignment submission tool) did not even exist back when I went to uni. It was a long time ago, pretty easy and different comparing to what I am experiencing now.
Different environment, foreign language, different requirements, a different system of grades and approach to study. Everything is very unfamiliar and scary.
Besides that, I finished my bachelor 8 years before I started uni again in Sydney. So you can imagine what you remember after 8 years. Pretty much nothing, but some common concept ideas.
Starting a new student life in Sydney, I struggled a lot trying to manage my full-time study, understanding what are they saying and adapting myself to the life in the other country.
My first semester was pretty bad. Studying was hard, spending hours at the library, reading all the textbooks and going to all the classes without skipping. At the end of the semester, I failed one subject and nearly failed another, which was surprising, extremely disappointing, sad and unbelievable. Something was wrong, well, actually, everything was wrong… And I was not sure what exactly.
I was shocked, I was crying, and I closed myself in the ladies bathrooms when I got my first midterm results, and mine was the lowest in the group of 60 people.
Before my midterm exam, I tried to Google how to pass the exams, however, I did not find any information that helped.
After a few semesters, I learned some easy steps and tips to manage my study better. I believe I was not he only one with this kind of problem and this information would help to some other students who struggle.
Then when I started to understand more, I felt like I was not good and smart enough to give the right answer even if I knew it. Furthermore, that stress caused some health problems that for which I decided to have counselling. UTS provides great support to the international students, you just need to ask for it and make an appointment.
Then I also reduced my study load, and I started to think that I do not care so much about high grades. I begun to feel better and even surprisingly even got better grades.
Now let’s talk more about assignments tips:
First of all, I would suggest getting motivated to know more about the topic you study.
- what can be interesting for you with this particular topic?
- how can you use it in your future life?
- how can this research could benefit you?
Find your motivation and grow the curiosity about the topic/subject. If you do this you will:
- do it better, and you will write a better ‘story telling’ kind of assignment.
- you will be more productive, will not procrastinate as much and hopefully use your time more efficiently.
- you’ll get your inspiration for studies.
You can try to visualise how the particular research will affect your career. For instance, you can impress your future boss with the results of your findings and with your hard work that you’ve done so that they will hire you for an exciting project or a dream job. Why not?
To improve the way you write in foreign language – read more, watch more educational videos and listen to the podcasts that are talking about your subject.
Get a book ‘On Writing Well’ by William Zinsser and use it as a tool. It refines the way you write. I’ve recently started to work on it and I understand more in writing now. Another good little book to improve your writing – is The Elements of Style by W. Strunk & E. B. White.
I still have a long way to improve, but I am working on it and I am inspired. I’ve found something that helps.
“Communication is an ancient way of getting information” (Kvale)
And it is working damn well.
Talk more to peer students, discuss the assignments, study together, ask each others about various theories you’ve learned and exchange the knowledge. I did not do that at the very beginning because I was too shy, and it was wrong.
Manage your networks, find new friends and do not forget to call to old ones. Socialise, attend the events and be proactive. Invite your classmates for lunch or coffee or whatever is interesting to you.
Another Assignment Tip – Make sure you answer the actual question that assignment asks you.
It sounds simple and even silly, but this is the thing that many people fail at. I was working pretty hard on one of my first assignments, and I almost failed it. The reason was – I was talking about the topic a lot, and I provided lots of findings. But, I did not actually answer the question that was the topic of the assignment.
That might be tricky. If you are not sure what the question is – ask a tutor. Or go to a librarian – they really can help!
Underline and highlight keywords
That is also something that helps you during the exam if you have a text to work with. Or, if you study a business case, an academic article or a textbook – you would not have to re-read it before the exam if you’ve forgotten something. Just see the keywords and you are the winner! Go straight to the main points.
So get a highlighter and add some colours!
One more thing:
Make sure your assignment has everything:
- A cover page
- Table of contents
- Appendix (if necessary)
It may look like the first 2-3 points of the assignment question are not necessary and not important. Why not get straight to the point?
But I was incorrect, and I lost marks because of such a silly and straightforward thing as a 2nd and the 3rd points.
Also, make sure you organise a beautiful structure even for the short assignment. It has to be easy to read and well-presented.
Understanding the main theories and academic articles is the key. You obviously have many of the key theories that you are going through in the subjects. You have it in your assignments, on your workshop tasks and exams. But what to do if you struggle to understand how the theory works?
You read and reread a super smart academic text many times, ask tutor various questions, but you still do not get the point? That can happen. This hhappened to many of my peers and me. Sometimes you can not even understand a subject in your language, so foreign language explanation makes it even more impossible.
Well, the trick that helped my peers and me when I’ve shared it with them is to watch youtube videos. Type in the youtube search the topic of the theory. For example, ‘balance scorecard’ or whatever it is, and you’ll find lots of various explanations, including lectures, cartoons and more. Those videos are ridiculously easy to understand. I wish I knew about it from a long time ago. I’ve used those to understand the concepts for the last couple of semesters. Sometimes you do not even need to read the article lol. No, it is still better to read it – it will give you more details and improve your skills in writing in the academic language.
Use Grammarly (for some uni students it is free, otherwise, get a free trial). Grammarly is a tool to check the spelling. It also explains why it is is a mistake and will offer a correction. Grammarly helps a lot and works well. To go further and make a better correction – you might need to book a session with a librarian at your library, which should be free. In my university (UTS) there is a librarian to help available by an appointment and also we have HELPs services, which helps with your writings. They revise your assignment. Alternatively, you can look for a professional copywriter to review your work – for instance, there are plenty on Fiverr.com for only $5! Sometimes I use their help too. It actually helps you to learn how to write better. After you see which mistakes you normally do (they correct it), you understand your weaknesses in writings and as a result, you start writing better yourself.
Good luck with your studies!
Please note – this article has been modified slightly to eliminate grammatical errors.