Online learning programs have allowed international students to continue their studies during COVID-19 without having to leave their home countries. Now, with Australia’s borders opening, many students are ready to travel to Australia and immerse themselves in an international education experience.
But some students, concerned with potential delays with visa processing, booking flights and perhaps even anxiety regarding post-COVID travel, are choosing to start studying online as they assess the situation.
There are many benefits to starting your international education online – it’s a great way to get a head start on your studies, become familiar with the Australian education system and start to meet people in your student community.
What is it like studying online from overseas?
To find out more about studying online before studying on campus, we spoke to Alvin Candra, a valedictorian who has (so far) attended only virtual classes.
Alvin, 20, was meant to move to Perth in mid-2020 to study logistics and supply chain management. Extended border restrictions mean he’s studying online from his hometown of Bandung, Indonesia while he waits for the situation to change. So, Alvin decided to undertake a Diploma of Commerce at Canning College online. This offered Alvin the equivalent of first-year university studies while adjusting to the education system in Australia seamlessly from home.
He told us about his experience studying online, including a semester at Canning College where he was valedictorian of his graduating class. His successful completion of the Diploma of Commerce has earned him a place at Curtin University.
“My experience studying online at Canning was delightful, as a whole,” says Alvin. “It was the first time I’ve studied with everything online: group work, presentations and exams, as well as finding friends and connections.”
For Alvin, the chance to develop his communication skills in an English-first environment was particularly valuable.
“It was the first time I’ve studied in an environment where English was the primary language. It was good practice in adjusting quickly to new situations,” says Alvin. “I think it will help me with the transition to Perth.”
Alvin’s top tips for effective online study
We asked Alvin what advice he would give to students beginning their studies online. He has three key suggestions for anyone who wants to hit their first semester out of the (virtual) park.
First, you need to plan out your term.
“Time management is super important,” Alvin says.
Without the structure of in-person classes and a regular daytime schedule, it’s very easy to become too relaxed about your studies. That can mean stress when deadlines hit, says Alvin, making students feel overwhelmed.
But that doesn’t mean you need to work all the time.
“Schedule in regular study breaks and time to spend away from your screen. Having a good balance between relaxing and university is crucial for a healthy body and mind,” says Alvin.
Next, you need a comfortable workspace that’s free of distractions.
“It’s essential,” Alvin says. “I found it’s best to keep some distance between where you study and your TV or bed – and your phone!”
It’s normal to lose your focus from time to time, but creating a dedicated space is crucial to staying motivated when you’re studying at home.
Finally, Alvin’s most important advice is to pay attention to your mental health. Online study can mean you may feel disconnected from your student community. However, there are ways you can combat this. For Alvin, at Canning College, lessons are live and interactive, without the option of watching a recording afterwards, which is good preparation for in-person classes. Keeping your camera turned on and engaging with your teachers and fellow classmates is a great way to stay connected.
“I struggled with feeling lonely,” says Alvin. “It’s important to acknowledge what causes such feelings and face it, rather than running away from it.”
Talking honestly to other people, online and in-person, helped Alvin address this sense of isolation.
“Just knowing other students feel the same way, and sharing our concerns helped me tune out my loneliness,” he says.
Plus, as a student studying online, you can always turn to family and friends at the end of the day to discuss how your studies are going and have some social time.
What’s next after studying online?
Alvin is excited about his move to Perth and can start planning for life in Western Australia following the news that the border will open after 3 March 2022.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know people in person. And I want to explore Perth! Photography is one of my hobbies, so I’m keen to take lots of photos,” he says.
Moving to Perth will mean attending classes and doing group projects with people Alvin’s only met through a screen. He’s looking forward to it – despite some nerves.
“It will be more exciting to experience everything with all my senses, rather than through a screen,” Alvin says. “Hopefully it will improve my social skills and public speaking.”
As he waits for news about changing travel restrictions, Alvin is doing his best to stay positive.
“I have prepared my mind to adapt to what Perth has to offer, and to live alone far from my home,” he says. “I have to be ready to face all uncertainty the future holds, whether in Perth or the journey to get there.”
Are you ready to start studying in Australia’s sunniest capital city? Canning College offers quality pathways to university for international students. Whether studying with us on campus or online, every student has the opportunity to reach their academic potential.