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How Studying English Before You Start University Can Set You up For Success

This article is sponsored by QUT College

While many students come to Australia just to undertake a university degree or English language course, there are some who do both. For anyone who’s ever considered boosting their English and academic learning skills alongside completing their degree, we reached out to two students studying at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and QUT College who are doing just that.

Meet Nay Aung 

After Nay Aung completed his Bachelor of Engineering in his home country of Myanmar, he considered taking his postgraduate education overseas. Knowing that Australia offered good job opportunities, and with family members already living in Brisbane, he decided to apply to QUT. 

Life in Australia

Nay Aung arrived in Australia for the first time in February, just before COVID-19 reached the country. He immediately noticed the differences between life in Australia and Myanmar; while he hasn’t yet found his favourite food, Mohinga, in Brisbane, he has been pleasantly surprised by the city’s transportation system. 

“In Myanmar, the traffic is terrible and it takes a long time to go anywhere,” he says. “There is less traffic in Brisbane and the bus system is so convenient.” 

Despite the differences in food and transport, Nay Aung says there is one commonality. “The people are the same – kind and friendly!”

Studying English through QUT College

Nay Aung chose to study at QUT because it offered a two-year master’s course in professional engineering that included 60 days of Work-Integrated Learning. He also understood that it would allow him to take advantage of the post study work visa.

As preparation for his university degree, Nay Aung decided to undertake an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program through QUT College. Among the many scholarships offered by QUT College, he was fortunate to be accepted with an English Language Concession, meaning that his EAP program tuition fees were reduced by 25%. 

The EAP program offers numerous benefits, including the ability to improve your academic writing, learning practical skills such as note-taking strategies and how to reference, building confidence in presenting in English, and understanding how to perform academic research. Nay Aung believes that the EAP program has also helped develop his learning style. He says it gave him the skills he needed to become a more active learner and to feel comfortable studying in an Australian university setting. 

“In Myanmar, the education is different,” he says. “The instruction is guided, and you just have to follow the guidance of the lecturer. In Australia, we have to study by ourselves and it helps you learn more.

“[The EAP program] helped with my English but also my academic life.”

Nay Aung’s hard work has clearly paid off. He recently received the Executive Director’s Award for Academic Achievement for getting the highest GPA in his cohort. 

Transition to online education

Having never studied online before, Nay Aung initially found it hard to adjust to online education and worried that he would struggle to focus during pre-recorded lectures. To his surprise, he discovered that the lectures were interesting and interactive. 

Despite being virtual, the lectures still required a lot of participation and involvement in group activities. Due to this, Nay Aung easily made friends with people from all over the world and enjoyed communicating with them through social media. 

“I would recommend my friends to study online,” he says. “I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.” 

Advice for other international students 

When asked to offer some advice to other international students considering studying in Australia, Nay Aung says:

“Brisbane is a really beautiful city and the people are friendly. But you need to change the way you study. You can’t sit back and just listen to the lecturer, you need to participate in group activities and ask questions,” he says. “I would also recommend trying Vegemite.” 

Meet Asayil 

Originally from Oman, Asayil was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to study overseas. The scholarship offered her a choice between Australia and the UK, and Asayil chose Australia for the warmer weather. She arrived in Brisbane in February, staying only two months before COVID-19 changed her plans and she was forced to make the difficult decision to fly back to Oman. 

Asayil is currently completing a Bachelor of Science at QUT, but studying online from Oman. She is also learning English through the General English program at QUT College, which offers her the chance to learn core skills like reading, writing, listening and speaking, and build her confidence conversing in English. 

Learning English at QUT College

Asayil likes the independent learning style of QUT College’s General English course. She says that learning how to manage her own time and studies has helped her mature academically. But Asayil’s favourite thing about the course is the friendliness of her teachers. 

“They don’t act like teachers but more like your friend,” she says. “You don’t feel nervous speaking to them because you don’t worry about making mistakes.” 

Asayil says the teachers also know a lot about the home countries of their students, making it easier to connect with them. 

Speaking of one professor, she says: “Not many people know where Oman is, so I was really excited to meet someone who knew about my country.”

Asayil was also very surprised to learn that students address their teachers by their first name. 

“In Oman, you can’t call the teachers by their first name. If you do, you will fail the class,” she laughs.  

Tips for fellow international students 

Asayil has some words of encouragement for students who are considering studying in Australia. 

“Don’t worry,” she says. “It’s easier than you think.”