On my first day of university after arriving in Australia, I walked into my first class and saw 20 students, all wearing different types of clothing and all with different accents. Where I came from, all my peers were from the same culture, the same country and the same state. My first two days at USQ were very hard. I was nervous to talk with my classmates from different backgrounds.
As I share these tips on building multicultural relationships, I can say that I am now in my third semester at USQ and have gained many friendships since that first day.
Coming into Australia can make you experience culture shock. Your classmates may come from a multitude of different backgrounds, but don’t be afraid of the differences you see and hear. Australia has a diverse population and university students are all different ages and come from different cultures, religions and nationalities. Embrace this diversity. Open your mind and start talking with your peers and sharing your ideas. It’s important to have an open mindset before building multicultural relationships.
Growing up in India, I was discouraged from engaging with people from groups different to my own. In Australia, however, it is openly encouraged to connect with people from various cultures, classes and backgrounds. I can now confidently talk with all kinds of people and I believe that I can communicate and work easily within my future work environment with the skills I’ve developed doing this.
I have learned so much from simply talking with all of my classmates. Try to make connections with everyone and put in the time and effort to get to know each person individually. Through sharing stories and helping one another with study, I have learned different methods of solving problems – and have developed new conversational skills as well.
Different cultures have different foods, and you can find all types of food and restaurants in Australia. Make sure you sample foods from different cultures with people of that culture!
I have tried most foods available in Australia. Before I arrived, I had never seen fruits such as kiwifruit, lychees, grapefruit, blueberries, avocado or dragon fruit. I had never seen vegetables like broccoli, shallots or pumpkin. Make it a regular event to share different foods with different types of people.
USQ and Student Life sometimes arrange multicultural events. These may celebrate the independence days of some countries or showcase different cultures or be food stalls. I attend all USQ’s multicultural events, and have enjoyed activities such as Indigenous dance and meeting different people from different cultures. It is a great way to connect with students in similar situations to you and learn the different customs and cultures of other nationalities.
USQ has a Multi-Faith Service to connect you to a faith of your choice or receive faith advice. I visited USQ’s Multi-Faith Service and was directed to a local Christian church to better connect to Australian life. Joining a local church, particularly one full of young people, including university students from different backgrounds, has helped me feel welcome and develop lasting friendships.
At church I get to share my experiences from my week with caring people. I also get to learn more about Australians by hearing about the circumstances they face. This helps me to learn how to face situations that I might come across in the future. The friendships made at church extend beyond the building, as there are often extra social gatherings that focus on getting to know one another better over a meal. The friendships that I have made also help me to gain knowledge about the future job market that I may enter.
To build multicultural relationships within Australia, it’s important to immerse yourself in the Australian culture and open your mind to new experiences. Be open, talk to your classmates, share your own cultural background and meals with your peers, attend events, and connect with your faith while learning and embracing the culture of your peers.
Studying overseas can be an exciting and rewarding adventure, especially when you know you’re not alone. For more information that will help you settle into life at USQ, check out these understanding and overcoming culture shock tips or read about how to make the most of your time in Australia.