Adjusting to a new culture - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Adjusting to a new culture

Studying abroad provides exciting opportunities to experience life in a different country and to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Adapting to a new cultural environment may involve learning new social customs, experiencing a different climate, eating different foods and establishing new friendships and support networks. For some students, speaking and writing in English full-time is a new and positive learning experience. Adjusting to anything new takes time and it is normal for students to feel stressed, overwhelmed or homesick during the first few weeks of the semester. The strategies listed below may be helpful to you as you adjust to living on the Sunshine Coast and studying at USC.

Allow yourself time to settle in

Familiarise yourself with your local neighbourhood and the University campus.

Watch, listen and learn

Spend time outside and observe people around you. Some students tell us this can be helpful when trying to understand social practiced and habits. Don't be afraid to ask questions if there are things you don't understand.

Get involved

Make an effort to meet people and become involved in activities either on campus or within the wider community. Developing friendships and joining groups is a great way to experience and learn about the Australian way of life.

Work on your English

Use the English language as much as possible. Read the local newspapers and watch television to further develop your understanding of how the language is used in the Australian culture. Ask the staff at International Student Services about the support available to you to assist with academic writing and language skills development.

Keep your sense of humour

If your cultural background is very different from the Australian way of life, it is inevitable that you will make a mistake or two. It helps to be able to laugh about these situations, to remind yourself that it takes time to understand different social, cultural or educational practices and that it's OK to make mistakes!

Maintain communication with family and friends back home

Send photos of where you live, places you visit and people you meet, so that friends and loved ones can share your experiences.

Exercise, rest and eat well

Find some physical activity that you enjoy. Exercise is an effective way to reduce stress and balance mood. Ensure that you eat healthily and get enough sleep.

Maintain life balance

Find a healthy balance between study and leisure activities. Placing too much pressure on yourself to achieve can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety and other health problems. It is very important to allow your mind and body the opportunity to relax on a regular basis.

Helpful tips
Meeting new people
  • Get involved in some of the on-campus activities or join a student club or society.
  • Join in the tourist/sight-seeing off-campus activities organised by USC International.
  • At USC all new students are allocated a mentor. Contact us if you have had trouble connecting with your mentor.

Information about on-campus activities, clubs and societies is available at Activities and events.

For further information about off-campus activities, visit the STA Travel branch on Level 1, ICT Building J on the USC Sunshine Coast campus or email

Studying abroad: culture shock

Five students from five different continents tell us how they adapted to a brand new culture when they first came to study abroad.

Studying abroad: culture shock YouTube video

Getting help
  • Talk to the staff at USC International Student Services, Level 1, Building J on the USC Sunshine Coast campus.
  • Make an appointment with the Counselling Service to discuss any personal problems you may be experiencing.
  • Talk to your tutor or lecturer about any assessment or course work concerns.
  • Access our Academic Writing and Study Skills programs.
  • Access the Uni Club and USC Student Guild for Tenancy and accommodation support.
Looking after your health and wellbeing
  • Check out the great range of sporting activities offered by USC Sport. The USC gym is located on the ground floor of the Health and Sport Centre (beside the Sports Stadium). Details of membership fees, sporting and fitness activities can be found at USC Sport.
  • Get helpful tips on creating a balanced lifestyle and reducing stress by attending one of the Health and Wellbeing workshops presented by the USC Counselling Service.
  • Make an appointment to talk with one of the counsellors if you are experiencing ongoing symptoms of homesickness, stress, anxiety or depression. Contact Counselling services for an appointment.
Useful contacts
International Student Support

USC Sunshine Coast campus
Level 1, Building J
Tel: +61 7 5430 2843
International Student Support

Student Wellbeing

General enquiries
Tel: +61 7 5430 1226
Contact Student Wellbeing

Opening hours
Monday–Friday: 8.30am–4.30pm