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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Student stories


International students were asked "Were your experiences at RMIT different to your expectations?"

Yes from what I thought was expected of me they were quite different, academically. I suppose that's what you mean.

They were to a greater extent from what I am used to, and from what I did in my undergraduate study.

I would have my lecturer in front of me teaching, and from the lecture I would just get most of the things. Whatever other reading would be mostly additional reading.

Whereas what I've found with RMIT is that I basically have to do most of the reading myself. It's more like directing that they do, and then also you do most of the learning all by yourself, even just with an assignment, and then also, they use a lot more different techniques, I suppose, or styles of teaching.

It's not just the classroom situation, you do presentations, there's online stuff, it's very interesting. It's quite interesting and diverse.

For instance, the online learning stuff, some of the teaching that they do - it would be like a learning blog, some kind of a chat room, and you exchange information with your classmates, and your lecturer, and they respond to that, and you do some research.

You may do research on a topic, and you get some articles, and you come and discuss what you found on the topic, and your thoughts, and you give the links, and they, the classmates or your peers, give input, and add info to it, and then your lecturer will look at all that, and it will be graded. And that was very new to me.. very very new, especially because, I wasn't used to using computers so much. I was just used to the good old writing down an assignment, and submitting it.

Once you get past the phobia, because it can seem a little intimidating, but then you realise that well, it's either you swim or sink. If you embrace it and you face it, it's not rocket science at all, and it's quite easy to use, and it's very user friendly, and especially because there's also always lots of help and support.

I think it helps to speak up. My mum used to say that if you ask you will only be a fool once, but if you don't ask, you'll be a fool forever, so it's better to just ask, even if you think it's probably a stupid question.

Just ask and then you will learn a lot from peers. You will learn a lot from your lecturers too. You will learn a lot from everyone. There's plenty of help if you are willing, and you must have enough courage to ask once. Usually the next time it's a whole lot easier, and in the process you actually help others, whilst you are getting helped.

You find that there's a whole lot of other people that need the same help, and you become a community, and you work a lot more better as a team.

I think I would advise them to ask a lot of questions from everybody around them, especially their teachers, which are a major resource.

I think that they should make an effort and try to find and locate the kind of students services, international student services that are available at RMIT. They are a big resource to help.

I was really really amazed at the kind of services that were provided to international students. We don't have that.. those kind of student support services in our country, and later on I used those services as well.

I would advise them to make an effort to go and meet these people, and explore what kinds of support they can get. If they can't get some kind of concrete support, I am sure they can lend you an ear, and they can definitely guide you towards some services which can find some solutions for you. And the second thing that I found which is very different over here, was the kind of learning environment in the classroom. It's less formal and it's less ... like somebody standing there in front of you and teaching you or lecturing you. It's more interactive, but for lots of international students it's a problem for them.

And what happens is because they're in the habit of not participating in the class, they end up staying quieter in the class which is usually mistaken by being not very knowledgeable by the lecturers.

So I think they should make an effort to participate in the class more, and let their opinions be known about anything, and they don't have to worry that they would offend the teacher or their class fellows. They have the right to their opinions, and I think that they can express that.

In my previous study, I used to have examination with the questions, and those questions will ask you about the knowledge you have learned during your course.

So it's just like you try to write down what the teacher has said in the classroom, what were written in your textbook, but here, the assignments here require you to explore the field of knowledge by yourself, and so you've got to find out information by yourself, under the guidance of your lecturer.

The semester is fairly short comprised into 13-15 weeks, and there's a lot of hard work going on all through those 15 weeks, whereas what I'm used to from Denmark is that we have a semester and then we have quite a long break preparing for an exam.

If you do the work from the beginning, on from day one, then everything is going to be fine at the end, but it is quite important that you aren't too lazy in the beginning. So what I've experienced is that if I start out hard from the day one, and kind of get an idea about how much work has to be done, and when are the assignments due, and all that, then everything is going to be fine.

We have been doing, and still are doing a lot of group work in groups, and that's a very good thing to do I think, but for me at least, it has been quite a challenge.

I have been studying law in Copenhagen, which is a quite conservative way of .. degree I should say, where we don't have any work in groups at all.

So it was a new thing for me to do down here, and it has been a challenge to kind of deal with that way of working, and actually figure out how to actually work in teams, and there has been some issues that you have to deal with.

And I'll just say that people should be prepared that a lot of group work, that a lot of assignments have to be done in groups, and it's important that you communicate very clearly within the group, so everybody kind of knows what are the expectations of the members, and that you communicate what is it that we are going to do here, and that you follow up on each others work all the time .. if you learn to do that, I'm pretty sure it will be good in the end.

I think in our classroom the international students could encourage themselves to ask some questions, because if they don't open their mouths maybe they lose more confidence.

In Australia, the students could stop the teachers speech, and ask questions if they want, so this is very different, and the teachers always encourage the students to answer questions, or ask questions, so this is a big difference for Chinese students.